In 1952, a joint resolution by Congress, signed by President Truman, declared an annual, national day of prayer. In 1988, the law was amended and signed by President Reagan, permanently setting the day as the first Thursday of every May. Each year, the president signs a proclamation, encouraging all Americans to pray on this day. Since Reagan, the Republican presidents traditionally followed up the proclamation by hosting a National Prayer Breakfast.
The only Democratic administration since Reagan, the Clinton administration, did not. The practice of presidential prayer was resumed by Bush, who every year publicly joined his countrymen in prayer to Almighty God for his nation. Yesterday, the 58th National Day of Prayer since Harry Truman, our nation never needed the blessing of Almighty God more.
The Book of Jonah relates more than the story of Jonah and the big fish and teaches far more than the symbolism of three days and three nights in the belly of the earth. God dispatched Jonah to the city of Nineveh to warn them of impending judgment.
But Jonah didn't much like the Ninevites and didn't want to go.
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"But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD" (Jonah 1:3).
The Lord kindled a big storm, the fisherman figured out it was Jonah's fault for disobeying God and tossed him overboard. After the whale barfed Jonah back up three days later, Jonah headed for Nineveh like he was instructed to do. "Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown" (Jonah 3:4). To Jonah's disgust, the Ninevites heeded his warning and repented.
"For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes" (Jonah 3:6).
No such luck in America this year. Jonah can skip the boat ride.
President Barack Hussein Obama nixed any formal White House recognition of the National Prayer Day apart from the proclamation. His press secretary, Bob Gibbs, said Obama is just reverting to the pre-Bush practice. "Prayer is something the president does every day," he said. "We're doing a proclamation, which I know that many administrations in the past have done."
"For those of us who have our doubts about Obama's faith, no, we did not expect him to have the service," said Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America. "But as president, he should put his own lack of faith aside and live up to the office."
David Brody, White House correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network, said in a column, "Within the conservative evangelical community, there was never any real expectation that the White House would hold an event."
Some Catholic members of the Obama administration were invited to attend the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. According to the Washington Times, those invited included Joe Biden, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and DHS Chief Janet Napolitano.
Since Obama wasn't going to be there, none of them knew who they should pray to anyway. So they just skipped the event and stayed at the White House where they could pray to, er, with, their boss.
God help us all.