Proclamation, But No Service for National Day of Prayer

The White House has announced that President Obama plans to issue a proclamation marking the National Day of Prayer on May 7, but that there will not be a White House sponsored prayer service on that day. “Prayer is something that the president does every day,” said spokesman Robert Gibbs. “Privately, he’ll pray as he does every day.”

This marks a significant change from the Bush administration’s habit of gathering religious leaders for an event in the East Room. George W. Bush was the first president to regularly host such events. Before that time, NDP task force leaders held more low-key events, including at Lafayette Park across the street during the Clinton administration.

Predictably, the National Day of Prayer Task Force is not pleased with Obama’s decision. They said, in part:

While there will be tens of thousands of prayer gatherings throughout the nation, on May 7th, the Obama Administration announced there will not be a White House Observance for the National Day of Prayer this year, contrary to the administrations of President George W. Bush, President George H. W. Bush, and President Ronald Reagan. A White House Observance was not held during the administration of President Bill Clinton.

They fail to note that events held by Reagan and the former Bush were not regular practice. Reagan’s event was held in the Rose Garden in 1982, the second year of his administration. Reagan did not again sponsor a gathering, even when in 1988, he  set the date for observing the National Day of Prayer. George H.W. Bush held a breakfast in 1989 in the Rose Garden, but it, also, was the only officially endorsed gathering. The Task Force tries to give the impression that the National Day of Prayer was a regular event until Clinton, and now Obama.

Shirley Dobson, wife of James Dobson of Focus on the Family and head of the NDP Task Force went on to say

“We are disappointed in the lack of participation by the Obama Administration. At this time in our country’s history, we would hope our President would recognize more fully the importance of prayer.”

I guess the President doesn’t recognize the importance of prayer, since he only does it every day. Wonder what Shirley does with that pesky quote from Jesus:

“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1)

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