Obama’s National Day of Prayer Proclamation Mentions God Only Once

May 7, 2009 - 4:11 PM
President Barack Obama issued a proclamation on Thursday afternoon – as required by federal law – marking the day as National Day of Prayer, but the proclamation is in contrast to the original proclamation making the first Thursday in May a national day of prayer and fasting.

President Barack Obama (Photo courtesy of the White House)

(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama issued a proclamation on Thursday afternoon – as required by federal law – marking the day as National Day of Prayer, but the proclamation is in contrast to the original proclamation making the first Thursday in May a national day of prayer and fasting.
 
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama would issue a proclamation but that he did not plan any public appearances or meetings with religious leaders as President George W. Bush did each year of his administration.
 
On March 30, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the proclamation beginning with the words:
 
“Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.”
 
In today’s proclamation, Obama opened the document with these words:
 
“Throughout our Nation's history, Americans have come together in moments of great challenge and uncertainty to humble themselves in prayer. In 1775, as the Continental Congress began the task of forging a new Nation, colonists were asked to observe a day of quiet humiliation and prayer. Almost a century later, as the flames of the Civil War burned from north to south, President Lincoln and the Congress once again asked the American people to pray as the fate of their Nation hung in the balance.”
 
In Lincoln’s proclamation, God is mentioned five times and emphasizes God’s dominion over the nation, the need for people to repent, and the divine nature of the Bible.
 
“And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord,” Lincoln wrote.
 
Obama’s proclamation mentions God once – “I call upon Americans to pray in thanksgiving for our freedoms and blessings and to ask for God’s continued guidance, grace and protection for this land that we love” – and also refers to people who don’t believe in God, which is tied to a reference to the U.S. military.
 
“On this day of unity and prayer, let us also honor the service and sacrifice of the men and women of the United States Armed Forces,” Obama wrote. “We celebrate their commitment to uphold our highest ideals, and we recognize that it is because of them that we continue to live in a Nation where people of all faiths can worship or not worship according to the dictates of their conscience.”
 
Unlike Obama’s reference to the Civil War, which states that Lincoln asked people to pray for the nation, Lincoln wrote that the war might be a punishment for a nation that had turned its back on God, despite his blessing on the country.
 
“And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People?” Lincoln wrote.
 
“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven,” Lincoln wrote. “We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown.”
 
“But we have forgotten God,” he wrote. “We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!”
 
In his proclamation, Obama does not refer to the Bible but to the “Golden Rule” – or the “ethic of reciprocity” sometimes linked to verses in the Bible and other religious books.
 
“As we observe this day of prayer, we remember the one law that binds all great religions together: the Golden Rule, and its call to love one another; to understand one another; and to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth,” Obama wrote.
 
Lincoln’s proclamation calls on people to worship God and keep the National Day of Prayer “holy.”
 
“And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion,” Lincoln wrote.
 
Obama’s directive is secular in nature:
 
“Let us also use this day to come together in a moment of peace and goodwill,” Obama wrote. “Our world grows smaller by the day, and our varied beliefs can bring us together to feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted; to make peace where there is strife; and to lift up those who have fallen on hard times.”
 
Lincoln also called for the nation to reconcile with God.
 
“It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness,” Lincoln said.
 
The complete text of the proclamations by Lincoln and Obama are as follows:
 
By the President of the United States of America.
A Proclamation.
 
Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.
 
And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.
 
And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!
It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
 
Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
 
All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.
 
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
 
Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.
 
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State

 
 
------------------------------------------
 
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release May 7, 2009
NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER, 2009
 
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION
 
Throughout our Nation's history, Americans have come together in moments of great challenge and uncertainty to humble themselves in prayer. In 1775, as the Continental Congress began the task of forging a new Nation, colonists were asked to observe a day of quiet humiliation and prayer. Almost a century later, as the flames of the Civil War burned from north to south, President Lincoln and the Congress once again asked the American people to pray as the fate of their Nation hung in the balance.
 
It is in that spirit of unity and reflection that we once again designate the first Thursday in May as the National Day of Prayer. Let us remember those who came before us, and let us each give thanks for the courage and compassion shown by so many in this country and around the world.
 
On this day of unity and prayer, let us also honor the service and sacrifice of the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. We celebrate their commitment to uphold our highest ideals, and we recognize that it is because of them that we continue to live in a Nation where people of all faiths can worship or not worship according to the dictates of their conscience.
 
Let us also use this day to come together in a moment of peace and goodwill. Our world grows smaller by the day, and our varied beliefs can bring us together to feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted; to make peace where there is strife; and to lift up those who have fallen on hard times. As we observe this day of prayer, we remember the one law that binds all great religions together: the Golden Rule, and its call to love one another; to understand one another; and to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth.
 
The Congress, by Public Law 100-307, as amended, has called on the President to issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a "National Day of Prayer."
 
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 7, 2009, as a National Day of Prayer. I call upon Americans to pray in thanksgiving for our freedoms and blessings and to ask for God's continued guidance, grace, and protection for this land that we love.
 
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventh day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.
 
BARACK OBAMA