I don’t pray nearly as much as I need to.
I try to when I think about it, but all too often, I find myself bogged down in the hectic rush of day-to-day life.
I’m ashamed to admit that, most of the time, my brain is so busy cycling through my to-do list that prayer never even occurs to me.
Which is why I’m particularly appreciative of Thursday’s National Day of Prayer.
I’m sure the day meant different things for each person, but to me the day served as a reminder to stop and say thanks.
I equate it to a parent who only hears from her kids when they want money – sometimes it’s nice to get calls from them saying, “How’s it going? Thanks for helping me out last week; I really appreciated it.”
As a Catholic, I automatically think of prayer as something formal, the words so deeply ingrained in my memory banks that the words seem to spill out of their own accord.
Sometimes I forget that a prayer can be as simple as, “thank you, God.”
The National Day of Prayer – the first Thursday in May each year – reminds Americans to stop, reflect and pray whatever prayer they’d like.
In 2008, though, the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit arguing the designation of a National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional.
The lawsuit was dismissed in 2011 as lacking merit, but it still represents a belief that is baffling to me.
The National Day of Prayer doesn’t order anyone to pray, and it certainly doesn’t tell anyone what prayer to pray.
I’ve noticed a common belief that freedom of religion means “No Religion Allowed,” and I definitely do not think that is the case.
I believe faith is a very personal matter – if someone chooses to be Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Agnostic or even Atheist, it’s not my place or anyone else’s to tell them what they should believe or judge them for those beliefs.
And the freedom of religion we enjoy in America is what allows us – each of us – to practice these varying faiths without fear of punishment or recrimination.
As the First Amendment is generally interpreted, government cannot establish or formally endorse a specific religion or prohibit citizens from practicing a religion.
Nowhere does it say, “no one in government can utter the word ‘God.’”
Extremism goes both ways.
No one is obligated to observe the National Day of Prayer. It’s there for you if you want to, but there are no Though Police standing over your shoulder ready to cart you away if you choose not to.
To any critics of the National Day of Prayer, I say, “chill out.”
President Barack Obama put it considerably more eloquently, though, in his 2013 National Day of Prayer Proclamation: “All of us have the freedom to pray and exercise our faiths openly. Our laws protect these God-given liberties, and rightly so. Today and every day, prayers will be offered in houses of worship, at community gatherings, in our homes, and in neighborhoods all across our country. Let us give thanks for the freedom to practice our faith as we see fit, whether individually or in fellowship.”