National Day of Prayer
The higher courts will be hearing arguments regarding the constitutionality of a “National Day of Prayer,” following a lower court ruling against recognizing this day. This is not a holiday where businesses close or work is stopped. It is not a directive to pray. Nor is it a promotion for organized religion. Rather, setting aside one day a year to allow those so inclined to unite through the power of prayer to seek wisdom, courage and strength for the people of this nation (particularly our leaders) is about as American as it can be.
This case was filed by the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The judge agreed with the group, indicating that this was a religious issue and that atheists “feel” marginalized by proclaiming a national day of prayer. An attorney representing a group supporting prayer argued, “The National Day of Prayer not only reflect[s] our nation’s rich history, but are [is] indeed consistent with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”
Prayer was practiced by citizens of this country long before it became the United States. Benjamin Franklin admonished the Constitutional Convention for drifting away from prayer; and, therefore, accomplishing nothing. Since then each session of Congress is opened with a prayer. Commencement exercises include an opening prayer. At sporting events and other gatherings, we honor fallen heroes from our armed services as well as local police and firemen with a moment of silence, which is in effect time allotted for personal prayer.
Pre-boomers, and those preceding us, grew up with prayer and scriptures in public schools and all kinds of other venues. Many believe this is why our generation is considered the last with traditional values. How harmful is that? There is mounting concern the country has lost its moral compass. Could this be because of a lack of prayer? Even though more than 90 percent of Americans believe in God, there is no indication that they turn to prayer for direction. So, a day recognizing that prayer was and still is important to our society and ourselves may be needed now more than ever.
The notion that prayer is only for those who are religious and must be stopped in order to maintain a separation between Church and State, suggests that the atheists filing the law suit just don’t get it. Prayer is a spiritual
act that has been adopted by the major religions of the world. There is nothing more personal than communicating with a Higher Power. It can be done anywhere, anytime and for any reason. Prayer takes the form of thanking, seeking or asking for help by drawing on the power of something greater than one’s self.
Over the years, humility of this kind united the people of our nation during times of crisis and helped us deal with the pain of wars, financial crisis and internal division while allowing us to mend after the problems subsided. On our own, such wounds may never heal. But, if prayer was the catalyst that rebuilt relationships, brought families back together and caused us to return to normal ways of life, then can’t we at least recognize this time-honored practice? God knows we need it.
Don Potter, a Philadelphia native, was born in 1936 and is a 50 year veteran of the advertising agency business. Now living in Los Angeles, he has written two novels in retirement, frequently writes on marketing issues, and has a blog dedicated to pre-boomers (those born between 1930 and 1945).
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