barack obama national prayer day proclamation
President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies 22nd annual Awards Gala at the Washington Hilton May 4, 2016 in Washington, DC.  Kevin Dietsch/Pool—Getty Images

Read President Obama's Declaration of a National Day of Prayer

May 05, 2016

President Obama called for "freedom to all people" in a letter accompanying his declaration of May 5 as the annual National Day of Prayer.

"Our country was founded on the idea of religious freedom," Obama wrote in his letter. "On National Day of Prayer, we rededicate ourselves to extending this freedom to all people."

The U.S. has held a National Day of Prayer since Harry Truman signed a law in 1952 designating the first Thursday in May for that purpose.

Read Obama's full statement below:

In times of steady calm and extraordinary change alike, Americans of all walks of life have long turned to prayer to seek refuge, demonstrate gratitude, and discover peace. Sustaining us through great uncertainty and moments of sorrow, prayer allows us an outlet for introspection, and for expressing our hopes, desires, and fears. It offers strength in the face of hardship, and redemption when we falter. Our country was founded on the idea of religious freedom, and we have long upheld the belief that how we pray and whether we pray are matters reserved for an individual's own conscience. On National Day of Prayer, we rededicate ourselves to extending this freedom to all people.

Every day, women and men use the wisdom gained from humble prayer to spread kindness and to make our world a better place. Faith communities at home and abroad have helped feed the hungry, heal the sick, and protect innocents from violence. Nurturing communities with love and understanding, their prayer inspires their work, which embodies a timeless notion that has kept humanity going through the ages -- that one of our most sacred responsibilities is to give of ourselves in service to others.

The threats of poverty, violence, and war around the world are all too real. Our faith and our earnest prayers can be cures for the fear we feel as we confront these realities. Helping us resist despair, paralysis, or cynicism, prayer offers a powerful alternative to pessimism. Through prayer, we often gain the insight to learn from our mistakes, the motivation to always be better, and the courage to stand up for what is right, even when it is not popular.

Each of us is an author in our collective American story, and in participating in our national discourse to address some of our Nation's greatest challenges, we are reminded of the blessing we have to live in a land where we are able to freely express the beliefs we hold in our hearts. The United States will continue to stand up for those around the world who are subject to fear or violence because of their religion or beliefs. As a Nation free to practice our faith as we choose, we must remember those around the world who are not afforded this freedom, and we must recommit to building a society where all can enjoy this liberty and live their lives in peace and dignity.

On this day, may our faiths enable us to sow the seeds of progress in our ever-changing world. Let us resolve to guide our children and grandchildren to embrace freedom for all, to see God in everyone, and to remember that no matter what differences they may have, they, just like we, will always be united by their common humanity.

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