(RNS) — National Day of Prayer observances, which shifted in size and location since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, will continue this year with virtual events and more in-person celebrations.
“With communities being open this year, there are a growing number of people planning in person events in 2022,” Dion Elmore, vice president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, told Religion News Service in a statement. “We are hoping to see numbers approaching what we experienced pre-covid, when there were close to 60,000 local events held from coast to coast.”
The task force will join with Pray.com in presenting a National Day of Prayer Broadcast, a 90-minute prerecorded event that will air at 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time Thursday (May 5) online and on Christian radio and TV outlets, including the DayStar Television Network and the Christian Broadcasting Network.
With a theme of “Exalt the Lord Who Has Established Us,” the broadcast will feature evangelical speakers such as Anne Graham Lotz, Bishop Kenneth Ulmer and Joni Eareckson Tada, along with musicians Chris Tomlin, Lecrae and Matthew West, among others. Margaret Grun Kibben, chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, will offer a prayer on behalf of government leaders, Elmore said.
The National Day of Prayer, proclaimed by Congress in 1952, has been observed since 1988 on the first Thursday in May, with a more diverse array of participants in recent years.
President Joe Biden encouraged people of different religious traditions to “join me in asking for God’s continued guidance, mercy, and protection” in a White House proclamation released on Wednesday.
“Across our diverse and cherished beliefs, on this National Day of Prayer, no matter how or whether we pray, we are all called to look outside ourselves,” he said. “Let us find in our hearts and prayers the determination to put aside our differences, come together, and truly see one another as fellow Americans.”
Religions for Peace USA will hold an online ceremony for the third year in a row, focusing on peace and justice after previously praying about COVID-19 and systemic discrimination. On Thursday at 2 p.m. Eastern, leaders of Orthodox Christian, Jewish and Buddhist faiths will be among those offering prayers for Ukraine as the Russian war against the country continues.
“While the world focuses its attention on the crisis in Ukraine as it should, we must not forget the other threats to our common humanity such as nuclear weapons, mistreatment of refugees, racism, climate change and others,” said Tarunjit Singh Butalia, the executive director of the interreligious organization. “On this National Day of Prayer, it is time for us to pray with our head, heart and hands to promote justice so peace can prevail.”
In a continuing practice, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, a member of the Congressional Freethought Caucus, introduced a resolution designating Wednesday as National Day of Reason and “recognizing the central importance of reason in the betterment of humanity.” It was referred to a House committee on Friday.
This story has been updated.