On Thursday, the 50th annual National Day of Prayer, more than 30,000 events will be held across the country, including several in the Toledo area, based on the theme of “America United Under God,”
The day of prayer is an almost exclusively Christian event, however, with the major organizer being the National Day of Prayer Task Force, an evangelical Christian group led by Shirley Dobson. She is the wife of Dr. James Dobson, psychologist and author who founded the Colorado-based Focus on the Family. The NDOP Task Force is a separate nonprofit organization than Focus on the Family, although it is housed in the same Colorado Springs offices.
Toledo-area Muslim and Jewish leaders said they were not aware of the National Day of Prayer and had not planned any special events for Thursday.
“Our program is Christian evangelical in nature,” said Mark Fried, media coordinator for the National Day of Prayer Task Force. “They [other faiths] have a right to celebrate their faith any way they wish. They have the same rights as anyone and are more than welcome to attend. But the expression of the prayer at our events will be Christian.”
Mrs. Dobson and her organization chose the theme for this year's prayer day and President Bush announced it earlier this month. Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie, chaplain of the U.S. Senate, has written a “Prayer for America” that will be read at noon.
The first National Day of Prayer dates back to 1775 when the Continental Congress called for prayer on whether to form a sovereign nation, Mr. Fried said.
On Feb. 19, 1795, President George Washington issued a proclamation setting aside a national day of public thanksgiving.
Mr. Fried said President Abraham Lincoln called for a day of prayer in 1863 and President Franklin D. Roosevelt did the same on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
The U.S. Congress established a National Day of Prayer in 1952 and in 1988 President Reagan signed an amendment to a joint resolution of Congress designating the first Thursday in May for the annual observance.
While Americans generally became more concerned with prayer following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the latest polls show the interest in God has dropped back to pre-September levels as the nation resumes a sense of normalcy, Mr. Fried said.
“Our goal this year is to use the National Day of Prayer to remind our country to pray for our leaders and country on a daily basis,” he said.
Toledo events will include continuous Bible reading from 6 a.m. until noon in International Park, according to the Rev. Robert Cunningham, Lucas County coordinator and pastor of Family Faith Church.
From noon until 1 p.m. there will be an “interdenominational concert of prayer,” Mr. Cunningham said, which will be followed by a concert of praise.
“We had about 150 churches represented last year,” he said. “We want Americans to unite. We want people to know that the tragedy of 9-11 could have been worse if it had not been for the prayers of the people.”
Mr. Cunningham said he began organizing the local events for the National Day of Prayer as soon as last year's observance concluded.
Other Toledo-area events include: