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National Day of Prayer: Freedoms observed

Webster’s Dictionary defines “prayer” as an sincere request, thanksgiving and confession.

On Thursday, thousands throughout the United States will join together to do just that as they celebrate the United States 53rd National Day of Prayer.

“It is a time for people to come together to pray for our nation,” said Jacque Hildreth, Island County’s National Day of Prayer event and activities coordinator.

The National Day of Prayer came about from the United States’ heritage of faith.

Even before the nation formed, Continental Congress declared a day of prayer for guidance for the forming of the new nation.

In 1795, George Washington set aside a day of public thanksgiving and prayer.

Setting aside a day for religious practice, however, worried some of the early national leaders. And presidents such as James Madison and Thomas Jefferson agreed that religion and its practices is best left in the hands of the people.

A national day of prayer, however, came about again when President Abraham Lincoln signed a Congressional resolution condoning a day of prayer for the people of the United States to join together and pray for their country, leaders and themselves. And in 1952 President Harry S. Truman signed a National Day of Prayer bill, passed by Congress, making it a recognized observance by national law.

“I think generally it’s just an exciting time for believers around our country to unite and join in prayer for our country,” said Pastor Jon Brown of Oak Harbor’s First Reformed Church.

Finally, in 1988, President Ronald Reagan set the National Day of Prayer on the first Thursday of May.

“On our National Day of Prayer, then, we join together as people of many faiths to petition God to show us His mercy and His love, to heal our weariness and uphold our hope, that we might live ever mindful of His justice and thankful for his blessing,” said President Reagan, on the first set National Day of Prayer.

Every year, the President of the United States signs a proclamation, encouraging Americans to participate in observance of the National Day of Prayer. Currently, governors from all 50 state sign similar proclamations and present them to the people of their state.

This year, Christine Gregoire signed the National Day of Prayer proclamation and urges citizens of the state to join her in the observance of this day.

“... the virtues of prayer reflect a common bond: hopes and aspirations, sorrows and fears, remorse and renewed resolve, thanks and joyful praise and love,” reads Washington’s proclamation.

Oak Harbor’s Mayor Patty Cohen will sign a similar proclamation for the City of Oak Harbor at the May 3, 2005, City Council meeting. She said Congress has long distinguished the positive role prayer plays in the public and private lives.

Cohen said the National Day of Prayer allows people time to reflect on their lives and focus on how they are serving one another.

“It can be a very humbling experience,” she said.

And Hildreth said the National Day of Prayer is a time where citizens can come together, with a unified effort, and see their nation changed.

“We need to come together and impact this community,” Hildreth said, and then added affirmatively, “I think we are going to see changes in our community.”

Mayor Cohen said, in essence, the National Day of Prayer is founded on, and is a celebration of, the constitutional rights to freedom of speech and religion.

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