President Biden on Wednesday issued a National Day of Prayer proclamation that touted the “power of prayer” and invited Americans to “give thanks,” although the proclamation’s absence of the word “God” sparked criticism and marked the first time that’s happened in modern history.
By a 1952 law, every U.S. president must issue a proclamation designating a National Day of Prayer. This year the day fell on May 6.
“Today, we remember and celebrate the role that the healing balm of prayer can play in our lives and in the life of our Nation,” the proclamation reads. “As we continue to confront the crises and challenges of our time – from a deadly pandemic, to the loss of lives and livelihoods in its wake, to a reckoning on racial justice, to the existential threat of climate change – Americans of faith can call upon the power of prayer to provide hope and uplift us for the work ahead.”
On the National Day of Prayer, “we unite with purpose and resolve, and recommit ourselves to the core freedoms that helped define and guide our Nation from its earliest days,” it reads.
“We celebrate our incredible good fortune that, as Americans, we can exercise our convictions freely – no matter our faith or beliefs,” it reads. “Let us find in our prayers, however they are delivered, the determination to overcome adversity, rise above our differences, and come together as one Nation to meet this moment in history.”
The proclamation, though, omits the word “God,” making Biden the first president not to include “God” in his proclamation in the modern history of National Day of Prayer proclamations. The omission is ironic, because secular groups in recent months have criticized Biden for discussing religion too much.
According to the text of proclamations at UC Santa Barbara’s American Presidency Project, every proclamation since 1953 – the first year proclamations were required under law – had included “God” until this year. Most proclamations mentioned “God” multiple times.
David Brody, the chief political analyst for CBN News, criticized the proclamation for what it didn’t include.
“Joe Biden’s National Day of Prayer Proclamation has been released and it doesn’t even mention God once! How do you release a proclamation about prayer and not mention God at all?” Brody wrote in a tweet.
President Trump’s 2018 proclamation mentioned “God” multiple times, such as: “On this National Day of Prayer, let us come together, all according to their faiths, to thank God for His many blessings and ask for His continued guidance and strength.”
President Obama’s 2015 proclamation referenced God three times, including in the following phrase: “Through prayer we find the strength to do God’s work.” Obama’s 2010 proclamation read, in part, “On this day, let us give thanks for the many blessings God has bestowed upon our Nation.”