Bush joins in National Day of Prayer

WASHINGTON (BP)--Americans pray to give thanks for blessings, to ask for the strength to follow God's will, to acknowledge God's sovereignty and to offer petitions, President Bush said May 3 in a White House observance of the 56th National Day of Prayer.

"We pray as families, around the dinner table, and before we go to sleep. We pray alone in silence and solitude, withdrawing from the world to focus on the eternal, spending time in personal recollection with our Creator," Bush said at the morning event.

The observance was the seventh consecutive year Bush has spoken in the White House on the National Day of Prayer. He was joined in the East Room by members of his Cabinet, members of Congress and the military and the mayor of Blacksburg, Va., where prayer has sustained people in the midst of the Virginia Tech shootings.

An observance was held in a House of Representatives office building in the afternoon of May 3 with remarks from this year's NDP honorary chairman Charles Swindoll, noted author and pastor of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas.

"In these unsafe days, You remain all powerful and able to protect," Swindoll said in a time of leading members of Congress in prayer. "In these uncertain times, You remain all knowing, leading us aright. In the unprecedented events we're facing, You remain absolutely sovereign. Our times are in Your hands. Therefore, our dependence on You is total, not partial."

The National Day of Prayer Task Force estimated that 46,000 events across the nation would occur as part of the observance, which this year was marked with the theme "America, Unite in Prayer," based on 2 Chronicles 7:14, "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

"We pray for the strength to follow God's will in our lives and for forgiveness when we fail to do so," Bush said. "Through prayer, each of us is reminded that we are fallen creatures in need of mercy, and in seeking the mercy and compassion of a loving God, we grow in mercy and compassion ourselves."

Prayer also is meant to acknowledge God's sovereignty and the need for complete dependence on Him, the president said.

"We ask His healing for those who suffer from illness, for those who struggle in life. We ask His comfort for the victims of tragedy, and that the injured may be healed and the fallen may find comfort in the arms of their Creator," Bush said. "We implore His protection for those who protect us here at home and in far away lands. We pray for the day when His peace will reign in every nation and in every land until the ends of the earth."

Throughout the country, people gathered at churches and public venues to pray for the nation, government leaders, media, churches, families and schools. Activities ranged from prayer breakfasts and Bible reading marathons to concerts of prayer, rallies, church prayer vigils and student flagpole gatherings.

One such prayer event was held for the 12th year at Longs Park in Lancaster, Pa., where 10,000 people were expected to attend. And in Hollywood, Calif., Christian actors, directors, producers and others planned to gather in the CBS studios for prayer, according to Michael Calhoun, a spokesman for the National Day of Prayer Task Force.

"At this crucial time in history, with our armed forces engaged in a desperate struggle in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, we encourage all people of faith to set aside their differences and publicly seek God's wisdom and direction for those in harm's way and for our homes, communities and country," said National Day of Prayer Chairman Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson. "Our Founding Fathers recognized the power of prayer and gathered regularly to ask for God's blessing. We can do no less."

Congress established the National Day of Prayer as a yearly event in 1952. The law was amended in 1988 to make the first Thursday of May the day of the observance.


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