What you need to know about the National Day of Prayer

Tomorrow, May 1, marks the National Day of Prayer. We’ve received questions about this annual event in the past, so we thought it might be helpful to share what we know.

The National Day of Prayer is held on the first Thursday of every May with people of all faiths invited to pray for the nation according to their own belief systems. Communities across the country choose to acknowledge the day by praying and giving thanks in houses of worship, community centers, town squares and places of business.

One of the most common questions we hear is, “Is the National Day of Prayer constitutional?” In 2011, a U.S. Court of Appeals found that the National Day of Prayer imposes responsibility solely on the U.S. President, but imposes no obligation on citizens. The Court essentially described the Presidential Proclamations of the National Day of Prayer as open invitation to members of the public who could opt to participate or not.

If you are planning an event, these guidelines may help with its success:

  • Make it voluntary. The National Day of Prayer was explicitly created as a day on which people could choose to pray according to their own beliefs and consciences. For some people, that means not praying at all.
  • Make it welcoming. If prayer does not suit your event or audience, try a moment of silence or a service event.
  • Make it inclusive. Try creating a program that appeals to people from all backgrounds, such as “Widget Corporation’s Day of Service and Reflection is a time for us to reflect on our individual beliefs while supporting the community together.”

For more information, check out our National Day of Prayer Fact Sheet.