Pray Hard, For The Non-Evangelicals

There’s a whole lotta praying going on today — in Colorado alone some 70 events are being held to commemorate the National Day of Prayer, including at the state Capitol and in Colorado Springs (AKA Holy Roller Central, where a whopping 11 events are scheduled). But nationally, a growing number of religious folks are complaining the day to pray has been hijacked by evangelical Christians.In a story yesterday at Colorado Confidential’s sister site, Minnesota Monitor, outlined a brief history of the National Day of Prayer, which got the blessing of President Harry S Truman in 1952. Thirty-six years later, President Ronald Reagan set aside the first Thursday in May as the National Day of Prayer, with the professed idea to bring Americans of diverse faiths together, Minnesota Monitor reported.

In 1988 Reagan said, “On our National Day of Prayer, then, we join together as people of many faiths to petition God to show us His mercy and His love, to heal our weariness and uphold our hope, that we might live ever mindful of His justice and thankful for His blessing …the citizens of this great nation to gather together on that day in homes and places of worship to pray, each after his or her own manner, for unity of hearts of all mankind.”

But for many years the day’s events have been coordinated by the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a private group headed by Shirley Dobson, the wife of James Dobson, who is the founder and CEO of the Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family Christian ministry and media empire.

The emphasis on evangelical Christianity — including outright exclusion of other religious faiths, including Mormons and Jews, has led some to complain that the day has been “hijacked.”

Four years ago, the Associated Press reported that Linda P. Walton, a Seventh Day Adventist chaplain who had previously helped organize services for the National Day of Prayer in Salt Lake City, was opting out of the event because members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were not allowed to participate.

“That sort of exclusion is the thing I hate the very worst,” Walton said. “Bigotry. That’s what I call it.”

Colorado’s events this year include a National Day of Prayer Task Force-sponsored 24-hour House of Prayer TV Webcast for live streaming video throughout the day.

Cara DeGette is the editor of Colorado Confidential and a longtime Colorado-based journalist. E-mail her at

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