In our opinion: National Day of Prayer

Published: Thursday, May 5 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

Today is the 60th annual National Day of Prayer, traditionally held on the first Thursday in May.

It almost didn't happen this year. An eleventh-hour ruling by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found only last month that this observance is indeed constitutional, allowing President Barack Obama, whose administration defended the day in court, to issue the traditional annual proclamation calling for a national day of prayer.

We are pleased with the court's decision, and we support the sentiments of an invitation to all Americans to participate in common reflection and thanksgiving. And this year, the opportunity to collectively bow our heads in gratitude as well as humility and reverence seems an especially appropriate reaction to the recent death of terrorist Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

Obama expressed the promise of this day well when he invited "all citizens of our nation, as their own faith or conscience directs them, to join me in giving thanks for the many blessings we enjoy, and ask all people of faith to join me in asking God for guidance, mercy, and protection for our nation." This moment in history certainly demands the blessings of such national communion, both in its concept and in the particulars for which the president prays.

This country needs guidance, mercy and protection. It struggles against great challenges: military conflicts abroad, economic recession at home, and mistrust and suspicion among partisan interests.

May the National Day of Prayer bring Americans a renewed sense of purpose and confidence, not only in our leaders, but in our promise as a nation. May it bring us the courage to judge each other with mercy and fairness, both at home and abroad. And may it bring us comfort from the tragedies of natural disaster and economic devastation. We also hope that the very act of the National Day of Prayer might bring the nation blessings as well. A moment in which people join together as a nation, setting aside disagreements and differences in order to come together to pray for the best interests of our nation, is sorely needed.

We hope it will bring the nation perspective, peace and, as President Abraham Lincoln hoped, the ability to move forward with "malice toward none, with charity toward all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right." The reminder that all depend upon the mercy of one another, as well as on the mercy of God, is a welcome one.

In Christian and Jewish traditions, the Sabbath is observed as a periodic rest from labor, an opportunity to reflect and refocus. The National Day of Prayer offers a similar opportunity to pause from our labors and consider again who we are, what we believe, and who we want to be.

We urge our readers to stop for a moment, look upward, consider these questions and dedicate themselves anew to the great tasks that lie before us as a people and a nation.

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