- The Washington Times - Friday, May 8, 2009


In 1863, the same year he freed slaves, President Lincoln proclaimed a day of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer.” It was neither the first nor the last such proclamation in America.

In 1775, the Continental Congress called for a National Day of Prayer asking God for wisdom to establish a new nation. The Supreme Court, in the 1983 case of Marsh v. Chambers, affirmed the right to open a legislative session with a publicly funded chaplain.

Since 1952, dozens of presidential proclamations have decreed an annual observance of prayer.

President Reagan signed legislation in 1988 that designated the first Thursday of May as the official National Day of Prayer.

The International Christian Host Coalition, a nonprofit association of multicultural and interdenominational Christian leaders, celebrated the 24th annual Capital Region National Day of Prayer on Thursday on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

This year’s theme was “Prayer: America’s Hope.”

“It was a concerted effort to follow President Barack Obama’s ‘call to unity,’ ” said Corinthia Boone, chairwoman of the event for 24 years.

“People are looking for hope,” she said. “This movement is a quiet undercurrent to bring people together. We come in to worship but we leave to serve.”

Since its inception in 1984, the Capital Region National Day of Prayer has featured a public worship service representing clergy from the suburbs and the city, and members of storefront and mega-church congregations.

Much of the focus is on ecumenical or “corporate prayer” and community transformation through the support of churches and delivery of outreach services.

Clergy started the day with a gathering in the Cannon House Office Building.

Events included congressional proclamations, readings by chaplains, a prayer assembly and a choral performance.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and members of the D.C. Council were invited, but the mayor sent regrets because of a scheduling conflict, Ms. Boone said.

The celebration was open to the public.

“We are in a new season and God is pouring out new wine. We believe God will take note of our repentant hearts and extend mercy to our land that His glory will flow to the nations of the world,” Ms. Boone said.

• Geraldine Washington is a freelance writer living in the District.

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