national prayer days

May 8, 2015

New Directions in Prayer Radio Series


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 7, 2015, as a 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.

So ended President Barack Obama’s proclamation on the 64th annual National Day of Prayer. At The Huffington PostNDSP grantee Norris Chumley wrote about “New Directions in Prayer,” a three-part radio series produced by the Columbia University Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life with support from the NDSP project.

New Directions in Prayer is unique for engaging both practitioners and scholars of religion to create a dialogue necessary for an informed public discussion on the role of prayer in people’s lives. Bringing interviews with scholars, professionals, and clergy members together with archival audio, the series is unique in its diverse approach to understanding what prayer is and the roles it plays.

Read more about the radio series and each episode here.

September 24, 2014

National Prayer Days: More Frequent, Less Passionate

I became interested in national prayer days after seeing that President Lincoln had called for national fasting, humiliation, and prayer at the beginning of the Civil War. I wanted to see if other presidents had issued such strongly religious calls and when they stopped doing so. After looking at every presidential prayer proclamation, from Washington to Obama, I wrote a 2,400-word piece. When I wasn’t able to find an outlet for such a long piece, I divided the material and published in The Dallas Morning News and on the website Patheos. Here’s an excerpt from The Dallas Morning News:

American presidents are proclaiming more national prayer days than ever before — three for 9/11 alone (Sept. 5-7 this year) — but as the number of prayer days has increased, the fervor of presidential prayer proclamations has cooled considerably. “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” has morphed into something closer to presidential renditions of kumbaya.

From Patheos:

President Abraham Lincoln’s 1861 call for a Day of National Humiliation, Prayer, and Fasting speaks to a worldview that has almost utterly vanished, a way of thinking that now exists only on the far outer fringes of public discourse. Lincoln demanded a brand of repentance so intense and humble that it went by the name of humiliation. He didn’t use the word figuratively. In his 1864 Thanksgiving proclamation, he advised Americans to “get down in the dust.”