A National Day of Prayer was first called by the First Continental Congress in 1775, again by Abraham Lincoln in 1863, and then solidified as a national tradition in 1988 by President Reagan, who designated the National Day of Prayer as the first Thursday in May.
Even before codifying the importance of a National Day of Prayer, President Reagan issued proclamations throughout his tenure in the White House.
The following is one such proclamation from President Reagan, #4897, issued in 1982. While times and troubles have changed over the years, the President’s words ring true today:
National prayer is deeply rooted in our American heritage. From the earliest days of our Republic, Americans have asked God to hear their prayers in times of sorrow and crisis and in times of bounty.
The first National Day of Prayer was proclaimed in 1775 by the Second Continental Congress. As thousands gathered in prayer in places of worship and encampments throughout the new land, the dispersed colonists found a new spirit of unity and resolve in this remarkable expression of public faith. For the first time, Americans of every religious persuasion prayed as one, asking for divine guidance in their quest for liberty and justice. Ever since, Americans have shared a special sense of destiny as a nation dedicated under God to the cause of liberty for all men.
Through the storms of Revolution, Civil War, and the great World Wars, as well as during times of disillusionment and disarray, the nation has turned to God in prayer for deliverance. We thank Him for answering our call, for, surely, He has. As a nation, we have been richly blessed with His love and generosity.
Just 30 years ago, a Joint Resolution of the Congress requested the President to proclaim a day each year, other than a Sunday, as a National Day of Prayer, on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation in places of worship, in groups, and as individuals. Eight Presidents since then have annually proclaimed a Day of Prayer to the nation, resuming the tradition started by the Continental Congress.
Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Thursday, May 6, 1982, National Day of Prayer. On that day, I ask Americans to join with me in giving thanks to Almighty God for the blessings He has bestowed on this land and the protection He affords us as a people. Let us as a nation join together before God, aware of the trials that lie ahead and of the need for divine guidance. With unshakable faith in God and the liberty which is our heritage, we as a free nation will continue to grow and prosper.