While it might be considered obscure and of little importance by many Americans, many conservatives on the right highly esteem the National Day of Prayer. Congress voted to institute an annual day of prayer in 1952, and in 1988 lawmakers established the date for this yearly occasion as the first Thursday in May.
A Momentous Occasion
It has become customary for the President of the United States to issue a formal proclamation regarding this day each year. President Biden, America’s second Roman Catholic President and self-proclaimed regular church attendee, gave his first one last week. The full version in its entirety was released last Wednesday by the White House Briefing Room.
A cursory reading of the statement might seem relatively straightforward and what many might expect. However, several voices of influential conservatives on the right spoke out with sharp criticisms of the President.
What’s the Problem?
The criticism seemed to be specifically aimed at both included and excluded content of Biden’s statement. The President spoke of social justice, religious freedom, and climate change, but he never explicitly referenced God. The only verbiage that came close was a quote cited by the POTUS from the late Democrat representative from GA, John Lewis. Lewis said,
“Nothing can stop the power of a committed and determined people to make a difference in our society. Why? Because human beings are the most dynamic link to the divine on this planet.”
Both Obama and Trump Mentioned God
The President’s omission of God is in stark contrast to his last two predecessors, even though they were on opposite ends of the political spectrum. According to Daily Mail UK:
“Trump’s invocation of God in the proclamations increased over the course of his term, with five mentions in 2017 and 2018, seven in 2019, and a staggering 12 in 2020. All of Obama’s proclamations mentioned God at least once, and some as many as three times.”
What are the Critics Saying?
For devout Christians, the lack of a clear and direct reference to God didn’t sit well. For some, it was beyond disappointing. For example, the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody tweeted:
“Joe Biden’s National Day of Prayer Proclamation has been released, and it doesn’t even mention God once! How do you release a proclamation about prayer and not mention God at all? Then, of course, it mentions climate change & racial justice. Truly, this is pathetic…and not surprising!”
Jenna Ellis, a former lawyer on President Trump’s legal team, took to Twitter as well, adding:
“Joe Biden’s Godless Prayer Proclamation: no mention of God or even a Bible quote! Instead, we get a quote from John Lewis and a proclamation invoking climate change. It looks like a DNC Memo!”
One of the heaviest hitters among conservative Christian voices, Reverend Franklin Graham, chimed in on Facebook:
“Why would President Biden omit God? Today marks the 70th annual National Day of Prayer, and by law since 1952, a presidential proclamation must be issued for the day. I was deeply saddened to read that President Biden is the first president to omit the word “God” in his proclamation. That speaks volumes, doesn’t it? It is hard to believe we have come this far. Omitting God is a dangerous thing. He is who we as individuals and as a nation need to call on for help. He created us and made salvation possible for us through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. Prayers to anyone or anything else are to no avail. Join me in praying to Almighty God on behalf of our nation. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
While the National Day of Prayer is viewed by many on the left as a dubious and unconstitutional mixture of Church and State, many of their counterparts consider the annual proclamations to be indicators of a presidential administration’s reverence and regard for the Almighty.
This seems to be something Biden is aware of because he usually ends his public remarks with the phrase, “May God bless you all, and God protect our troops.” Thus, it seems ironic that his proclamation for the annual day set aside to esteem prayer would forego any specific mention of God.
At any rate, the President’s lukewarm wording seemed to be just generic enough to avoid raising eyebrows on the far left while simultaneously not earning any favor at all among those on the far right.
Leftists are seemingly desirous of an altogether Godless government while voices on the right decry any such institution. On this particular occasion, the POTUS offered political fodder to both sides with his lackluster middle-of-the-road treatise, drawing particularly sharp criticism from conservatives on the right.
Josh is a faith and culture writer with ThinkCivics. He attended seminary through Rock of Ages Baptist Bible Institute out of Cleveland, TN. He has held about every position one could hold in a local church: Sunday school teacher, Children’s Church Preacher, Bus Ministry Director/Worker, Missions Director, Choir Director, Song Leader, Janitor, etc. In October of 2005, he was ordained as an Assistant Pastor at Rest Haven Baptist Church, and that’s where he served until God called him into the Pastorate at Enon Baptist Church in Alto, GA at the age of 32. He stepped out by faith in obedience to God’s instructions and quickly received a call from Blessed Hope Baptist Church in Free Home, GA where he now serves as Pastor. In his free time, Josh enjoys spending quality time with his wife (who is his high school sweetheart) and three children: Zoey, Ava, and Jack, as well as reading, writing, hunting, cooking, weight lifting, and martial arts.