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Americans Mark Day of Prayer

Thursday, 03 May 2001 12:00 AM

"This is a day when our nation recognizes a power above our power, an influence beyond our influence, a guiding wisdom far greater than our own. The American character, it's strong and confident. But we have never been reluctant to speak of our own dependence on Providence," President Bush said in a White House reception Thursday afternoon.

The Rev. Billy Graham, who is in ill health, sent a prayer for the occasion: ``We deeply need a moral and spiritual renewal to help us meet the many problems we face.''

Bush traced the history of prayer in the White House, beginning with its first occupant, John Adams, whose prayer that ``Heaven might bless this house'' is inscribed on the mantelpiece in the State Dining Room.

``Throughout our history, in danger and division, we have always turned to prayer. And our country has been delivered from many serious evils and wrongs because of that prayer,'' Bush said.

``In this house, I make many decisions, but as I do so, as I make those decisions, I know ... that many Americans lift me up in prayer.''

Pro-life activists planned a prayer protest for the first time in more than a year within a 20-foot radius of an abortuary, thanks to a ruling from the U.S. District Court of Appeals.

"We want to send a clear point that the First Amendment is alive and well in Washington, D.C., our nation's capital. It is critical that we go out there again,” said Reverend Pat Mahoney, Christian Defense Coalition.

Prayer events were scheduled from Maine to Hawaii, Florida to Alaska.

Bush last week signed a proclamation designating National Day of Prayer, saying that turning to prayer in times of joy and celebration, strife and tragedy is an integral part of our national heritage.

"The theme of the 2001 National Day of Prayer is `One Nation Under God.' In a prayer written specially for the occasion, Americans are asked to pray for 'moral and spiritual renewal to help us meet the many problems we face,'" Bush said in his order. The 2001 theme, "One Nation Under God," is based on Psalm 33:12, which says "Blessed is the nation whose God is Lord."

The National Day of Prayer is a tradition dating back to 1952, when Congress passed a joint resolution for a national prayer day and Democrat President Harry Truman agreed. Every year since, the occupant of the White House has signed a prayer day proclamation.

No specific date was originally set, but President Ronald Reagan in 1988 amended the law to designate the first Thursday of May as the National Day of Prayer.

Mark Fried, coordinator for the National Day of Prayer Task Force in Colorado, said that last year 2 million people participated, but those numbers would most likely increase because it was the event's 50th anniversary.

Prayer and entertainment events on Capitol grounds were scheduled to take place, each geared toward a specific segment of the country. The morning events deal with government, the early afternoon with people, and the later afternoon with youth and family.

Minister Benjamin Muhammad of Nation of Islam said his organization was not asked to participate in any of the activities.

"In the Nation of Islam, everyday is a National Day of Prayer," Muhammad said. "We are required to pray five times a day. We believe it is good for the United States to pray, but to also live out that prayer in the policies of the government."

Some people were not convinced that a day dedicated to spiritual reflection was a good idea.

"George W. Bush is president of all the people," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United Against Church and State. "He should not use his office to promote a narrow religious agenda. He holds the office of president, not national pastor."

"He marginalizes the 27 million who are atheists or free thinkers. He doesn't meet with us," grumbled Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists. "This is a set-up by religious groups." She claimed the day of prayer was "unconstitutional."

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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This is a day when our nation recognizes a power above our power, an influence beyond our influence, a guiding wisdom far greater than our own. The American character, it's strong and confident. But we have never been reluctant to speak of our own dependence on Providence, ...
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Thursday, 03 May 2001 12:00 AM
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