The National Day of Prayer is an annual day of observance on the first Thursday of May designated by the U.S. Congress, when people are asked “to turn to God in prayer and meditation.”

Each year since it’s inception, the president has signed a proclamation encouraging all Americans to pray on this day.

I wanted to find out more about the National Day of Prayer so I asked Steve Arthur, librarian at the Ellis Public Library for help, for information about the origin of this prayer day. He went to his computer and found what I needed, the history of National Day of Prayer in the U.S.A.

There are several pages of information. I’ll try to tell you about it in a short version by the selection of interesting parts of history beginning in 1775.

The National Day of prayer shares common roots with the celebration of Thanksgiving. Both were national proclamations establishing a day of prayer. The fall observance was established by President Abraham Lincoln as the official Thanksgiving Holiday in 1863. The spring observance was established by President Harry S. Truman in 1952 as the National Day of Prayer.

Earlier days of fasting and prayer had been established by the second Continental Congress in 1775 until 1783 and by President John Adams in 1798 and 1799 — but the practice of calling for national days of fasting and prayer was abandoned for many years because none of the presidents issued prayer proclamation. In 1952 during the Korean War, the desire of a united national prayer was stated by Rev. Bill Graham, who said “what a thrilling, glorious thing it would be to see the leaders of our country today kneeling before Almighty God in prayer. What a thrill would sweep this country. What a renewed hope and courage would grip the Americans at this hour of peril: members of the House and Senate introduced a joint resolution for the annual National Day of Prayer, on which the people of the U.S. may turn to God in prayer and medication at churches, in groups and as individuals.”

On April 17, 1952, President Harry S. Truman signed a bill proclaiming a National Day of Prayer be declared by each president at a date of his choice. In 1988, the law was amended so the day would be on the first Thursday in May as it still continues.

The constitutionality of the National Day of Prayer unsuccessfully was challenged in court by the Freedom from Religion Foundation after their first attempt was unanimously dismissed by federal appellate court in April 2011.

This year the National Day of Prayer will be at the courthouse in Hays from 12:10 to 12:50 p.m., Fort Hays State University Campus prayer, 11 to 11:30 a.m., Breathe Coffee House, 703 B Main, breakfast, 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. and at 7 p.m.

Also there will be a National Prayer Service at the Hays Senior Center, 2450 E. Eighth before the meal. You are invited to come for the May 3 meal and join us. Prayer service to begin at 11:30 a.m. Call for meal reservations before 11 a.m., May 2. (785) 628-6644.

This year the prayer is for Unity for America. “Making every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the Bond of Peace.“ Ephesians 4:3.

We will pray for the seven centers of influence in America: government, military, media arts, business, education, church and family.

I am proud to be an American and will pray for the unity of our country. I challenge you all to do the same.

Opal Flinn is a member of the Generations Advisory Board.