Inclusive Prayer Day

People of Many Faith Traditions Calling For an Inclusive National Day of Prayer

News Clips About the 2008 Day of Prayer

Please also see the JewsOnFirst.org 2007 report on the Task Force, here.

How inclusive is the National Day of Prayer?

Some groups are challenging the exclusive nature of Thursday's official events, coordinated by conservative Christians.
By Jane Lampman, The Christian Science Monitor, April 30, 2008

On Thursday, several million Americans will gather in special observances across the country to mark the National Day of Prayer, first inaugurated by Congress in 1952.

Under the energetic sponsorship of a national task force, the events have mushroomed into the thousands in recent years. They are held at houses of worship but also schools, courthouses, city halls, state houses, and at the White House and on Capitol Hill.

This year, however, voices are being raised to challenge the religiously exclusive nature of the task-force effort, which is coordinated by conservative Christians who have encouraged government leaders' involvement in their events but rejected direct participation by other faith leaders.

Jews on First, an online watchdog group on the First Amendment, has initiated a campaign for an "inclusive prayer day" that has attracted the support of interfaith and civil rights groups, Muslim organizations, and various churches, including the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Continue.

State of Belief Radio interviews campaign directors

Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, State of Belief, Air America Radio, April 26, 2008

Inclusive Prayer Day project co-directors Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak and Jane Hunter were interviewed about the campaign and the National Day of Prayer "official" Task Force by Dr. Welton Gaddy, host of State of Belief Radio. Dr. Gaddy is also president of the Interfaith Alliance, a major partner in the campaign and a sponsor of State of Belief.

You can hear the interview as excerpt of the State of Belief program here. Or, if you prefer, you can listen the entire program posted here with the generous permission of the Interfaith Alliance. Please also visit the website of State of Belief, where you'll find an archive of radio programs and timely information.

Critics say Day of Prayer 'hijacked' by evangelicals

by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service, April 23, 2008, posted on the website of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life

WASHINGTON -- Is the upcoming National Day of Prayer a day for all Americans -- or just evangelicals?

That's what some critics are charging in advance of the May 1 observances as they call for a more inclusive approach to an event they say has been "hijacked" by conservative Christians.

Jews on First, a 2 1/2-year-old online organization, has questioned the application process for coordinators affiliated with the National Day of Prayer Task Force, which is headed by Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.

While the task force is a private group, it nonetheless gets an unofficial government seal of approval with an annual proclamation by President Bush and prayer ceremonies held at the White House and on Capitol Hill. Continue.

Rabbi: Christian Right hijacks Day of Prayer

Norman Shoaf, Antelope Valley Press (Palmdale, California), May 2, 2008

Lancaster - "There is no faith unless it is interfaith," Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak told a gathering of approximately 60 listeners Thursday evening at the Antelope Valley Interfaith Council National Day of Prayer Service at the Antelope Valley Church at the Center of Light.

By turns cordial and confrontational, keynote speaker Beliak praised Valley efforts at religious inclusion - and condemned what he called the hijacking of the National Day of Prayer by the Christian Right.

Beliak is a leader of the organization JewsOnFirst, whose proclaimed mission is to protect the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and lobby for an inclusive National Day of Prayer. Continue.

New Mexico Public Radio probes inclusiveness of National Day of Prayer event at the State Capitol

National Day of Prayer Task Force officials declare event "official" and exclusively Christian
KSFR-FM, Santa Fe Public Radio, April 30, 2008

In this audio recording, excerpted with the kind permission of KSFR-FM, Rev. Mark Trost, a local coordinator for the National Day of Prayer Task Force, says that the National Day of Prayer is "not a religious event; it's a national event." He also responded to a question about why the group is having a Christians-only event at the state capitol, saying: "We're having it at the Roundhouse as the official National Day of Prayer organization which is based on the Judeo-Christian principles." Mark Calhoun of the National Day of Prayer Task Force acknowledges that they limit officiating to Christians -- "our views, values and beliefs." He also talks about the group's efforts to obtain proclamations from all the nation's governors. Rabbi Marvin Schwab of Temple Beth Shalom in Santa Fe, speaks of the Task Force's "religious discrimination" and recommends boycotting the events. He says he believes it is inappropriate for the government to support "this kind of very narrow national prayer day" with proclamations. To listen to the 12-minute recording, please click here.

Diverse gathering marks day of prayer

Christian-oriented event leaves some feeling excluded
Robin Farmer, Times-Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), May 2, 2008

State and local government leaders participated in a National Day of Prayer event on the state Capitol grounds yesterday that attracted a diverse crowd of about 100.

But some critics said the annual observance should be more inclusive, pointing out that only Christians spoke during the program. About six weeks ago, a group called Jews on First started an online campaign seeking to broaden the event, which it says limits participation to fundamentalist Christian evangelicals.

"It's great people want to pray for the country," said Don Fruhwald, president of the Central Virginia/Greater Richmond Chapter of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. "But it should be a voluntary endeavor that the government stays out of." Continue.

Day of prayer excludes some, protesters say

Lauren Garrision, New Haven Register (New Haven, Connecticut), May 1, 2008

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to gather today at sites across the country for the National Day of Prayer, as they have for at least the past 50 years.

But this year, a coalition of national and regional organizations as well as several hundred individual religious leaders are fighting to make the day inclusive of people of all faiths.

The effort is being spearheaded by Jews on First, an organization that works to defend the First Amendment. The group's goal for this year is to convince governors not to issue proclamations for the day, which they believe has been "hijacked" by evangelical Christians. Continue.

National Day Of Prayer Showcases Intolerant Religious Right Agenda, Says Americans United

Government Officials Should Not Promote Dobson Prayer Task Force Events, Church-State Watchdog Group Says
News release, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, April 25, 2008

Intolerant Religious Right groups are dominating observance of the National Day of Prayer and government officials should refuse to lend them support, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The congressionally mandated National Day of Prayer scheduled for May 1 this year has been largely hijacked by the Religious Right and is being used as an opportunity to promote a far-right religious-political agenda.

"In many cases, this event is more about politics than prayer," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "It's just another excuse for the Religious Right to attack church-state separation." Continue.

Evangelicals 'Hijacked' Day of Prayer, Critics Accuse

Crosswalk.com, April 28, 2008. (Full text)

The Christian Post reports that non-Christian critics are accusing evangelicals of taking over the upcoming National Day of Prayer, which they complain excludes other religions. "The National Day of Prayer has been hijacked!" declares Jews on First on its Web site. "What began as President Truman's declaration of a National Prayer Day for all Americans is now excluding and dividing us on religious lines." The 57th annual National Day of Prayer is on May 1 this year. The theme is: "Prayer! America's Strength and Shield," based on Psalm 28:7.

Jews on First specifically protests against the application to be a NDoP coordinator: "The volunteers who organize the events... are required to pledge that they will only invite Christian clergy to officiate. The volunteers themselves have to ... make a statement of faith that is very narrowly drawn so that only a conservative evangelical Christian would be comfortable doing it," said Jane Hunter, co-director of Jews on First. Continue.

Evangelicals 'Hijacked' Day of Prayer, Critics Accuse

Jennifer Riley, Christian Post, April 25 2008

Non-Christian critics are accusing evangelicals of taking over the upcoming National Day of Prayer, which they complain excludes faithfuls from other religions.

"The National Day of Prayer has been hijacked!" declares Jews on First on its Web site. "What began as President Truman's declaration of a National Prayer Day for all Americans is now excluding and dividing us on religious lines."

Millions of Americans are expected to gather at tens of thousands of prayer events nationwide for the 57th annual National Day of Prayer on May 1. The theme this year is "Prayer! America's Strength and Shield" and is based on Psalm 28:7: "The Lord is my strength and shield; my heart trusts in Him and I am helped." Continue.

Jewish group says the Christian right has appropriated National Day of Prayer

Bruce Tomas, The Dallas Morning News Religion Blog, April 25, 2008

Jews on First, a liberal group created in 2005 "to oppose the growing strength of the Christian right," is complaining that the National Day of Prayer (May 1) has been hijacked by the evangelical right.

"What began as President Truman's declaration of a National Prayer Day for all Americans is now excluding and dividing us on religious lines," the group said.

Here's the story by Adelle M. Banks of Religion News Service. Continue.

Reports on Inclusive, Alternative NDP Observances

Interfaith Alliance makes presence felt at National Day of Prayer event.

Ron Orozco, The Fresno Bee (Fresno, California), May 1, 2008

"It's not just a Christian event," Mayor Alan Autry said, and people of several faiths had their chance to pray -- and talk -- at Thursday's National Day of Prayer event at Fresno City Hall.

Autry, one of the speakers at the event, invited people in the audience, particularly Jews and Muslims, to speak. It was the first time in the event's 16 years that there was an open mike.

Kamal Abu-Shamsieh, director of the Islamic Cultural Center in Fresno, spoke briefly in Arabic before praying for God's blessings particularly on "those who don't have the means." Continue.

National Day of Prayer at Fresno City Hall

Mike Rhodes, San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center, May 2, 2008

The conservative power structure in Fresno attempted to have a "Christian Only" prayer service at City Hall as a part of the National Day of Prayer. Their exclusionary event was thwarted when members of the Interfaith Alliance of Central California showed up holding signs saying One Nation/Many Faiths. See and hear what the mayor, city manager, police chief, and Kamal Abu-Shamsieh of the Islamic Cultural Center had to say in the videos below.

Mayor Autry said "I believe the separation of church and state is good, but as mayor I can not leave office without saying once again that separation of God from state is nothing less than disastrous." Continue.

Two Day of Prayer events held in Plano

Theodore Kim, The Dallas Morning News, May 2, 2008

Plano — A city-backed multicultural group and a collection of mostly Christian clergy held dueling prayer services here today.

The events, to mark a federally-proclaimed national day of prayer, followed a dispute over where each group could pray.

At the City Council chamber, Roy Frady of Plano's WillowCreek Fellowship Church led a service where Christian clergy prayed for a series of city services and entities ranging from the council to the Building and Planning Department. Continue.

Faces Of Prayer

Group holds interfaith service during lawmakers' annual event
Ford Turner, The Patriot-News (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania), May 7, 2008

The question of how to pray for Pennsylvania had two different answers yesterday morning.

One was indoors, one was outside. One was Christian, one involved various faiths.

And one, the outdoor interfaith service, was offered as an alternative to the other, the annual Commonwealth Prayer Breakfast organized by state legislators. Continue.

Religions pray together at 'unofficial' service

James Fuller, Daily Herald (Chicago, Illinois), May 2, 2008

A United Nations of religions gathered in Naperville Thursday night to join together in a common purpose and voice in celebration of the National Day of Prayer.

The "unofficial" service was created this year to welcome religious perspectives beyond the conservative Christian messages that dominated many other DuPage County prayer services Thursday.

Unitarian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Baha'i, Hindu and Christian faithful took turns delivering and explaining prayers with a similar theme. Continue.

Reports & Listings For Sectarian NDP Observances

National Day Of Prayer: Politics of faith

Mary Warner, The Patriot-News, (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania), May 2, 2008

Prayers were raised Thursday from the Capitol steps in Harrisburg for a "wall of fire" protecting U.S. soldiers and for a government "strong on the principles we were founded on."

Whispering "Yes, Jesus," their hands lifted, about 100 people were led in prayers that also sought guidance for businesses, the media, education and families.

It was the annual National Day of Prayer, coordinated this year in Harrisburg by March for Jesus. Continue.

Two Day of Prayer events held in Plano

Theodore Kim, The Dallas Morning News, May 2, 2008

Plano — A city-backed multicultural group and a collection of mostly Christian clergy held dueling prayer services here today.

The events, to mark a federally-proclaimed national day of prayer, followed a dispute over where each group could pray.

At the City Council chamber, Roy Frady of Plano's WillowCreek Fellowship Church led a service where Christian clergy prayed for a series of city services and entities ranging from the council to the Building and Planning Department. Continue.

Prayer rally set for Thursday morning at courthouse

Rachel Smeda, Columbia Missourian (Columbia, Missouri), April 30, 2008

Columbia — Prayer is expected to draw hundreds of Columbians to rally at the Boone County Courthouse at 11:30 Thursday morning. Similar events centered around prayer will happen across the country today as part of the 57th Annual National Day of Prayer.

Jeffrey Huffman, of Family Worship Center and the courthouse rally coordinator, said he looks forward to seeing area churches come together.

Columbia pastors and others will lead prayer at the rally, including Fire Battalion Chief James Weaver and First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz. Col. Jim Coy, a retired military officer, will be leading a prayer for the troops. Continue.

Campus ministries prepare for prayer

Brianna Murphey, East Tennessean, a student newspaper of East Tennessee State University, April 21, 2008

While followers of many different faiths submit prayers to some higher power, the main observers of the National Day of Prayer at ETSU will be Christian.

While the focus of the event, scheduled for noon to 1 p.m. Thursday at the ETSU Carillon, is on Christian prayer, it is open to people of all faiths, said Susan Rogers, a technical clerk in the admissions office who organized the campus observance.

The first national observance occurred in 1952, after the resolution was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Harry Truman. Continue.

Community to gather for National Day of Prayer

By Linda Andrade Rodrigues, Standard-Times (Massachusetts south coast), April 26, 2008

In recognition that prayer has been and continues to be an integral part of our nation's history, SouthCoast residents will gather Thursday at town halls, on campus and in a prison chapel to exercise their religious freedom by gathering publicly to worship and pray for our land. Continue.

National Day of Prayer breakfast sponsored

Rennselaer Republican (Rensselaer, Indiana), April 22, 2008

Jasper County Community Services will be hosting, for the third year, a breakfast and program acknowledging the National Day of Prayer. At 7:30 a.m. May 1 a free breakfast will be offered at a special morning program designated to honor the 57th Annual National Day of Prayer.

A breakfast of pancakes, sausage, biscuits and gravy, juice and coffee will be served from 7:30 to 8:15 a.m. Music will be provided by "Leslie Callaway and Robin Spitters" beginning at 7:30 a.m. Soloist, Kathy Blahnik will also be sharing song selections during the program. Continue.

Local events will mark National Day of Prayer

By Tom Lavis, Tribune Democrat (Johnstown, Pennsylvania), April 25, 2008

Instead of the typical lineup of guest speakers, organizers of the 57th annual National Day of Prayer are calling upon the community to come together for a relaxed gathering to commune with God.

The hour-long event will begin at noon Thursday near the Central Park gazebo in downtown Johnstown.

The theme is "Prayer! America's Strength and Shield" and is based on Psalm 28:7, which states: "The Lord is my strength and shield; my heart trusts in him and I am helped." Continue.

Collective prayer in stadiums and city halls

By Tim Townsend, St. Louis Dispatch, April 26, 2008

Organized, collective prayer has become popular in recent years, and in the first two weeks of May, some St. Louis Christians will take part in two large prayer events.

The first is the National Day of Prayer, which will take place Thursday – mostly around city hall flagpoles – across the country.

The National Day of Prayer, which is held annually on the first Thursday of May, was created in 1952 by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Harry Truman, according to the National Day of Prayer Task Force website.

Its mission is "mobilizing the Christian community to intercede for America and its leadership in the seven centers of power: Government, Military, Media, Business, Education, Church and Family."

The Gateway National Day of Prayer organizers have planned several events throughout the area. Midday events Thursday will be held in the St. Louis City Hall Rotunda, the St. Charles Old Court House, Arnold City Hall and 28 locations in St. Louis County. The organizers also planned regional events Thursday evening, including worship and prayer under the Arch. Continue.

National Day of Prayer is Thursday

By Richard Vara, Houston Chronicle, April 25, 2008

Suzette Caldwell expects more than 3,000 people to gather downtown Thursday at Jones Plaza to sing, pray and – maybe – dance.

Similar gatherings will be held in other cities and churches marking the National Day of Prayer across the country.

"I wholeheartedly expect Houston to benefit from the people of Houston coming to pray in a unified fashion," said Caldwell, head of the Kingdom Builders Prayer Institute, a nonprofit group dedicated to praying. "I think we will see results in the days, weeks and years to come." Continue.

Churches hosting events for National Day of Prayer

by Christopher Ortiz, The Greeley Tribune (Colorado), April 26, 2008

Greeley church groups will host a series of events to commemorate National Day of Prayer on Thursday.

This year, the focus of prayer will be on seven points of influence in America: government, military, media, business, education, church and family. This year's theme is "Prayer, America's Strength and Shield" from Psalm 28:7, which states: "The Lord is my strength and shield; my heart trusts in Him and I am helped."

Starting off, people of all Christian faiths are invited for an observance from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Weld County Centennial Center Plaza, at the corner of 9th Avenue and 9th Street. Continue.

From the Christian Right

Focus on the Family advertisement for Washington, DC event

Focus on the Family email received on April 24, 2008

The Focus on the Family email states: "The National Day of Prayer is celebrating 57 years, and for the first time ever, will be broadcast LIVE from our Nations Capitol on May 1, 2008. As a proud media partner of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, GOD TV will air the program live in its entirety on DIRECTV, channel 365. This special event will begin at 12:00 noon and conclude at 3:00 p.m. (Eastern)."

The email lists as speakers Focus on the Family head Dr. James Dobson, National Day of Prayer Task Force Chair Shirley Dobson, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice ("pending") and others. Please click here to see the ad saved as a PDF document.

Task Force honorary chair attacked from right over "inclusive" prayer omitting mention of Jesus

Summary by JewsOnFirst.org, April 25, 2008

On April 24 Christian talk show host Ingrid Schlueter issued a statement that Dr. Ravi Zacharias, "the 2008 Honorary Chairman of the National Day of Prayer" (so designated by the National Day of Prayer Task Force) had posted a prayer lacking reference to Jesus on the "official NDP website." Schlueter wrote that the Task Force had told her that the omission was to avoid offending Jews. She termed it a "betrayal of Jesus Christ."

Since her posting, Schlueter has been discussing the issue on her blog. She has also responded to a Mother Jones blog posting about the Task Force and her attack on Zacharias.

Ashamed of Jesus at the National Day of Prayer

News Release, Ingrid Schlueter, Crosstalk Radio Talk Show, VCY America Radio Network via Christian Newswire, April 24, 2008

MEDIA ADVISORY, April 24 /Christian Newswire/ -- The 2008 Honorary Chairman of the National Day of Prayer, Dr. Ravi Zacharias, is refusing to pray in the name of Jesus Christ in his prayer posted on the official NDP website. Dr. Zacharias' prayer can be read here. A receptionist with the National Day of Prayer in Colorado Springs stated that the Honorary Chairman's prayer does not include the name of Jesus so as not to offend the Jewish participants in the event, and that others are free to pray in Jesus name if they desire. Contrast that betrayal of Jesus Christ with the faithfulness of the first martyr, the Apostle Stephen, who died in a hail of stones for his fearless preaching of Christ crucified to the Jewish religious leaders of his day.

Banning Jesus: What a "Judeo-Christian" Prayer Service Looks Like

Ingrid Schlueter, Slice of Laodicea blog, April 26 and earlier 2008

I received this email from a reader this morning. If we truly love the Jewish people and their souls, we can never put Jesus away in the closet to appease them. Jesus said that He alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Nobody can come to the Father, except through Him. Here's the email.

Thank you for keeping everyone informed on what's happening with the National Day of Prayer. I have emailed Ravi's ministry informing them how far we have fallen if we will now deny our Savior Jesus in front of men. Continue.

From the Website of the NDP Task Force

What it takes to Become a Coordinator

A simple application with contact data and statement of faith, confirming your commitment to Christ is all that's needed to get you on the way to becoming a NDP Task Force volunteer coordinator. National Day of Prayer Task Force Coordinators

Official Policy Statement on Participation of "Non-Judeo-Christian" groups in the National Day of Prayer:

The National Day of Prayer Task Force was a creation of the National Prayer Committee for the expressed purpose of organizing and promoting prayer observances conforming to a Judeo-Christian system of values. People with other theological and philosophical views are, of course, free to organize and participate in activities that are consistent with their own beliefs. This diversity is what Congress intended when it designated the Day of Prayer, not that every faith and creed would be homogenized, but that all who sought to pray for this nation would be encouraged to do so in any way deemed appropriate. It is that broad invitation to the American people that led, in our case, to the creation of the Task Force and the Judeo-Christian principles on which it is based. About the National Day of Prayer Task Force

How to Adopt-a-Leader

It is so important to encourage and pray for those who govern us. Here's some ways to adopt-a-leader (a kit is also available from our Store).

First, choose a leader God lays on your heart. You may watch your local newspaper or news on television or look at the sites below. Ask the Lord's direction in choosing a leader. Some people to pray for are government officials, police officers, teachers, firefighters, and military personal.

Here are some resources for finding government leaders to pray for: Adopt A Leader (on the schools page)

Drive Thru History

The National Day of Prayer, in partnership with historian David Barton and Coldwater Media, is proud to present Drive Thru History America, a new, cutting-edge, multi-media curriculum that teaches the history of our nation from a Christian Worldview. Discover the character, faith, experiences and accomplishments of America's Founders as they developed this great country where we can worship, work, travel, and live in freedom! In this adventure-filled teaching series, you'll travel to Washington, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Virginia to learn about the life and times of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Quincy Adams, Abigail Adams, Benjamin Banneker, and more. National Day of Prayer Task Force Schools, May 3, 3007