The governors of all 50 U.S. states as well as the Virgin Islands have signed proclamations for the 57th annual National Day of Prayer on May 1, officials of the day of prayer announced Wednesday.
Proclamations publicly acknowledge the day is designated for Americans to unite in prayer. Each of the state's proclamations and constitutions will be read during a prayer event at each state capitol, according to Focus on the Family's Citizenlink.
"Since the days of our nation's founding, public prayer has been an essential part of our heritage," said Michael Calhoun, National Day of Prayer (NDP) manager of strategic partnerships, to Citizenlink.
"It is very significant that the governors in all 50 states have signed proclamations – it lawfully cherishes and respects the religious heritage of this great country and encourages all Americans to invoke God's protection and guidance over our nation."
Calhoun noted that the proclamations are meaningful because the governors do not have to sign it.
NDP vice chairman Brian Toon, meanwhile, defended the focus of the day against recent criticism.
"Our focus remains," he said, "on mobilizing the Christian community to intercede for America and its leaders in the seven centers of power: church, education, family, government, military, media and business."
Non-Christian groups have recently criticized evangelicals for taking over the National Day of Prayer. They complained that the day excludes people of other faiths.
"The National Day of Prayer has been hijacked!" declares Jews on First on its Web site. "What began as President Truman's declaration of a National Prayer Day for all Americans is now excluding and dividing us on religious lines."
Critics complain that those who want to be official coordinators of prayer events are made to affirm the Christian faith.
The National Day of Prayer Task Force is headed by Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson.
The national observance of the National Day of Prayer runs from 3 p.m. EDT on Thursday in Washington, D.C., and will be broadcasted live on GOD TV, and over the internet. Dr. James Dobson, his wife, Shirley, and Dr. Ravi Zacharias will be among the presenters.
Millions of Americans are expected to gather at tens of thousands of prayer events nationwide for the 57th annual National Day of Prayer on Thursday. The theme this year is "Prayer! America's Strength and Shield" and is based on Psalm 28:7: "The Lord is my strength and shield; my heart trusts in Him and I am helped."