Prayer was an essential part in the founding of our Nation beginning with the Pilgrims in 1620. Four of the original 13 English colonies were specifically chartered for religious freedom, as a refuge from religious persecution: Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts, Providence, Rhode Island, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Our Founding Fathers were men of great faith, as shown in early American writings. One such document is the Proclamation of the National Day of Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer of the Second Continental Congress of June 12, 1775, setting aside July 20, 1775 for such a day to "confess our sins" and "implore his merciful interposition." This Proclamation was issued shortly after the Battles of Lexington and Concord, when the War of American Independence had just begun. This was the first National Day of Prayer. Note the conciliatory language towards Britain as compared to the Second National Day of Prayer. This page includes the 1775 and 1776 National Days of Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer.
There was a Proclamation of a second National Day of Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer of the Second Continental Congress of March 16, 1776, setting aside May 17, 1776 for "true penitence of heart" on such a day. This document is published in the Journals of the Continental Congress, and signed by John Hancock, President of the Congress, and affirmed by Charles Thomson, Secretary. Jesus Christ is clearly cited within the text. This document is published in the Journals of the Continental Congress, and signed by John Hancock, President of the Congress, and affirmed by Charles Thomson, Secretary. Our Christian Heritage is clearly evident in this Proclamation.
Many of us do not turn to God until we become overwhelmed with misfortune or tragedy, and that appears true collectively for our Nation. It took the 1861-1865 Civil War for the USA to emphasize God in public. President Abraham Lincoln declared two National Days of Prayer, on August 12, 1861 and March 30, 1863. He also had the Mint release the first coins with the inscription In God We Trust in 1864.
On April 17, 1952, President Harry Truman signed a bill proclaiming the National Day of Prayer into law in the United States. President Reagan amended the law on May 5, 1988, designating the first Thursday of May each year as the National Day of Prayer. The National Day of Prayer this coming year will be Thursday May 5, 2022. All faiths are encouraged to pray for the peace and unity of our Nation, the United States of America.
As the great Governor of the World, by his supreme and universal Providence, not only conducts the course of nature with unerring wisdom and rectitude, but frequently influences the minds of men to serve the wise and gracious purposes of his providential government; and it being, at all times, our indispensable duty devoutly to acknowledge his superintending providence, especially in times of impending danger and public calamity, to reverence and adore his immutable justice as well as to implore his merciful interposition for our deliverance:
This Congress, therefore, considering the present critical, alarming and calamitous state of these colonies, do earnestly recommend that Thursday, the 20th day of July next, be observed, by the inhabitants of all the English colonies on this continent, as a day of public humiliation, fasting and prayer; that we may, with united hearts and voices, unfeignedly confess and deplore our many sins; and offer up our joint supplications to the all-wise, omnipotent, and merciful Disposer of all events; humbly beseeching him to forgive our iniquities, to remove our present calamities, to avert those desolating judgments, with which we are threatened, and to bless our rightful sovereign, King George the third, and [to] inspire him with wisdom to discern and pursue the true interest of all his subjects, that a speedy end may be put to the civil discord between Great Britain and the American colonies, without farther effusion of blood: And that the British nation may be influenced to regard the things that belong to her peace, before they are hid from her eyes: That these colonies may be ever under the care and protection of a kind Providence, and be prospered in all their interests; That the divine blessing may descend and rest upon all our civil rulers, and upon the representatives of the people, in their several assemblies and conventions, that they may be directed to wise and effectual measures for preserving the union, and securing the just rights and privileges of the colonies; That virtue and true religion may revive and flourish throughout our land; And that all America may soon behold a gracious interposition of Heaven, for the redress of her many grievances, the restoration of her invaded rights, a reconciliation with the parent state, on terms constitutional and honorable to both; And that her civil and religious privileges may be secured to the latest posterity.
And it is recommended to Christians, of all denominations, to assemble for public worship, and to abstain from servile labour and recreations on said day.
In times of impending calamity and distress; when the liberties of America are imminently endangered by the secret machinations and open assaults of an insidious and vindictive administration, it becomes the indispensable duty of these hitherto free and happy colonies, with true penitence of heart, and the most reverent devotion, publickly to acknowledge the over ruling providence of God; to confess and deplore our offences against him; and to supplicate his interposition for averting the threatened danger, and prospering our strenuous efforts in the cause of freedom, virtue, and posterity.
The Congress, therefore, considering the warlike preparations of the British Ministry to subvert our invaluable rights and priviledges, and to reduce us by fire and sword, by the savages of the wilderness, and our own domestics, to the most abject and ignominious bondage: Desirous, at the same time, to have people of all ranks and degrees duly impressed with a solemn sense of God's superintending providence, and of their duty, devoutly to rely, in all their lawful enterprizes, on his aid and direction, Do earnestly recommend, that Friday, the Seventeenth day of May next, be observed by the said colonies as a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that we may, with united hearts, confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and, by a sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease his righteous displeasure, and, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness; humbly imploring his assistance to frustrate the cruel purposes of our unnatural enemies; and by inclining their hearts to justice and benevolence, prevent the further effusion of kindred blood.
But if, continuing deaf to the voice of reason and humanity, and inflexibly bent, on desolation and war, they constrain us to repel their hostile invasions by open resistance, that it may please the Lord of Hosts, the God of Armies, to animate our officers and soldiers with invincible fortitude, to guard and protect them in the day of battle, and to crown the continental arms, by sea and land, with victory and success: Earnestly beseeching him to bless our civil rulers, and the representatives of the people, in their several assemblies and conventions; to preserve and strengthen their union, to inspire them with an ardent, disinterested love of their country; to give wisdom and stability to their counsels; and direct them to the most efficacious measures for establishing the rights of America on the most honourable and permanent basis - That he would be graciously pleased to bless all his people in these colonies with health and plenty, and grant that a spirit of incorruptible patriotism, and of pure undefiled religion, may universally prevail; and this continent be speedily restored to the blessings of peace and liberty, and enabled to transmit them inviolate to the latest posterity.
And it is recommended to Christians of all denominations, to assemble for public worship, and abstain from servile labour on the said day. Resolved, That the foregoing resolve be published.