Remarks on Signing the 1987 National Day of Prayer Proclamation

 

December 22, 1986

 

I'm delighted to be able to welcome you as we gather for a few moments here to sign this proclamation declaring May 7th our National Day of Prayer for the coming year. No one can hold this office without noticing that prayer is something deeply woven into the fabric of our history, that indeed spiritual values are essential to the successful life of a democracy. It was George Washington himself who said: ``Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.''

 

Throughout our history, our leaders have always turned to prayer in times of crisis. All of us know how George Washington knelt in the snow at Valley Forge to ask for divine assistance when the fate of our nation hung in the balance. Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation shortly after the battle of Gettysburg entreating the Nation to pray for ``perfect enjoyment of union and fraternal peace.'' And after the shock of Pearl Harbor, Franklin Roosevelt told us he took courage from the thought that ``the vast majority of the members of the human race'' joined us in a common prayer for victory as we fought for ``liberty under God.''

 

Prayer, of course, is deeply personal. Many of us have been taught to pray by people we love. In my case, it was my mother. I learned quite literally at her knee. My mother gave me a great deal, but nothing she gave me was more important than that special gift, the knowledge of the happiness and solace to be gained by talking to the Lord. The way we pray depends both on our religious convictions and our own individual dispositions, but the light of prayer has a common core. It is our hopes and our aspirations, our sorrows and fears, our deep remorse and renewed resolve, our thanks and joyful praise, and most especially our love, all turned toward a loving God. The Talmud calls prayer the ``service of the heart,'' and St. Paul urged us to ``pray without ceasing.''

 

Of course, it's important to remember that prayer doesn't always mean asking God to give us something. Prayer can also be a vehicle for worship -- for recognition of the supreme reality, the reality of God and His love. Worshipful prayer seems especially appropriate in this holiday season, when in Hanukkah we celebrate God's faithfulness to the Jewish nation and in Christmas we mark the birth of One whom some honor as a great and holy prophet and others adore as the Son of God. Listen, if you will, for a moment to the words of the Scriptures:

 

``And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, `Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'''

 

Perhaps, in our own prayers we would do well to remember the words of the heavenly host on that one still night so long ago, each of us in our own way giving glory to God and asking in all earnestness for peace on Earth, and good will toward men.

 

So, thank you, and God bless you all. And now I shall sign the proclamation. And, of course, you don't have to wait until May 7th. [Laughter]

 

Note: The President spoke at 11:55 a.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building.