Throwback Thursday: National Day of Prayer?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. The post below was originally published back on April 15, 2016, but has been revised to reflect today’s event.


The National Day of Prayer is today, Thursday, May 5th. Back in 1952, during the Korean War and Red Scare and in response to a groundswell of support sparked by a young Billy Graham, President Harry Truman signed into law the bill which mandated that an annual day of prayer be observed throughout the nation. The observance day was later fixed as the first Thursday in May. On this day, people of all religious faiths in the United States are called upon to pray for the nation and its leaders. Many born-again followers of Jesus Christ will join in “prayer” with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, New Agers, and followers of various aberrant “christian” denominations and sects including liberal mainline Protestant denominations, Roman Catholicism, and Mormonism.

Many evangelical Christians see participation in the National Day of Prayer as a good thing. After all, doesn’t God’s Word instruct us to pray for the authorities over us, “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)? But the National Day of Prayer also has some critics within evangelicalism, including myself.

The National Day of Prayer is an event that promotes American civil religion (see here), the conflation of religion and American patriotism. Christians should never join with unbelievers in spiritual endeavors. God’s Word is explicitly clear on this:

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.'” – 2 Corinthians 6:14-17

“Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.” – Ephesians 5:11

“…holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.” – 2 Timothy 3:5

Jesus proclaimed that He is the ONLY way to salvation. That’s definitely not a popular message in our post-modern era of cooperation, pluralism, tolerance, inclusiveness, and relativism. But Christians should NOT join with religious unbelievers as they pray to their false deities. That is cooperation with idolatry. Yes, we Christians must pray for our country’s leaders so that the Gospel can continue to be preached unhindered throughout this land, but we cannot join with religious unbelievers in this ministry.

Some Christian supporters of the National Day of Prayer argue that the event can be used as an evangelism tool, however, compromise works both ways. Cooperation and compromise with unbelief always leads to betrayal of the Gospel. The Old Testament is largely a record of the disastrous consequences of God’s people cooperating with idolatry.

In closing, I would ask born-again believers who regularly read God’s Word to try to imagine the Lord, Jesus Christ, or even the Apostle Paul, joining with the pagan religionists of 1st-century Judea, Mesopotamia, and Asia Minor in ecumenical or interreligious prayer. The notion is beyond preposterous and yet many followers of Christ will enthusiastically join with religious unbelievers on the National Day of Prayer. For many evangelicals, shared national citizenship and religious-tinged, patriotic fervor take precedence over fidelity to the Gospel. The pastor of the Southern Baptist church we previously attended encouraged participation in the National Day of Prayer, which was one of several warning signs that we were worshiping at the wrong place. This is pretty cut and dry, folks. The fact that the National Day of Prayer is so popular with American evangelicals is another example of the lack of discernment when it comes to nationalism, ecumenism, and “interreligious” cooperation.

“The Church of Christ is continually represented under the figure of an army; yet its Captain is the Prince of Peace; its object is the establishment of peace, and its soldiers are men of a peaceful disposition. The spirit of war is at the extremely opposite point to the spirit of the gospel. Yet nevertheless, the church on earth has, and until the second advent must be, the church militant, the church armed, the church warring, the church conquering. And how is this? It is the very order of things that so it must be. Truth could not be truth in this world if it were not a warring thing, and we should at once suspect that it were not true if error were friends with it. The spotless purity of truth must always be at war with the blackness of heresy and lies.” – Charles H. Spurgeon

Postscript: In the past, I’ve received some passionate pushback regarding this annual National Day of Prayer post. I’m aware that my views here don’t comport with the still-very popular paradigm among American evangelicals of Christian nationalism, the conflation of faith and patriotic nationalism. The notion of America being a nation uniquely covenanted with God, and Americans being God’s people (as in the frequently misappropriated 2 Chronicles 7:14) has been preached from American pulpits in some form or fashion since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620.

24 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: National Day of Prayer?

  1. On point scriptural mandates here. Secondly I would note that joining in with other faiths wrongly affirms them. Its a tacit approval. Thirdly I would say, do true believers really need a designated day? Shouldn’t we be praying for our leaders always?
    I am so weary of compromise in the guise of Christian strategies to possibly present the Gospel.
    We need to be separate to please God. Isn’t it He alone we honor and exalt?
    Good post Tom. We’re off to Boston, have a good weekend brother.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lisa Beth, thanks for all of the good comments! I’m glad that you and other believers get it because many/most evangelicals would consider this post blasphemy.
      Thank you and have a safe and enjoyable trip!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Cathy! It’s sad that believers get caught up in this undiscerning, ecumenical “group think.” Billy Graham paved the way for a lot of this.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m with you 100 percent, Tom. I was never big on the national day of prayer as it makes for this unholy yolking. Also, we don’t need this day of compromise as a evangelism tool; there are plenty of opportunities to evangelize.

    Great job, Tom.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you for offering me a perspective I had not thought of. If I’m being honest I never realized before today, when I was sitting in the whole group portion of my Bible Study group that National Day of Prayer was a joining of all faiths together to pray. It totally rubbed me wrong because who are we joining together to pray to? I pray to the one true God, and I don’t want to join with others praying to false gods. I have always committed myself to prayer daily, so in the future I’ll probably ignore the national day of prayer.
    I don’t find your post offensive at all, I actually find that it’s a validation of what I was already feeling from earlier today. Again thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Katherine, thanks for your good thoughts. Yup, the National Day of Prayer is a component of American Civil Religion, which grants that all “reputable” religions practiced by American citizens are legitimate pathways to God. Of course that thinking is antithetical to the genuine Gospel of Christianity. I appreciate the feedback.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Wow did National Day of prayer just passed? I don’t observe it anymore, and only time I did was when I got saved and it was something the high school Christian club observed….it brings back memories. But as I get older I do realize there’s an ecumenical dimension to it that I don’t want to be with other false faiths

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the feedback! Yup, the National Day of Prayer promotes inclusive – ecumenical and interreligious – attitudes and actions. This morning, President Biden took a break from scurrying to oppose the anticipated reversal of Roe vs. Wade by the SCOTUS to issue the National Day of Prayer proclamation, which makes my point more strongly than I can.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. “Christians should never join with unbelievers in spiritual endeavors.”

    Exactly right, sir! I thought this was so obvious when I first started living for the Lord. 15 years later, I’m still shocked at how many otherwise solid Bible Christians don’t see it.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Totally agree with you here Tom on this issue. Genuine Christians pray constantly for the state of their nation etc. They shouldn’t unite in prayer with those who are strangers to the Lord. Also, you were right to leave that church in the past. That, to me too, would have been an early warning of things not right.

    Liked by 1 person

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