UNION COUNTY — Despite light off-and-on rain showers, people gathered in front of Union County Courthouse on Thursday to observe the National Day of Prayer.
Various ministers and local leaders spoke and led prayer during Thursday’s observance of the 65th annual National Day of Prayer. The theme for 2016 was “Wake Up America,” emphasizing “the need for individuals — corporately and individually — to return to the God of our Fathers in reverence for His Holy Name.”
To further highlight the theme, the Scripture chosen for this year was Isaiah 58:1: “Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet.”
Local officials present during the observance were Mayor Harold Thompson, County Councilman Tommy Ford, Sheriff David Taylor, and Police Chief Sam White.
Each of the speakers gave a brief testimony and led those in attendance in prayer, and before the closing benediction — given by David Blanton, of the Union County Baptist Association — everyone in attendance sang “God Bless America” a cappella.
President Barack Obama signed the following proclamation on Wednesday:
“In times of steady calm and extraordinary change alike, Americans of all walks of life have long turned to prayer to seek refuge, demonstrate gratitude, and discover peace. Sustaining us through great uncertainty and moments of sorrow, prayer allows us an outlet for introspection, and for expressing our hopes, desires, and fears. It offers strength in the face of hardship, and redemption when we falter. Our country was founded on the idea of religious freedom, and we have long upheld the belief that how we pray and whether we pray are matters reserved for an individual’s own conscience. On National Day of Prayer, we rededicate ourselves to extending this freedom to all people.
Every day, women and men use the wisdom gained from humble prayer to spread kindness and to make our world a better place. Faith communities at home and abroad have helped feed the hungry, heal the sick, and protect innocents from violence. Nurturing communities with love and understanding, their prayer inspires their work, which embodies a timeless notion that has kept humanity going through the ages — that one of our most sacred responsibilities is to give of ourselves in service to others.
The threats of poverty, violence, and war around the world are all too real. Our faith and our earnest prayers can be cures for the fear we feel as we confront these realities. Helping us resist despair, paralysis, or cynicism, prayer offers a powerful alternative to pessimism. Through prayer, we often gain the insight to learn from our mistakes, the motivation to always be better, and the courage to stand up for what is right, even when it is not popular.
Each of us is an author in our collective American story, and in participating in our national discourse to address some of our Nation’s greatest challenges, we are reminded of the blessing we have to live in a land where we are able to freely express the beliefs we hold in our hearts. The United States will continue to stand up for those around the world who are subject to fear or violence because of their religion or beliefs. As a Nation free to practice our faith as we choose, we must remember those around the world who are not afforded this freedom, and we must recommit to building a society where all can enjoy this liberty and live their lives in peace and dignity.
On this day, may our faiths enable us to sow the seeds of progress in our ever-changing world. Let us resolve to guide our children and grandchildren to embrace freedom for all, to see God in everyone, and to remember that no matter what differences they may have, they, just like we, will always be united by their common humanity.
The Congress, by Public Law 100-307, as amended, has called on the President to issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a “National Day of Prayer.”
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 5, 2016, as National Day of Prayer. I invite the citizens of our Nation to give thanks, in accordance with their own faiths and consciences, for our many freedoms and blessings, and I join all people of faith in asking for God’s continued guidance, mercy, and protection as we seek a more just world.”
History of the National Day of Prayer
1952 — On April 17, a bill initiated by Conrad Hilton of Hilton Hotels and Sen. 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.
1979 — The National Prayer Committee was officially formed. Today, there are 18 members on the NPC Executive Board.
1983 — The first National Day of Prayer observance, organized by the NPC, took place at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. featuring speakers Vice President George Bush and Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie.
1986 — Vonette Bright and the National Prayer Committee contacted Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina for guidance on writing a bill that would designate a day for the National Day of Prayer.
1987 — Sen. Strom Thurmond wrote the bill and introduced 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 — On Monday, May 5, the Judiciary Committee in the Senate and the Committee on the Post Office and Civil Service in the House each released the bill for vote.
At 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 7, final confirmation was given that the bill passed unanimously in the Senate (a few days later in the House).
On Thursday, May 8, President Ronald Reagan signed into law Public Law 100-307 — the designation of the first Thursday in May as the annual observance for the National Day of Prayer.
1998 — On Aug. 12, President Bill Clinton signed into law Pub. L. 105-225 which stated the President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer, on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.
2016: Millions observed the 65th anniversary of the National Day of Prayer.
Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-762-4128 or email@example.com.