President Barack Obama issued a proclamation designating Thursday as the National Day of Prayer.
Asking the American people to come together in a moment of "peace and goodwill," Obama stated, "I call upon Americans to pray in thanksgiving for our freedoms and blessings and to ask for God's continued guidance, grace, and protection for this land that we love."
The proclamation was released as members of Congress, ministers and the National Day of Prayer Task Force gathered on Capitol Hill to observe the annual day.
Unlike previous years, task force chair Shirley Dobson and her husband, Dr. James Dobson, did not begin the day with a visit to the White House.
Former President George W. Bush had traditionally held formal White House observances for the National Day of Prayer with the Dobson’s but this year, Obama ended the tradition, choosing instead to only sign a proclamation and pray privately.
Moreover, for the first time in nearly two decades, no representative from the White House was sent to attend the Capitol Hill event, as reported by The Washington Post.
"The national day of prayer is important for people all across the country and I think the president missed a wonderful opportunity," Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) told the local publication. "Not only did he not have any ceremony himself, he did not send any representatives from the White House to this event."
Despite the no-show, James Dobson commented to the local Post that he just wants the country to "remember its foundation" and honor it.
And many have.
Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) honored the 58th annual celebration of the National Day of Prayer on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
"Since the first call to prayer in 1775 when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom forming the nation, prayer has been at the center of our national life," Pence said.
"During this National Day of Prayer, during these challenging times, let it be said again: 'we are a nation of prayer.'"
Many are honoring the prayer day on the Internet through tangle.com's newest Prayer Wall. Over 100,000 prayers have been posted, many of which call on God's strength during an economic crisis. Local events are also being held across the country at state capitols, city halls and churches.
Obama also acknowledges in his proclamation how prayer has played a vital role throughout American history.
"Throughout our Nation's history, Americans have come together in moments of great challenge and uncertainty to humble themselves in prayer.
"It is in that spirit of unity and reflection that we once again designate the first Thursday in May as the National Day of Prayer."
The proclamation further reads, "As we observe this day of prayer, we remember the one law that binds all great religions together: the Golden Rule, and its call to love one another; to understand one another; and to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth."
This year's National Day of Prayer is themed "Prayer ... America's Hope."