Every year, the National Day of Prayer (NDP) Task Force facilitates several events on Capitol Hill including the National Observance at the Cannon House Office Building. With speakers like Tony Evans, Chuck Swindoll, Oliver North, Max Lucado, Beth Moore, and Franklin Graham, the expectations are always high and the response is overwhelming. More than five hundred thousand people tune in live each year, via video stream and televised broadcast, for what is sure to be a prayer event highlight reel as representatives from each branch of government, prominent ministries and businesses share encouraging and convicting messages with ambassadors, delegates, and individuals from all walks of life in the historic Caucus Room – and the 65th annual National Day of Prayer observance did not disappoint.
The morning began promptly at 9:00 a.m. eastern with the presentation of the colors by the Joint Armed Forces Color Guard and the National Anthem. Mrs. Shirley Dobson, Chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, kicked off the momentous celebration with a warm greeting and introduction of Rabbi Jonathan Cahn. She then had everyone on the edge of their seats when she made the following statement:
“In 1988, the late Vonette Bright began petitioning Members of Congress to support a bill that would designate the first Thursday in May as the annual National Day of Prayer. By a joint resolution of the United States Congress, it was signed into law by President Reagan on May 8th of that year.
Mrs. Bright continued in leadership until 1991. Then she and the National Prayer Committee asked me to succeed her as chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. After much prayer and careful consideration, I accepted the responsibility and have now served for 25 consecutive years. The Day of Prayer has been observed by more than 33 million people at 630,000 prayer gatherings around the world…and today, another chapter begins.
I am pleased to announce that Mrs. Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Dr. Billy Graham, will succeed me as the new chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. It is imperative that we preserve this American heritage to insure that this powerful expression of our religious freedom will continue for generations to come. I couldn’t be more grateful that the Lord has laid upon Anne the mantle of leadership for national prayer. She is eminently qualified to serve the nation in this capacity. We honor her for accepting this responsibility.”
Immediately, the audience was surprised and yet greatly encouraged by the announcement. A new chapter begins after a quarter century as the mantle of leadership passes to Billy Graham’s daughter.
This transition of leadership seems fitting given the fact that it was in 1952 when House Speaker Sam Rayburn invited the Reverend Billy Graham to Washington D.C. and on the steps of the Capitol in February of that year, he delivered a message at the young age of 32 that transformed a city and ultimately a nation. As a result, a bill calling for an annual National Day of Prayer, co-sponsored by Percy Priest and Senator Frank Carlson, and publicly endorsed by Conrad Hilton (who took out a full page ad of Uncle Sam on his knees in prayer) was passed through Congress and then signed by President Harry Truman. The bill was passed April 17, 1952.
The National Observance continued and Rabbi Cahn (author of The Harbinger) took the podium first and blessed the occasion with eloquent words and a personal challenge for how we should view the exercise of prayer and solemn assembly. He then put the Shofar to his lips and belted out what seemed to be the longest held note to echo throughout the halls of Congress in the history of our nation. At that moment, we knew the prayer event had begun and not just in Washington D.C.
The line-up of speakers that followed were second to none with each building on the other, emphasizing repentance and a return to the God of our Fathers. After a series of convicting messages and prayers of reverence to the Almighty, Dr. Tony Evans, the 2016 Honorary Chairman, concluded the gathering with the National Prayer that was spoken aloud in unison by the standing-room only crowd that had remained steadfast throughout the full 3-hour plus gathering.
It was a powerful and fitting way to conclude the National Observance while serving as a springboard to more than 47,000 similar gatherings that took place from coast to coast. In addition, an estimated 90 nations participated in the annual observance along with South Korea, India and Australia where prayer coordinators mobilized thousands to fast and pray for the United States. From pilots flying over capital cities to petition from above, to balloon launches, parades, park gatherings and more, there were millions of prayers lifted up at an unprecedented level. President Barack H. Obama and all 50 Governors unanimously called on Americans to pray. Truly, the 65th annual National Day of Prayer was a historic moment in time for God’s church, across the oceans, to unite in prayer in One Voice. It was the largest such day of prayer in the modern era and already, many have started their planning efforts for May 4, 2017.
Immediately following the National Day of Prayer, the NDP Task Force, announced that it was partnering with Pulse Ministries to rally intercessors far and wide back to Washington D.C., July 14-17 (National Prayer Summit and Together 2016) for what will be one of the largest gatherings of prayer at the National Mall. It is quite clear that the National Day of Prayer was not the end but only the beginning - a catalyst for a prayer mobilization effort that could truly transform the cultural landscape across this great land.
Be sure to visit, www.NationalDayofPrayer.org for upcoming details on how you can get involved.
- John Bornschein, Vice Chairman