President Reagan stated Jan. 27, 1983: "In 1775, the Continental Congress proclaimed the first National Day of Prayer. ... In 1783, the Treaty of Paris officially ended the long, weary Revolutionary War during which a National Day of Prayer had been proclaimed every spring for eight years."
President Washington, after the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania, declared a National Day of Prayer, Jan. 1, 1796: "All persons within the United States, to ... render sincere and hearty thanks to the great Ruler of nations ... for the possession of constitutions of government ... and fervently beseech the kind Author of these blessings ... to establish habits of sobriety, order, and morality and piety."
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During a threatened war with France, President John Adams declared a National Day of Prayer & Fasting, March 23, 1798, and again, March 6, 1799: "As ... the people of the United States are still held in jeopardy by ... insidious acts of a foreign nation ... I hereby recommend ... a Day of Solemn Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer; That the citizens ... call to mind our numerous offenses against the Most High God, confess them before Him with the sincerest penitence, implore His pardoning mercy, through the Great Mediator and Redeemer, for our past transgressions, and that through the grace of His Holy Spirit, we may be disposed and enabled to yield a more suitable obedience to His righteous requisitions ... 'Righteousness exalteth a nation but sin is a reproach to any people.'"
James Madison, who had introduced the First Amendment in the first session of Congress, proclaimed two National Days of Prayer and a National Day of Fasting during the War of 1812, writing Nov. 16, 1814: "In the present time of public calamity and war a day may be ... observed by the people of the United States as a Day of Public Humiliation and Fasting and of Prayer to Almighty God for the safety and welfare of these States ... of confessing their sins and transgressions, and of strengthening their vows of repentance ... that He would be graciously pleased to pardon all their offenses."
President Tyler proclaimed a National Day of Prayer and Fasting, April 13, 1841, when President Harrison died in office: "When a Christian people feel themselves to be overtaken by a great public calamity, it becomes them to humble themselves under the dispensation of Divine Providence."
President Taylor declared a National Day of Fasting and Prayer, July 3, 1849, during a cholera epidemic: "A fearful pestilence which is spreading itself throughout the land ... it is fitting that a people whose reliance has ever been in His protection should humble themselves before His throne ... acknowledging past transgressions, ask a continuance of the Divine mercy. It is earnestly recommended that the first Friday in August be observed throughout the United States as a Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer."
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President Buchanan declared a National Day of Prayer and Fasting to avert civil strife, Dec. 14, 1860: "In this the hour of our calamity and peril to whom shall we resort for relief but to the God of our fathers? ... Let us ... unite in humbling ourselves before the Most High, in confessing our individual and national sins. ... Let me invoke every individual, in whatever sphere of life he may be placed, to feel a personal responsibility to God and his country for keeping this day holy."
In 1863, Lincoln stated in his National Day of Prayer and Fasting Proclamation: "The awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins. ... 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."
When Lincoln was shot, President Andrew Johnson proclaimed a National Day of Prayer, April 29, 1865: "The 25th day of next month was recommended as a Day for Special Humiliation and Prayer in consequence of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln ... but Whereas my attention has since been called to the fact that the day aforesaid is sacred to large numbers of Christians as one of rejoicing for the ascension of the Savior. ... I, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, do suggest that the religious services recommended as aforesaid should be postponed until ... the 1st day of June."
In 1901, when President McKinley was assassinated, President Theodore Roosevelt declared a National Day of Prayer: "President McKinley crowned a life of largest love for his fellow men, of earnest endeavor for their welfare, by a death of Christian fortitude. ... Now, therefore, I, Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, do appoint ... September 19 ... as a Day of Mourning and Prayer throughout the United States. ... I earnestly recommend all the people to assemble on that day in their respective places of divine worship, there to bow down in submission to the will of Almighty God, and to pay out of full hearts the homage of love and reverence to the memory of the great and good President."
In 1918, when the U.S. entered World War I, President Wilson proclaimed a National Day of Prayer and Fasting: "Whereas ... in a time of war humbly ... to acknowledge our dependence on Almighty God and to implore His aid. ... I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim ... a Day of Public Humiliation, Prayer and Fasting, and do exhort my fellow-citizens ... to pray Almighty God that He may forgive our sins."
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President Coolidge declared a National Day of Prayer at the death of Warren Harding, Aug. 24, 1923: "Warren Gamaliel Harding, twenty-ninth President of the United States, has been taken from us. ... Now, therefore, I, Calvin Coolidge, President of the United States, do appoint ... a Day of Mourning and Prayer throughout the United States. I earnestly recommend the people to assemble on that day in their respective places of divine worship, there to bow down in submission to the will of Almighty God, and to pay out of full hearts the homage of love and reverence to the memory of the great and good President whose death has so sorely smitten the nation."
On Dec. 21, 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt stated: "I have set aside a Day of Prayer, and in that Proclamation I have said: 'The year 1941 has brought upon our Nation a war of aggression by powers dominated by arrogant rulers whose selfish purpose is to destroy free institutions. ... Therefore, I ... do hereby appoint the first day of the year 1942 as a Day of Prayer, of asking forgiveness for our shortcomings of the past, of consecration to the tasks of the present, of asking God's help in days to come.'"
Before the era of intolerant political-correctness, Franklin D. Roosevelt stated in a proclamation, Nov. 12, 1935: "Let us then on the day appointed offer our devotions and our humble thanks to Almighty God and pray that the people of America will be guided by Him in helping their fellow men."
Franklin Roosevelt warned at the Dinner of White House Correspondents, March 15, 1941: "Modern tyrants find it necessary to eliminate all democracies. ... A few weeks ago I spoke of ... freedom of speech and expression, freedom of every person to worship God in his own way. ... If we fail – if democracy is superseded by slavery ... freedoms, or even the mention of them, will become forbidden things. Centuries will pass before they can be revived. ... When dictatorships disintegrate – and pray God that will be sooner. ... May it be said of us in the days to come that our children and our children's children rise up and call us blessed."
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In 1952, President Truman made the National Day of Prayer an annual event, stating: "In times of national crisis when we are striving to strengthen the foundations of peace ... we stand in special need of Divine support."
President Nixon had a National Day of Prayer when Apollo 13 had a life-threatening explosion in space. On April 19, 1970, President Nixon spoke at Kawaiaha'o Church, one of the oldest Christian Churches in Hawaii: "When we learned of the safe return of our astronauts, I asked that the Nation observe a National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving today. ... This event reminded us that in these days of growing materialism, deep down there is still a great religious faith in this nation. ... I think more people prayed last week than perhaps have prayed in many years in this country. ... We pray for the assistance of God when ... faced with ... great potential tragedy."
President Reagan made the National Day of Prayer the first Thursday in May, stating in 1988: "Americans in every generation have turned to their Maker in prayer. ... We have acknowledged both our dependence on Almighty God and the help He offers us as individuals and as a nation. ... Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States ... do ... proclaim May 5, 1988, as a National Day of Prayer. I call upon the citizens of our great Nation to gather together on that day in homes and places of worship to pray."
President Trump remarked on the National Day of Prayer, May 3, 2018: "Today, we remember the words of Reverend Graham, 'Prayer is the key that opens to us the treasures of God’s mercies and blessings.' ... Reverend Graham’s words remind us that prayer has always been at the center of American life, because America is a nation of believers. ... Prayers of religious believers helped gain our independence, and the prayers of religious leaders like the Reverend Martin Luther King – great man – helped win the long struggle for civil rights. Faith has shaped our families, and it’s shaped our communities. It’s inspired our commitment to charity and our defense of liberty. And faith has forged the identity and the destiny of this great nation that we all love. ... Americans of faith have built the hospitals that care for our sick, the homes that tend to our elderly, and the charities that house the orphaned, and they minister – and they really do, they minister to the poor, and so beautifully and with such love. ... My administration has spoken out against religious persecution around the world, including the persecution of many, many Christians. What’s going on is horrible. And we’re taking action. ... In solving the many, many problems and our great challenges, faith is more powerful than government, and nothing is more powerful than God. ..."
President Trump continued: "With us today is a living reminder of this truth. His name is Jon Ponder, from Las Vegas, Nevada. ... Jon was in and out of jail for years until, at age 38, he was arrested for bank robbery. You don’t look like a bank robber, Jon. (Laughter.) He’s come a long way. Jon soon ended up in federal prison, relegated to solitary confinement. That’s where God found him. Jon began to read the Bible and listen to Christian radio. Right? Incredible. One morning, at 2 a.m., he woke up to the voice of the great Billy Graham. Reverend Graham’s words came through the airwaves, 'Jesus wants to be Lord of your life.' That night, Jon dedicated his life to Christ. He spent the rest of his time in prison praying, studying the Bible, and bringing the Lord to his fellow inmates. ... The day after Jon’s release, a visitor knocked on his door. It was the man who put him in jail, FBI Special Agent Richard Beasley – who is here. Richard. Come on up, Richard. (Applause.) 'I want you to know that I’ve been praying for you very strongly,' he said, that, 'God called me to the FBI in part because of you, Jon.' The two are now lifelong friends. Jon runs a ministry that has helped more than 2,000 former inmates rejoin society, and he’s the talk of the country. Your story reminds us that prayer changes hearts and transforms lives. It uplifts the soul, inspires action, and unites us all as one nation, under God."
Today's struggle between believers and those pushing an anti-God agenda came into stark contrast after World War II with the Cold War era. World War II in Europe ended on VE Day (Victory-in-Europe), May 7, 1945. National Socialist Workers Party emissaries unconditionally surrendered to the Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight Eisenhower at his headquarters in a schoolhouse at Reims, France. Less than four months later, World War II ended in the Pacific. In total, an estimated 75 million people died in the War, including 20 million soldiers and 40 million civilians.
Following World War II, the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics emerged as rival superpowers, beginning the Cold War.
Dwight Eisenhower became a presidential candidate in the 1952 election. President Eisenhower had a Back-to-God Program and put "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance. Addressing the atheistic Communist threat, Dwight Eisenhower stated in Virginia's Religious Herald, Jan. 25, 1952: "What is our battle against Communism if it is not a fight between anti-God and a belief in the Almighty? ... Communists ... have to eliminate God from their system. When God comes, Communism has to go."
The Eisenhower Museum is located in Abilene, Kansas, where he grew up. Laying the cornerstone of the Eisenhower Museum, Dwight Eisenhower stated, as recorded in Time magazine, June 5, 1952: "In spite of the ... problems we have, I ask you this one question: If each of us in his own mind would dwell more upon those simple virtues – integrity, courage, self-confidence and unshakable belief in his Bible – would not some of these problems tend to simplify themselves? ... Free government is the political expression of a deeply felt religious faith."
Time magazine published an article titled "Faith of the Candidates," Sept. 22, 1952, in which Dwight Eisenhower stated: "You can't explain free government in any other terms than religious. The founding fathers had to refer to the Creator in order to make their revolutionary experiment make sense; it was because 'all men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights' that men could dare to be free."
Dwight Eisenhower was quoted in the Time magazine article, "Eisenhower on Communism," Oct. 13, 1952: "The Bill of Rights contains no grant of privilege for a group of people to destroy the Bill of Rights. A group – like the Communist conspiracy – dedicated to the ultimate destruction of all civil liberties, cannot be allowed to claim civil liberties as its privileged sanctuary from which to carry on subversion of the government."
Dwight Eisenhower was elected the 34th president by the largest number of votes in history to that date. On Feb. 7, 1954, President Eisenhower supported the American Legion "Back-to-God" Program, broadcasting from the White House: "As a former soldier, I am delighted that our veterans are sponsoring a movement to increase our awareness of God in our daily lives. In battle, they learned a great truth – that there are no atheists in the foxholes. They know that in time of test and trial, we instinctively turn to God for new courage. ... Whatever our individual church, whatever our personal creed, our common faith in God is a common bond among us."
In the next year's "Back-to-God" Program, Feb. 20, 1955, President Eisenhower stated: "Without God, there could be no American form of government, nor an American way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first – the most basic – expression of Americanism."
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