The National Day of Prayer (NDP) was created by Congress so that Americans of
all religions who believe in one or more Gods and/or Goddesses can pray
together in fellowship. It has evolved over time into an almost
exclusively Evangelical Christian event to the exclusion of non-Evangelical
Christians and followers of other organized religions and none.
Almost all state governors issue annual proclamation declaring a Day of
Prayer in their state or territory. Some are inclusive and refer to the wide
diversity of religious belief in their jurisdiction. Others are quite
exclusive, and seem to assume that everyone is either a Christian or a Jew.
Governors' proclamations: (Repeated from 2004 list)
Governors of the fifty states and two
territories traditionally issue proclamations declaring a National Day of
Prayer in their states. They are personal documents and thus highly variable
Most of the governors' state proclamations
of the NDP are directed only to Americans who believe in a personal God
who responds to prayer. 1
Many proclamations seem to assume that to
be an American, one must also be Jew or Christian -- or at least a
Theist who believes in a male God who rewards or penalizes Americans in
accordance with their behavior.
Some interpreted the NDP in a very
exclusive manner, as having meaning only to Judeo-Christians. They
Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs,
and other Theists.
However, a very few were more inclusive
and reached out to those Americans of all religions, including those who
are non-Judeo-Christians, Agnostics,
Atheists, or who do not believe in the
effectiveness of prayer.
Some governors even make interesting theological pronouncements
which are open to debate.
A sampling of governors' proclamations in 2005:
President George W. Bush inclusive proclamation stated: "I ask the
citizens of our Nation to give thanks, each according to his or her own
faith, for the liberty and blessings we have received and for God's
continued guidance and protection." 2
Charles Turnbull of the Virgin Islands
wrote that "we must all band together to acknowledge our dependence
on God to promote religious beliefs in whatever sect, creed or religion
you may be a member of..."
Bob Riley of Alabama wrote that the NDP "...has
proved to be a powerful tool that has brought together and united
citizens from diverse religious backgrounds..."
Frank Murkowski of Alaska urged Alaskans
to "join millions of Americans across racial, political and
denominational boundaries" -- but not inter-religious boundaries --
to observe the NDP.
Mike Huckabee of Arkansas included a
rather amusing typo -- a misplaced space character -- in his
proclamation: "...Americans will unite at specific time sin [sic]
prayer for our nation and state to acknowledge our dependence on God
...and to ask God to heal and unite our nation and state."
Arnold Schwarzenegger of California stated
that prayer is "an act shared by all religions," which is a
debatable theological belief.
M. Jodi Rell of Connecticut again referred
to prayer as "both powerful and peaceful." Considering the use of
prayer by terrorists worldwide, this is also a debatable theological
Sonny Perdue of Georgia wrote that "regardless
of our individual beliefs and faith practices, we have an assurance that
God hears our prayers and faithfully responds to our humble petitions."
This is still another debatable theological belief. Many religions teach
that their deity does not respond to the prayers of non-believers.
Linda Lingle of Hawai'i again referred to
Americans praying "in churches and other places of worship." She
also mentioned that the "diverse citizens of Hawai'i seek the freedom
to worship according to their own conscience..."
Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho again
acknowledged that "the citizenry of the State of Idaho are a diverse
people, with nearly every national and variety of religious traditions
Rod Blagojevich of Illinois referred to "...prayer
in churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and other houses of worship
across our country..."
Thomas Vilsack of Iowa referred to the NDP
as "a great unifying force for our citizens from a diverse number of
religious backgrounds..." In fact, its organization has often
promoted disunity by excluded those who are not Evangelical Christians.
Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas wrote "Each
community of faith deserves the recognition, respect and protection of
all others..." -- an elegant statement promoting religious freedom
and tolerance. This statement did not appear in her 2004 proclamation.
Ernie Fletcher of Kentucky discussed "Americans
throughout the nation in venues of prayer, each according to his or her
Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana again wrote "...the
historical record of the United States, as acknowledged by the highest
court of our land, reveals a clear and mistakable pattern woven
throughout our nation's 229 years: America was founded upon the
principles and truths revealed in the Holy Scriptures..."
Robert Ehrlich of Maryland appeared to
acknowledge that prayer can sometimes be a divisive force. He wrote: "Prayer
can play a valuable and productive role in strengthening bonds of
understanding, tolerance, friendship and unity among all people..."
Matt Blunt of Missouri followed the
tradition of his predecessor by referring to "the scripture" --
presumably referring solely to the Bible.
Brian Schweitzer of Montana referred to "Montanans
of every faith" and "the wonderful diversity of religious belief
across America and Montana..."
Dave Heineman of Nebraska followed the
example of his predecessor by asserted that "people have inalienable
rights that are God-given..." He also acknowledged the NDP as "an
opportunity for Americans of all faiths."
Richard Codey, acting governor of New
Jersey referred specifically to "Americans of all faiths."
Bill Richardson of New Mexico referred to
the NDP as belonging to all Americans. "It is a day that brings
together citizens from all backgrounds and respects the rich and diverse
faiths that they include."
George Pataki of New York repeated his
previous year's reference to the NDP being observed in "churches,
synagogues, statehouses..." but not Buddhist, Hindu and other
religions' temples, Islamic mosques, Neopagan circles, Sikh gurdwaras,
etc. However, he did refer to New Yorkers joining "with people of all
faiths to honor the legacy we share as a society whose strength is its
inclusiveness based upon religiously-inspired values and an enduring
belief in religious freedom...."
Michael Easley of North Carolina repeated his 2004 a theological
statement "...that we are all God's handiwork and that it is
appropriate to call upon Him in prayer."
Bob Taft of Ohio described the state as "home to citizens of many
Brad Henry of Oklahoma referred to "Americans of diverse faiths
and backgrounds [who] share the cherished freedoms of religious
expression and observance..."
Edward Rendell of Pennsylvania repeated his 2004 comment that "we
shall never overlook, forget or neglect the individual or group right to
express religious freedom through prayer, mediation and personal
Donald Carcieri of Rhode Island again mentioned that "our
national leaders have historically called on the prayers of the people,
without regard to their religious affiliation..."
Mark Sanford of South Carolina again wrote that "the National Day
of Prayer belongs to all Americans; it is a day that transcends
differences, bringing together citizens from all backgrounds and
faiths...while honoring the commitment to religious liberty and
tolerance that contributes to our continued strength."
Phil Bredesen of Tennessee dropped his 2004 reference to "the
importance and significance that this day has for people of all faiths."
He made mention this year to "Tennesseans of faith."
Rick Perry of Texas continued a theme contained in his 2004
proclamation by referring to "...many Americans of all faiths
regularly gather to pray for our nation, its people and its leaders."
Mike Warner of Virginia dropped his 2004 reference to the "Old
Testament" a term that is offensive to some Jews. Instead, he used
the term "the scripture" when referring to the book of Hebrews in
the Christian Scriptures.
Bob Wise of West Virginia again referred to prayer being recognized
by our leaders "...as vital to the maintenance of a strong national
character and necessary to procure the blessings of a just and
benevolent God...it is appropriate to honor God with a unified
expression of gratitude and humbly request divine intervention in the
preservation and continuation of strong religious principles upon which
our nation and our state have been established."
Jim Doyle of Wisconsin again recognized that "the citizens of the
State of Wisconsin are a diverse group of people of nearly every
nationality and represented by a variety of religious traditions."
He referred to people gathering in their "churches...and chosen place
Dave Freudenthal of Wyoming repeated his belief that prayer "is a
vital part of our national heritage as one nation under God" and
that "God has promised to answer us when we call upon Him."
However, he dropped his 2004 comment about God having blessed his state
with a budgetary surplus and heavy snowpacks so that the citizens would
continue to respect Him.
The following information source was used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still valid today.
"The National Day of Prayer Task Force: Turning a day of faith into a rally
for the Christian Right," Texas Freedom Network Educational Fund, 2005, at:
http://www.tfn.org/ This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from: