Many of our presidents have recognized the need for a close, Christian relationship with God and the importance of a rich, faith filled nation. Despite the Supreme Court's misuse of founding fathers' idea of "separation of church and state" prayer has been a powerful inspiration for our leaders.
President Harry Truman signed into law a bill setting aside one day each year as a National Day of Prayer. President Ronald Reagan amended the law in 1988 designating the first Thursday in May as the annual observance. 35 of the 45 U.S. presidents have signed proclamations for National Prayer. Every president since 1952 has signed a National Day of Prayer proclamation.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
June 6, 1944 - A Prayer in Dark Times, D-Day
Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity... Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph... Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom. And for us at home--fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them--help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice... Give us strength, too--strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces. With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace--a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.
January 20, 1953 - A Prayer for Guidance, Inaugural Address
My friends [...] would you permit me the privilege of uttering a little private prayer of my own [...]: Almighty God, as we stand here at this moment my future associates in the Executive branch of Government join me in beseeching that Thou will make full and complete our dedication to the service of the people in this throng and their fellow citizens everywhere. Give us, we pray, the power to discern clearly right from wrong, and allow all our words and actions to be governed thereby and by the laws of this land. Especially we pray that our concern shall be for all the people regardless of station, race, or calling. May cooperation be permitted and be the mutual aim of those who, under the concepts of our Constitution, hold to differing political faiths; so that all may work for the good of our beloved country and Thy glory. Amen.
John F. Kennedy
Thanksgiving Day, 1963 - A Prayer for Gratitude
Let us therefore proclaim our gratitude to Providence for manifold blessings--let us be humbly thankful for inherited ideals--and let us resolve to share those blessings and those ideals with our fellow human beings throughout the world. On that day let us gather in sanctuaries dedicated to worship and in homes blessed by family affection to express our gratitude for the glorious gifts of God; and let us earnestly and humbly pray that He will continue to guide and sustain us in the great unfinished tasks of achieving peace, justice, and understanding among all men and nations and of ending misery and suffering wherever they exist.
January 20, 1977 - A Prayer for a Meaningful Life, Inaugural Address
November 27, 1980 - Thanksgiving Speech to the Nation
I would like to have my frequent prayer answered that God let my life be meaningful in the enhancement of His kingdom and that my life might be meaningful in the enhancement of the lives of my fellow human beings.
I call upon all the people of our Nation to give thanks on that day for the blessings Almighty God has bestowed upon us, and to join the fervent prayer of George Washington who as President asked God to "impart all the blessings we possess, or ask for ourselves to the whole family of mankind."
February 6, 1986 - A Prayer for Healing, From a Speech to the American People
To preserve our blessed land we must look to God... It is time to realize that we need God more than He needs us... We also have His promise that we could take to heart with regard to our country, that "If my people, which are called by my name shall humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." Let us, young and old, join together, as did the First Continental Congress, in the first step, in humble heartfelt prayer. Let us do so for the love of God and His great goodness, in search of His guidance and the grace of repentance, in seeking His blessings, His peace, and the resting of His kind and holy hands on ourselves, our nation, our friends in the defense of freedom, and all mankind, now and always. The time has come to turn to God and reassert our trust in Him for the healing of America... Our country is in need of and ready for a spiritual renewal. Today, we utter no prayer more fervently than the ancient prayer for peace on Earth. If I had a prayer for you today, among those that have all been uttered, it is that one we're so familiar with: "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace...." And God bless you all.
George H. W. Bush
January 20, 1989 - A Prayer to Help Others, Inaugural Address
My first act as President is a prayer. I ask you to bow your heads. Heavenly Father, we bow our heads and thank You for Your love. Accept our thanks for the peace that yields this day and the shared faith that makes its continuance likely. Make us strong to do Your work, willing to heed and hear Your will, and write on our hearts these words: "Use power to help people." For we are given power not to advance our own purposes, nor to make a great show in the world, nor a name. There is but one just use of power, and it is to serve people. Help us to remember it, Lord. The Lord our God be with us, as He was with our fathers; may He not leave us or forsake us; so that He may incline our hearts to Him, to walk in all His ways... that all peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other. Amen.
George W. Bush
September 14, 2001 - A Prayer for the Departed, Address to the Nation after the World Trade Center Attacks
We come before God to pray for the missing and the dead, and for those who love them... On this national day of prayer and remembrance, we ask Almighty God to watch over our nation, and grant us patience and resolve in all that is to come. We pray that He will comfort and console those who now walk in sorrow. We thank Him for each life we now must mourn, and the promise of a life to come. As we have been assured, neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, can separate us from God's love. May He bless the souls of the departed. May He comfort our own. And may He always guide our country. Amen.