Historical Timeline of the NDP Task Force
1952: On April 17 a bill initiated by Mr. Conrad Hilton of Hilton Hotels and Senator Frank Carlson of Kansas was passed (Public Law 82-324) that the President of the United States was to set aside an appropriate day each year, other than Sunday, as a National Day of Prayer.
1974: The National Prayer Committee begins as a subcommittee on prayer at the International Congress on World Evangelization held in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974. Out of the Lausanne gathering came the U.S. Lausanne Committee, now Mission America, and America’s National Prayer Committee. Mrs. Vonette Bright was appointed to the Prayer Advisory Group.
1976: The first members are selected for the Prayer Advisory Group: Dr. Dick Eastman, Mr. Frank Insen (World Vision), Millie Dienert, Evelyn Christenson and Vonette Bright. Dr. Harold Lindsell of Christianity Today also met regularly with the group at the Christian Embassy in Washington D.C.
1979: The National Prayer Committee is officially formed. Today there are 18 members on the NPC Executive Board. Federal EIN: 75-1914068, Exempt 501 C3.
1981: Businessman Joe Mays (Religious Heritage of America), David Bryant and the NPC group meet to cast the first vision for the National Day of Prayer. Contacts were made with the Public Liaison office of the White House to begin planning efforts.
1983: The first National Day of Prayer observance, organized by the NPC, takes place at Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. with featured speakers Vice President George Bush and Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie.
1986: Vonette Bright and the National Prayer Committee contact Senator Strom Thurmond (R) for guidance on writing a bill that would designate a day for the National Day of Prayer.
1987: Senator Thurmond writes the bill then introduces it to the Senate Judicial Committee. It became bill S.1378, which would amend public law 82-324.
In total, 13 Senators and 90 Congressmen signed giving their endorsements. The following individuals sponsored the bill:
- Congressman Tony Hall (D-Ohio)
- Congressman Carlos Moorhead (R-California)
- Senator Howard Heflin (D-Alabama)
- Senator Strom Thurmond (R-South Carolina)
- Senator Bill Armstrong (R-Colorado)
- Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Virginia)
- Congressman Bob Garcia (D-New York)
1988: Rabbi Haberman and Rabbi Tanenbaum express their support of the bill.
1988: Monday, May 5 – the Judiciary Committee in the Senate and the Committee on the Post Office and Civil Service in the House each release the bill for vote.
1988: Wednesday, May 7– 4:00 p.m. final confirmation is given that the bill passes unanimously in the Senate (a few days later in the House).
1988: Thursday, May 8 – Ronald Reagan signs into law Public Law 100-307 the designation of the first Thursday in May as the annual observance for the National Day of Prayer.
Those present at the signing:
- President Ronald Reagan
- Vonette Bright
- Pat Boone (then Co-Chair of the NPC)
- Susan Sorensen (National Coordinator)
- Tony Hall (D-Ohio)
- Frank Wolf (R-Virginia)
- Dr. Richard Halverson (Senate Chaplain)
- William Ford (House Chaplain)
- Senator Howard Heflin (D)
- Rabbi Joshua Haberman
- Father John O’Connor
- Dr. Jerry C. Nims (National Advisor)
- Gladys Harrington (Year of the Bible)
1989: The NPC forms an Official Task Force for organizing events across the country in observance of the National Day of Prayer.
1991: Shirley Dobson accepts the role as Chairman of the NDP Task Force.
2015: Millions will observe the 64th Anniversary of the National Day of Prayer.
The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. Our Task Force is a privately funded organization whose purpose is to encourage participation on the National Day of Prayer. It exists to communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer, to create appropriate materials, and to mobilize the Christian community to intercede for America’s leaders and its families. The Task Force represents a Judeo Christian expression of the national observance, based on our understanding that this country was birthed in prayer and in reverence for the God of the Bible.
History of the National Day of Prayer
Because of the faith of many of our founding fathers, public prayer and national days of prayer have a long-standing and significant history in American tradition. The Supreme Court affirmed the right of state legislatures to open their sessions with prayer in Marsh vs. Chambers (1983).
The National Day of Prayer is a vital part of our heritage. Since the first call to prayer in 1775, when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation, the call to prayer has continued through our history, including President Lincoln’s proclamation of a day of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer” in 1863. In 1952, a joint resolution by Congress, signed by President Truman, declared an annual national day of prayer. In 1988, the law was amended and signed by President Reagan, permanently setting the day as the first Thursday of every May. Each year, the president signs a proclamation, encouraging all Americans to pray on this day. Last year, all 50 state governors plus the governors of several U.S. territories signed similar proclamations.
Legal Milestones for the Day of Prayer
Significance of the National Day of Prayer
The National Day of Prayer has great significance for us as a nation as it enables us to recall and to teach the way in which our founding fathers sought the wisdom of God when faced with critical decisions. It stands as a call for us to humbly come before God, seeking His guidance for our leaders and His grace upon us as a people. The unanimous passage of the bill establishing the National Day of Prayer as an annual event, signifies that prayer is as important to our nation today as it was in the beginning.
Like Thanksgiving or Christmas, this day has become a national observance placed on all Hallmark calendars and observed annually across the nation and in Washington, D.C. Every year, local, state, and federal observances were held from sunrise in Maine to sunset in Hawaii, uniting Americans from all socio-economic, political and ethnic backgrounds in prayer for our nation. It is estimated that over two million people attended more than 30,000 observances – organized by approximately 40,000 volunteers. At state capitols, county court houses, on the steps of city halls, and in schools, businesses, churches and homes, people stopped their activities and gathered for prayer.
The National Day of Prayer is Ours
The National Day of Prayer belongs to all Americans. It is a day that transcends differences, bringing together citizens from all backgrounds. Mrs. Shirley Dobson, NDP chairman, reminds us: “We have lost many of our freedoms in America because we have been asleep. I feel if we do not become involved and support the annual National Day of Prayer, we could end up forfeiting this freedom, too.”
- 1775 – The first Continental Congress calls for a National Day of Prayer and Fasting.
- 1863 – Abraham Lincoln calls for a National Day of Prayer.
- 1952 – Congress established NDP as an annual event by a joint resolution, signed into law by President Truman (82-324)
- 1988 – The law was amended and signed by President Reagan, designating the NDP as the first Thursday in May (100-307).
- 1998 – The law was amended once more adding that the President of the United States is to issue a proclamation on NDP. It was signed by President Bill Clinton (105-225).
1) There have been 143 national calls to prayer, humiliation, fasting and thanksgiving by the President of the United States (1789-2014).
2) There have been 66 Presidential Proclamations for a National Day of Prayer (1952-2014). Gerald R. Ford (1976), George H. Bush (1989-91) and Barack H. Obama (2012) are the only U.S. Presidents to sign multiple National Day of Prayer Proclamations in the same year.
3) Every President since 1952 has signed a National Day of Prayer proclamation.
4) 34 of the 44 U.S. Presidents have signed proclamations for National Prayer. Three of the Presidents who did not sign a proclamation died while serving in office. Two Presidents, not included in the count – William Howard Taft and Warren Gamaliel Harding, signed proclamations for Thanksgiving and Prayer.
5) Records indicate there have been 1,310 state and federal calls for national prayer since 1775 and counting.