“Love One Another” is the theme for the 2019 National Day of Prayer, event president Ronnie Floyd announced on October 30, 2018.
Anchored in John 13:34, the theme seeks to mobilize the nation in prayer on May 2, 2019, in every US locale across generational, ethnic, and linguistic lines, said Floyd, newly-elected president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee.
“I realize that our task today is daunting and quite intimidating,” Floyd said in his Facebook announcement, “but it is not impossible.
“I don’t have all of the answers, and I don’t think anyone of us would have all of the answers,” he said, “but we do know ultimately Who does have all of the answers, who has a greater passion and a greater vision to redeem the world. And that’s Jesus Christ, the living Son of God.”
Floyd, president and CEO-elect of the SBC Executive Committee and a former Southern Baptist Convention president, announced the theme and Scripture during a two-day National Leadership Summit.
National Day of Prayer is seeking to reach the nation’s 328 million people in 3,142 counties and 19,510 incorporated places, including cities, towns, and villages.
“The vast majority of America does not look like us, believe like us, talk like us, and understand us,” Floyd said. “But that also goes to the opposite side. We do not look like the majority of America. Nor do we believe like the majority of America, nor do we talk like the majority of America, and we certainly do not understand the majority of America.”
Nearly a third, 29 percent, of Americans are nonreligious, ranging in extremes from religious resistance to solid secularism, Floyd said, referencing Pew Research Center numbers released in August 2018. Juxtaposed to the nonreligious are 17 percent of Americans that Pew categorized as Sunday stalwarts, Floyd said, “meaning religious traditionalists actively involved in their faith and engaged in their congregations.”
“The remaining persons beyond these extremes,” Floyd said, “they believe all kinds of things and participate in all kinds of ways in American life today.”
At least one event in every city, town, and county of America, in more than three hundred thousand churches spanning two hundred denominations, and including all generations, ethnicities, and languages spoken in the US is the prayer effort’s goal.
“Wouldn’t it be absolutely remarkable that one day,” Floyd asked, “the National Day of Prayer is heard in every language that is spoken in the United States?”
In addition to Floyd, the summit offered insight from fourteen national leaders spanning ethnicities, Christian denominations, and generations, and including both sexes.
Kie Bowman, senior pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church and The Quarries Church of Austin, Texas, was among summit presenters. He encouraged attendees to mobilize their churches in prayer.
“Take the prayer meeting out of the closet,” said Bowman, who preached the 2018 SBC annual meeting sermon in Dallas. “It’s time for prayer to go to the group. It’s time to take it to the congregation. It’s time to take it to the public square.
“Prayer meetings change the world,” he said. “And in those settings, the Holy Spirit speaks.”
Additional National Day of Prayer information is available on the event website, nationaldayofprayer.org, and its Facebook page.
National Day of Prayer Timeline
The modern law formalizing the annual observance of a National Day of Prayer was enacted in 1952, although earlier days of fasting and prayer had been enjoined by the government. The first Continental Congress called for a national day of prayer in 1775. The Second Continental Congress continued this as an annual event from 1775 until 1783. President John Adams declared national days of prayer in 1798 and 1799 and, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln called for a national day of prayer in 1863.
In 1952, by a joint resolution, Congress established the National Day of Prayer as an annual event, signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. In 1988, the law was amended and signed by President Ronald Reagan, designating the National Day of Prayer as the first Thursday in May (36 US Code §119). The constitutionality of the law was upheld by the Seventh Circuit in 2011 in Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. v. Barack Obama.
According to the National Day of Prayer website, since 1789 there have been 147 national calls to prayer, humiliation, fasting, and thanksgiving by the President of the United States, with sixty-nine presidential proclamations for a National Day of Prayer since the adoption of the 1952 law. Thirty-five of the forty-five US Presidents have signed proclamations for a National Day of Prayer, including every President since 1952. Presidents Gerald Ford , George H. W. Bush [1989–1991], and Barack Obama  signed multiple National Day of Prayer Proclamations in the same year.
Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press and is a member of First Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. This article was previously published in Baptist Press. Sidebar compiled by Roger S. Oldham, vice president for Convention communications and relations with the SBC Executive Committee and a member of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee.