1952: On April 17 a bill initiated by Mr. Conrad Hilton of Hilton Hotels and Senator Frank Carlson of Kansas was passed (Public Law 82-324, Sec. 119) that:
The President shall set aside and proclaim a suitable day each year, other than a Sunday, 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.
1974: The National Prayer Committee begins as a subcommittee on prayer at the International Congress on World Evangelization held in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974. Out of the Lausanne gathering came the U.S. Lausanne Committee, now Mission America, and America’s National Prayer Committee. Mrs. Vonette Bright was appointed to the Prayer Advisory Group.
1976: The first members are selected for the Prayer Advisory Group: Dr. Dick Eastman, Mr. Frank Insen (World Vision), Millie Dienert, Evelyn Christenson and Vonette Bright. Dr. Harold Lindsell of Christianity Today also met regularly with the group at the Christian Embassy in Washington D.C.
1979: The National Prayer Committee is officially formed. Today there are 18 members on the NPC Executive Board. Federal EIN: 75-1914068, Exempt 501 C3
1981: Businessman Joe Mays (Religious Heritage of America), David Bryant, and the NPC group meet to cast the first vision for the National Day of Prayer. Contacts were made with the Public Liaison office of the White House to begin planning efforts.
1983: The first National Day of Prayer observance, organized by the NPC, takes place at Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. with featured speakers Vice President George Bush and Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie.
1986: Vonette Bright and the National Prayer Committee contact Senator Strom Thurmond (R) for guidance on writing a bill that would designate a day for the National Day of Prayer.
1987: Senator Thurmond wrote the bill then introduces it to the Senate Judiciary Committee. It became bill S.1378, which would amend public law 82-324. While Senator Thurmond works the bill through the Senate, Congressman Tony Hall champions the bill through the House of Representatives, often fielding calls from Vonette Bright on the status of the bill moving through committee. Prior to 1987, Bill and Vonette Bright led Congressman Hall to the Lord, and even arranged for a spiritual mentor to come into his office, pray with him, and answer questions.
According to Congressman Hall, "One day Vonette called me and she said something about this day of prayer -- we need an exact day of prayer, and asked me to sponsor the bill. And I said, why haven't we done this before?
Vonette was amazing! She would call me, 7:30 my time, 4:30 her time - she was living in California at the time. She was like a bulldog, she would not let go until we passed this bill. She would call me two to three times a week! She wouldn't let go until we passed this bill and it became a law."
To view Congressman Hall's full story, watch his segment in the 2023 National Prayer Gathering Broadcast HERE.
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: Rabbi Haberman and Rabbi Tanenbaum express their support of the bill.
- On April 22 - The bill is passed in the Senate
- On April 25 - It is sent to the House of Representatives
- On May 2 - The bill is passed in the House
- On May 3 - It is signed in the Senate
- On May 4 - The Senate presents the legislation to President Reagan
- On May 5 – Ronald Reagan signs into law Public Law 100-307 the designation of the first Thursday in May as the annual observance for the National Day of Prayer.
Public Law 100-307, May 5, 1988
The President shall set aside and proclaim the First Thursday in May in each year, 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.
Those present at the signing:
- President Ronald Reagan
- Vonette Bright
- Pat Boone (then Co-Chair of the NPC)
- Susan Sorensen (National Coordinator)
- Tony Hall (D-Ohio)
- Frank Wolf (R-Virginia)
- Dr. Richard Halverson (Senate Chaplain)
- William Ford (House Chaplain)
- Senator Howard Heflin (D)
- Rabbi Joshua Haberman
- Father John O’Connor
- Dr. Jerry C. Nims (National Advisor)
- Gladys Harrington (Year of the Bible)
1991: Shirley Dobson accepts the role as Chairman of the NDP Task Force.
1998: President Bill Clinton signs into law - Pub. L. 105-225, August 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1258, 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, and celebrated Shirley Dobson's 25th year as Chairman, as she then passed the baton to Anne Graham Lotz who accepted the role as Interim Chairman of the NDP Task Force.
2017: Dr. Ronnie Floyd is appointed as the President of the NDP Task Force, phasing out the position of Chairman.
2019: Kathy Branzell is appointed as the President of the NDP Task Force, succeeding Dr. Ronnie Floyd.
2020: In the wake of the global Covid-19 pandemic, the NDP Task Force along with Co-Host Will Graham led intercessors around the nation to embrace God-given creativity and pivot their normal prayer gathering formats. Through video chat, phone call, prayer drives and more, prayer still went forth across America!
2021: Millions observed the 70th anniversary of the National Day of Prayer. Even with health guidelines and gathering limits in Washington D.C. and around the nation, small contingents of NDP Task Force prayer coordinators and intercessors prayed on site in capitols and cities, with prayer reinforcements utilizing the new opportunities presented through video chat and other digital gathering platforms. Our National Prayer Gathering Broadcast, Co-Hosted with Andrew Palau, reached into millions homes in the United States and around the world!
2022: Building on the fruitfulness of the previous years, the National Day of Prayer National Prayer Gathering Broadcast becomes a unifying point on the National Day of Prayer, carried by dozens of broadcast and online partners such as GodTV, Pray.com, Daystar, Bott Radio Network, CBN, and many more. In every corner of America and the world, intercessors looked forward to joining the 8 p.m. National Prayer Gathering Broadcast to pray alongside Christian leaders and fellow believers through the program.
2023: Post-Covid, the impact of the National Day of Prayer shined brightly in our nation as tens of thousands of local prayer gatherings were once again held from sunrise on the East Coast to sunset in the Hawaiian Islands. Rev. Samuel Rodriguez stood as Co-Host of the 2023 National Day of Prayer, sharing the Gospel on the National Prayer Gathering Broadcast. For the first time, the Broadcast featured an opportunity to respond to the Gospel or share prayer needs through text, with live responses from intercessors ready to further Gospel conversations or join in prayer.