Is the U.S. National Day of Prayer in the USA
inclusive or just for evangelical Christians?
The National Day of Prayer Task Force (NDPTF)
The lack of inclusivity of the NDP
The National Day of Prayer (NDP) was originally intended to be an inter-faith observance. It
was to involve followers of all monotheistic religions (conservative, mainline and liberal
Baha'is), as well as
followers of the many duotheistic, henotheistic, and polytheistic religions present in in the United States
(Hindus, some Aboriginals,
Wiccans, other Neopagans,
Zoroastrians, followers of Vodun,
Santeria, etc). Duotheistic religions recognize the existence of two deities; examples are one God and one Goddess, as in Wicca and other neopagan religions, or one all-good God and one evil deity, as in Zoroastrianism. Henotheistic religions either recognize the existence of a single main deity who has many aspects, or recognize many deities but worship only one like the ancient Hebrews.
Presidents of the U.S. have issued proclamations for the NDP on a yearly basis. Some also held NDP events at the White House as well.
Coordination of evangelical Christian NDP events by the NDPTF:
The National Day of Prayer Task Force (NDPTF) is an evangelical
Christian group who coordinates NDP events which are actually organized by local
conservative Christian groups. Their charter and vision statement are written in
inclusive terminology. It could be applied with equal ease to Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Sikh events -- in fact to all religions which believe in intercessory
prayer. It could be applied to events that were inclusive of all of these
religions. Their charter reads:
The Task Force's vision statement is less inclusive, because its reference to "church" implies a vision that excludes all but Christians:
"The National Day of Prayer Task Force exists to encourage and promote events
related to the National Day of Prayer, the first Thursday in May. Every effort
is made to provide resources for individuals wishing to participate in or plan
events on behalf of our ministry."
"To communicate with every family the need for personal repentance and
prayer, and to mobilize families to personal and corporate prayer,
particularly on behalf of the nation and those in leadership on all
levels of local, national, church and educational areas of influence."
In practice: their events are exclusively for evangelical Christians:
The events coordinated by the NDPTF seems to have become restricted to only Judeo-Christian observances during the
late 1990s. During most of the 1990s, there were a few events sponsored by Jewish groups.
During and after 1999, none
obvious. The events and the Task Force appear entirely Christian based, with the vast
majority from the conservative wing of Christianity.
||A regional index of events for the 1999 NDP listed 2 events sponsored by United
Methodist Churches, one each by a Roman Catholic, Episcopal, and Presbyterian
congregation. Among the many dozens of events, all of the remainder were either sponsored
by evangelical/Fundamentalist/ Pentecostal groups, or were organized by groups of unknown
affiliation. There do not appear to be any events organized by Jewish groups. Event
sponsorship by other religions appear to be absent, although some events welcome persons
of all faiths to their gathering. 2
||One reference to the National Prayer Committee describes it as "a
25-year old non-profit corporation whose members represent a coalition of respected
Christian leaders committed to mobilizing united prayer among U.S. Christians." 3
||One reference to the National Day of Prayer Task Force describes its purpose as
"calling America back to God by calling the Church back to prayer." 4
||All of the speakers at the 1999 Concert of Prayer broadcast appear to have been
evangelical Christians, with the exception of Lloyd Ogilvie, the Chaplain of the U.S.
Senate. He is a Presbyterian.
||The Task Force's FAQ page states: "Americans of all faiths are
encouraged to participate in the NDP according to their own traditions. However, the NDP
Task Force [only] provides promotional materials and sponsors several events in keeping
with the Judeo-Christian tradition." 5 In fact,
they promote evangelical Christianity only.
||The Task Force's printed bulletin inserts refers to participants in the NDP
"are to be a refuge that attracts the needy; a central point to which those from
all walks of life can receive comfort, sustenance and protection as you point them to the
all-powerful Savior. Because of Christ's radiance within you, people and situations
surrounding you should be changing for the better."
||The Task Force's bookmark cites 7 religious texts, all from the Bible. It also
recommends that individuals follow "the example of Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:39)"
||No religious text other than the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and Christian Scriptures (New Testament) have
been used to create the yearly theme.
||The NDP "Application for Volunteer Event Coordinator" asks for:
||A personal testimony "How did you come to know Jesus as your
||The "local church or fellowship" that the applicant
||"Ministries" that the applicant has served in.
||"Ministries" that I have served in. 6
One gets the distinct impression that only conservative Christians need apply
for the post.
There are local observances of the NDP which are organized by non-evangelical
Christians, by members of other religions, and by interfaith groups. They are
not coordinated by a national group that is similar to the NDPTF.
1999: Comments by Americans United for Separation of Church and State on the exclusivity/inclusivity of the NDPTF:
Americans United complained in a news
release that "The annual National Day of Prayer has been hijacked by Religious
Right organizations that are using it to promote their religious political agenda." 7,8Conservative Christian organizations
have certainly been active in promoting the NDP. However, they have not hijacked the NDP
in the usual sense of that word. There is absolutely nothing to prevent another
group from following the original intent of the NDP by organizing a series of inclusive events on the same date -- events that would welcome and encourage the participation of all theistic religions, from Asatru to Zorastrianism, including Islam, Judaism, Hinduism,
well as Roman Catholicism, and conservative, mainline, and liberal Christianity.
A 1999-APR Americans United news release stated that:
Force materials distributed this year exclude Mormons, Muslims and other minority faiths,
distort Supreme Court decisions and give a false impression of U.S. history."
Executive director Barry Lynn, a United Church of Christ minister from Americans United, said:
using the National Day of Prayer to promote bad history, bad law and bad interfaith
Some examples which Lynn has extracted from the Task Force's
materials allegedly are:
- Local organizers need not allow non-Judeo-Christian groups to participate. The NDPTF
material states that other faiths can set up their own separate events.
- NDP material requires each NDP volunteer "must be a Christian who has
a personal relationship with Christ." Access "to the microphone"
should be restricted to church leaders who believe in "salvation by grace alone"
and who also "have a personal relationship with Christ." That would exclude Roman Catholics, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. the Mormons), Jehovah's Witnesses,etc.
- An NDP sample letter that local groups can use to invite religious leaders to events
states: "[W]e are looking forward to assembling the BODY OF CHRIST so we are
covered as to why we haven't invited Mormons, Muslims, etc. It is a big chore to get
all of the Christians together and our goal is just that." (The term "Christians"
appears to refer to only fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians.)
- The material includes quotations:
- By James Madison about the 10 Commandments which is apparently a ancient fake, having
been debunked by scholars.
- From a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court landmark decision that is allegedly completely
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- NDP Proclamation, 1998, at: http://ndptexas.com/
- "Regional list of prayer events," Prayer for America, at: http://www.lesea.com/
- "The three greatest hours of broadcasting!", at: http://www.crosswalk.com/
- "Welcome to the North Texas National Day of Prayer," at: http://ndptexas.com/
- National Day of Prayer Task Force is at:
- "Application for Volunteer Event Coordinator," at:
http://www.nationaldayofprayer.org/ You need software to read these files. It can be obtained free from:
- News release, "Americans United for Separation of Church and State,"
- Americans United for Separation of Church and State has a home page at:
Copyright © 1999 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 1999-MAY-05
Most recent update: 2011-MAY-08
Author: B.A. Robinson