History of the National Day of Prayer
1952: On April 17 a bill initiated by Mr. Conrad Hilton of Hilton Hotels and Senator Frank Carlson of Kansas was passed (Public Law 82-324) that the President of the United States was to set aside an appropriate day each year, other than Sunday, as a National Day of Prayer.
1974: The National Prayer Committee begins as a subcommittee on prayer at the International Congress on World Evangelization held in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974. Out of the Lausanne gathering came the U.S. Lausanne Committee, now Mission America, and America’s National Prayer Committee. Mrs. Vonette Bright was appointed to the Prayer Advisory Group.
1976: The first members are selected for the Prayer Advisory Group: Dr. Dick Eastman, Mr. Frank Insen (World Vision), Millie Dienert, Evelyn Christenson and Vonette Bright. Dr. Harold Lindsell of Christianity Today also met regularly with the group at the Christian Embassy in Washington D.C.
1979: The National Prayer Committee is officially formed. Today there are 18 members on the NPC Executive Board. Federal EIN: 75-1914068, Exempt 501 C3
1981: Businessman Joe Mays (Religious Heritage of America), David Bryant and the NPC group meet to cast the first vision for the National Day of Prayer. Contacts were made with the Public Liaison office of the White House to begin planning efforts.
1983: The first National Day of Prayer observance, organized by the NPC, takes place at Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. with featured speakers Vice President George Bush and Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie.
1986: Vonette Bright and the National Prayer Committee contact Senator Strom Thurmond (R) for guidance on writing a bill that would designate a day for the National Day of Prayer
1987: Senator Thurmond writes the bill then introduces it to the Senate Judicial Committee. It became bill S.1378, which would amend public law 82-324
In total, 13 Senators and 90 Congressmen signed giving their endorsements.
The following individuals sponsored the bill:
- Congressman Tony Hall (D-Ohio)
- Congressman Carlos Moorhead (R-California)
- Senator Howard Heflin (D-Alabama)
- Senator Strom Thurmond (R-South Carolina)
- Senator Bill Armstrong (R-Colorado)
- Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Virginia)
- Congressman Bob Garcia (D-New York)
1988: Rabbi Haberman and Rabbi Tanenbaum express their support of the bill.
1988: Monday, May 5 – the Judiciary Committee in the Senate and the Committee on the Post Office and Civil Service in the House each release the bill for vote
1988: Wednesday, May 7– 4:00 p.m. final confirmation is given that the bill passes unanimously in the Senate (a few days later in the House).
1988: Thursday, May 8 – Ronald Reagan signs into law Public Law 100-307 the designation of the first Thursday in May as the annual observance for the National Day of Prayer
Those present at the signing:
- President Ronald Reagan
- Vonette Bright
- Pat Boone (then Co-Chair of the NPC)
- Susan Sorensen (National Coordinator)
- Tony Hall (D-Ohio)
- Frank Wolf (R-Virginia)
- Dr. Richard Halverson (Senate Chaplain)
- William Ford (House Chaplain)
- Senator Howard Heflin (D)
- Rabbi Joshua Haberman
- Father John O’Connor
- Dr. Jerry C. Nims (National Advisor)
- Gladys Harrington (Year of the Bible)
1991: Shirley Dobson accepts the role as Chairman of the NDP Task Force.
1998: Bill Clinton signs into law – Pub. L. 105-225, August 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1258: The President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.
2016: Millions will observe the 65th Anniversary of the National Day of Prayer Shirley Dobson’s 25th year as Chairman
2016: Shirley Dobson passes the baton, and Anne Graham Lotz accepts the role as Chairman of the NDP Task Force
2017: Dr. Ronnie Floyd is appointed as the President of the NDP Task Force phasing out the position of Chairman