A Brief History of the National Day of Prayer (Excerpt from NytNow)

See what I learned about the National Day of Prayer from The New York Times newsletter in my inbox today.

“BACK STORY: Today, the National Day of Prayer, is a tradition whose roots lie before the U.S. was born.

The first day of prayer was called in 1775 by the Continental Congress. They liked it so much that they continued days of “prayer, fasting and thanksgiving.”

In modern times, the observance became official through an act of Congress in 1952, when the U.S. was fighting the Korean War and entering a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union.

Congress asked President Harry S. Truman to set aside a “suitable day” annually when people of all faiths could pray for the country.
And President Ronald Reagan set that day to the first Thursday in May.
Some presidents have also proclaimed days of prayer in tough times.

That happened after riots in the summer of 1967, the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

In 2011, a federal appeals court threw out a ruling that the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional.

The judges said that a group had no standing to sue because President Obama’s right to proclaim the day did not cause harm and he was not forcing anyone to pray.”

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