WASHINGTON – In the National Day of Prayer observance Thursday on Capitol Hill, speakers heralded the testimony of the late Ronald Regan and prayed for spiritual reform in both the executive and judicial branches.
Though very few called President Barack Obama by name during the event, many of the guest speakers and those invited to pray used NDOP as an opportunity to emphasize the need for spiritual renewal in the White House and the U.S. courts.
Podium guests spoke of past presidents' public acknowledgement of God in their words and actions.
Elizabeth Dole, a Republican U.S. Senator from 2003 to 2009, reflected specifically on Reagan, who would have turned 100 this year. She recounted the faith of the GOP hero, commending him for his outspoken acknowledgement of God.
She quoted an old Reagan NDOP speech saying, "Our founding fathers knew their hope was in prayer and that's why the Declaration of Independence begins with an affirmation of faith and why our Congress opens every day with prayer. It's why the first Congress of the fledgling United States provided for schools that would teach religion, morality and knowledge because they knew no man, no nation could grow in freedom without divine guidance."
Dole also recognized his tendency to "look up" when tackling challenges while in office. She said Reagan relied on the divine in his battle against "atheistic Soviet communism," and while taking on social issues such as pornography.
Prominent evangelical Dr. James Dobson reminded the public that Reagan also signed into law the designation of the first Thursday in May as the annual observance of the National Day of Prayer.
Dole's remarks inspired Dave Butts, president of Harvest Prayer Ministries, to pray for God to lead and guide the Obama administration.
He implored God, saying, "Today, we lift holy hands up before you, Lord, on behalf of our current President Barack Obama ... Lord would you give [him] wisdom, [and] guide our president."
He continued to the yeses and amens of the crowd, "May your word increasingly permeate the inner circle of the executive branch [and] the government of the United States."
Dr. Glenn Sheppard, president of International Prayer Ministries, also prayed for God to forgive America for judicial decisions that many believe go against the Bible.
"Oh God," he prayed as audience members kneeled on the floor, "we repent for the innocent lives of over 65 million unborn children who were aborted under the banner of personal choice. Mighty God, we repent for removing your word and your name from the halls of government, the courtrooms of our cities and the halls of education in America."
During the Congressional NDOP observance, several military servicemen also spoke on the killing of Osama bin Laden. Former Army serviceman and Florida Congressman Allen West (R) said of the May 2 mission:
"This week began with a great piece of news for America – that the personification of evil, Osama bin Laden, had been killed by the U.S. Navy SEALs Special Operators. On this National Day of Prayer, I can attest without any doubt that before those brave warriors launched their mission, they prayed."
The NDOP observance, held in the Cannon House Office building, was only one of thousands of prayer events held across the country. Those events included outdoor meetings, youth rallies and prayer breakfasts and luncheons.
Dobson attributed the Thursday observances to the outpouring of prayers from supporters all across the country.
"One year ago, we met right here with a shadow hanging over the National Day of Prayer," Dobson said referring the 2010 U.S. district court ruling determining that NDOP violated the separation clause of the U.S. Constitution.
However, Dobson, whose wife Shirley leads the annual observance, said prayer made the difference. Last year, Americans continued to organize prayer events despite the ruling, and President Obama issued a proclamation recognizing NDOP that year.
Obama also issued a proclamation again this year.
Last month, the 7th U.S. Court of Appeals decided that Wisconsin-based atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation lacked the legal standing to challenge NDOP and overturned the 2010 ruling.
"Millions of people prayed ... God heard and answered prayer and here we are today," he said as applause rang out in the room.
The observance also featured praise and worship with New Life Church worship leader Jared Anderson and a musical performance by three-time Dove Award-winning artist Ginny Owens.
The entire program was broadcast live on the NDOP website. The Hollywood Prayer Network is also broadcasting live its prayer event Thursday night from Bel Air Presbyterian Church.