googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: It's the National Day of Prayer; Or is it?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

It's the National Day of Prayer; Or is it?

For the last 58 years, the first Thursday in May has been recognized as a national day of prayer. There was some debate recently, though, as to whether or not it would occur this year because some radical groups protested, claiming it was a violation of the “separation of church and state.” It looks like it's official now so everyone can feel free to pray without guilt.

I shouldn't have to remind anyone that the term “separation of church and state” doesn't appear anywhere in the Constitution. Instead, the First Amendment prevents the government from establishing a religion or prohibiting the free exercise of religion. Observing a day of prayer (certainly not compulsory) doesn't even come close to violating the First Amendment. I guess it's too close, though, for some people's comfort. Not only do they not pray, neither do they observe any religion. Moreover, they don't want to even hear about people praying or practicing their religion. Hearing the President encourage (not compel) people to pray is somehow offensive to them. Since when is there a right to “not be offended”?

Though the National Day of Prayer may have been recognized since 1952, it is a tradition that goes back much further than that. It began during the Constitutional Convention where, after a stalemate in the debates, Benjamin Franklin suggested turning to prayer. He said:
“I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: ‘that God governs in the affairs of man.’ And if a sparrow cannot fail to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel; we shall be divided by our little partial local interest; our projects will be confounded; and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a byword down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter, from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing government by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war, or conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move that, henceforth, prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven and its blessing on our deliberation be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business.”
Washington echoed Franklin's sentiments in his first inaugural address where he said:
[I]t would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States.
Isn't it strange that some people would suggest a call to prayer was somehow unconstitutional when the authors of the Constitution didn't seem to think so? Go figure!

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