Are you a praying person?

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Lt. Col.) David Terrinoni
  • 354th Fighter Wing wing chaplain
If someone asked you if you are a praying person, how would you answer that question? I imagine some people would answer "yes," some would answer "no," and some would want a better definition on what is meant by prayer.

Prayer is that conscious or unconscious comment, recognition, or conversation with the Creator, Supreme Being, God, or however you wish to address the Deity. 

If you're still not sure if you have ever said a prayer, just look at your past. Have you ever just missed some disaster that could have harmed you and said, "Thank you?" That may be a prayer. Or perhaps before you took an important test you just say a simple, "Please?" That may also be a prayer.

Prayer can be short or it can be lengthy. It can be a simple conversation with God and/or it can be in the form of a ritual. Whatever the method, there is truth in the old saying of, "There is power in prayer."

This recognition of power in prayer and the privilege of being able to talk with Almighty God is a foundational cornerstone of our country. In fact, back in 1775, before we became the Unites States of America, the Continental Congress issued a day of prayer to designate "a time for prayer in forming a new nation." Historically, the Continental Congress' declaration is the first recognized national day of prayer.

In the last 55 years, our country has set aside two events every year to allow for the free exercise of prayer - the National Prayer Breakfast and the National Day of Prayer. These events can be confusing, so I will try to reduce the confusion.

The National Prayer Breakfast is an event that is usually held between February and April each year. In 1953, members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives prayer groups established, with President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the first Presidential Prayer Breakfast. 

The purpose was to seek divine guidance for the national leadership and to reaffirm this nation's faith and dependence on God. In 1970, the name was changed to the "National Prayer Breakfast." Even today, Congress opens each of their sessions with a prayer from their chaplain before any business is conducted. This year, Eielson Air Force Base held its prayer breakfast on April 16 and chaplain, Brig. Gen. Cecil Richardson was the keynote speaker. 

The second event occurs every year and is known as the National Day of Prayer. On April 17, 1952, President Harry S. Truman signed a bill into law which proclaimed a National Day of Prayer. Senate bill, S 1378 was introduced to declare the first Thursday of May as the National Day of Prayer receiving broad bipartisan sponsorship and support. 

It became Public Law 100-307 on May 5, 1988. When President Ronald Regan signed the bill into law he commented, "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."

Reagan further urged "...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." 

It is important to remember that the intention of the National Day of Prayer is for people of all faith traditions to pray together in their own way for this nation which has been the light of hope for the world for many years. This freedom to pray is a guarantee from our First Amendment rights of freedom of religion, from our constitution, which we all have sworn to protect and defend. 

On April 22, 2008, President George Bush posted this year's National Day of Prayer theme as "Prayer! America's Strength and Shield." The theme is taken from Psalm 28:7, which reads, "The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped." 

An excerpt from the 2008 Presidential Proclamation reads, "America trusts in the abiding power of prayer and asks for the wisdom to discern God's will in times of joy and of trial. As we observe this National Day of Prayer, we recognize our dependence on the Almighty, we thank Him for the many blessings He has bestowed upon us, and we put our country's future in His hands...On this National Day of Prayer, we ask God's continued blessings on our country...we pray for the safety of our brave men and women in uniform, for their families, and for the comfort and recovery of those who have been wounded." 

I encourage everyone to take time in their day to connect with the Almighty. It is a source of strength in the good times and the difficult times. It is nothing to be ashamed of, even President Abraham Lincoln once said, "I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go." 

My hope is that everyone will draw confidence knowing that someone greater than ourselves will always be with us, cares for us, and will listen to us no matter where we are and no matter what we are doing. If you need some help in getting your prayer "muscles" into shape, please talk with your religious leader or your chaplain