2016 Nat'l Day of Prayer to Be Largest in History With 47,000 Host Sites Across the US

Attendees bow their heads in prayer at the morning plenary session of the Values Voter Summit in Washington, September 26, 2014.
Attendees bow their heads in prayer at the morning plenary session of the Values Voter Summit in Washington, September 26, 2014. | (Photo: Reuters/Gary Cameron)

The annual National Day of Prayer is expected to be larger than ever, with an estimated 47,000 local events taking place across the United States.

For the 65th year in a row Americans will observe the National Day of Prayer, which is held on the first Thursday of May and is centered on praying for the wellbeing of the country.

Dion Elmore, chief communications officer for the National Day of Prayer Task Force, told The Christian Post that the theme this year is "Wake Up America."

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"Wake Up America [emphasizes] the need for every citizen to wake up to the reality of the challenges that our nation faces and to call upon the unfailing character of God, who is sovereign over all governments, authorities, and men," explained Elmore.

"Isaiah 58:1a further highlights this need by exhorting us to 'Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet.' In recent years, our annual honorary chairmen have been sharing a similar message that a great sense of urgency is growing, and the time to wake up and cry out to God is now."

Dr. Ben Carson and Dr. James Dobson at the 2015 National Day of Prayer.
Dr. Ben Carson and Dr. James Dobson at the 2015 National Day of Prayer.

Elmore also told CP that "millions will assemble" at the 47,000 planned gatherings, itself an increase from the approximately 43,000 from last year.

Begun in 1952 as an act approved by the U.S. Congress, the National Day of Prayer has been observed for over six decades.

Presidents from both political parties have annually signed proclamations in support of the date, calling upon Americans to pray for the country.

From time to time the annual observance has been controversial, as secularist groups argue that the National Day of Prayer is an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion.

In 2010, one judge ruled the observance unconstitutional only to have the decision overturned via a unanimous ruling from a three-judge appellate panel.

New Life Christian Church, a multi-site congregation based in Chantilly, Virginia, will be overseeing one of the tens of thousands of observances.

Ron Furgerson, coordinator of New Life Christian Church's prayer team, told CP that this is the first time the church is overseeing activities for the annual observance.

"We firmly believe that God wishes to communicate with His people and that He responds to their prayers," said Furgerson.

"As there is more discord and divisiveness in our country now than at any time in the recent past, possibly not since the Civil War, there has never been a time when prayer has been more important."

Furgerson also told CP that the church estimates around "100 members will participate in person in the 'drop-in' prayer room for individual and corporate prayer and for a time of devotional and directed prayer."

"Materials are being distributed to members for use in their times of private prayer and reflection," continued Furgerson.

"As many as 2,000 members will participate in the Thirty-One Days of Prayer emphasis New Life is promoting through our social media channels during the month of May."

When asked by CP about what he wants participants take away from this year's National Day of Prayer, Elmore of the NDP task force responded "hope."

"Hope, not in the government, political parties, or candidates, but in God," said Elmore, who then quoted a passage from a book by the NDP 2016 honorary chairman Pastor Tony Evans.

"At a time when it seems that our nation is toppling over — morally, culturally, economically, and politically — you may be asking this question: Is there any hope for America? The answer is YES," wrote Evans.

"America's problems are spiritual, and God and His rule are America's only hope. As His people, God is calling us to return to Him in humility and repentance, to submit to His rule and authority. Only as we commit to doing so, individually and collectively, will we realize that hope."

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