The National Day of Prayer 2002! Did it Make a Difference?

by Bob Dasal

"I'm grateful to all of you who remind us that a great people must spend time on bended knee, in humility, searching for wisdom in the presence of the Almighty. The National Day of Prayer is a vital part of our national heritage, because prayer is a vital part of our national life." -George W. Bush

The National Day of Prayer in the United States dates back to February 19, 1795, when President George Washington issued a proclamation setting aside a day of public thanksgiving. Congress established an annual day of prayer in 1952 and in 1988 the first Thursday in May was designated as the annual observance date. Again this year, President Bush issued a special proclamation and all 50 governors signed documents recognizing the occasion.

On May 2nd in excess of two million people attended more than 30,000 observances, organized by approximately 40,000 volunteers. At state capitols, county court houses, on the steps of city halls, and in schools, businesses, churches, homes, and even football stadiums people stopped their other activities and gathered for prayer.

Without question, this year's observance was affected by 9/11. Shirley Dobson, chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, said: "The American psyche was rocked by the horrific evil perpetrated on September 11 and many have sought meaning, security, and spiritual comfort in its wake. It's no surprise that Americans have drawn closer to God as our country's forefathers did when faced with unseen enemies and unrest."

Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie, chaplain of the United States Senate, wrote a prayer read across the country at noon on May 2nd. He said, "Gracious God, all that we have and are is a result of Your amazing generosity. Since September 11, in the battle against terrorism we have discovered again that You truly are our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. We rededicate ourselves to be one nation under You. In You we trust. We reaffirm our accountability to You, to the absolutes of Your Commandments, and to justice in our society. Bless our president, Congress, and all our leaders with supernatural power. We commit ourselves to be faithful to You as Sovereign of our land and as our personal Lord and Savior. Amen."

Magnificent words-but were they just words, or were a great many praying also, with sincerity and commitment? On the surface, the event appeared to be a huge success, but what will be the long-term results?

No doubt there are individuals that will mark May 2, 2002 as a pivotal point in their life, but were we as a society changed? I'm hopeful that the seeds planted will sprout and grow into a renewed and fresh awareness of our country's Christian heritage and that we as a nation will have a willingness to stand together and stand firm on the principles instituted by the founding fathers. Happy Independence Day!