On Wednesday, President Joe Biden issued his proclamation announcing the National Day of Prayer, held the first Thursday of each May, but Biden’s proclamation conspicuously left out the word “God.”
Critics noticed that Biden’s proclamation calling the nation to prayer failed to include any mention God’s name. While somewhat generic proclamations are fairly common and understandable in our pluralistic nation, it was a curious omission for a President who the Washington Post recently described as “very Catholic.”
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? Of course it mentions climate change & racial justice. Truly, this is pathetic…and not surprising!”
Indeed, Biden did mention the “existential threat” of climate change and a “reckoning on racial justice.”
Biden also quoted the late Congressman John Lewis, who 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.”
There was a clear distinction between Biden’s proclamation and those of the past. For example, in 1990 George H.W. Bush mentioned God multiple times, referenced stories in the Bible, and quoted Psalms.
In part, his proclamation reads,
“I therefore ask my fellow Americans to join with me in prayer for our children. Let us strive to help each of them sink their roots into the rich soil of God’s love for the beings He has made in His own image. Let us show them through prayer that we, too, like our Nation’s Founders, seek our shelter — our rock and our salvation — in the arms of God. Finally, let us dedicate this Nation once more to the protection of Divine Providence, remembering the words of the Psalmist: ‘How excellent is thy loving kindness O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.’”
In 2002, in the wake of the September 11 attacks, President George W. Bush’s proclamation read,
“Since our Nation’s founding, Americans have turned to prayer for inspiration, strength, and guidance. In times of trial, we ask God for wisdom, courage, direction, and comfort. We offer thanks for the countless blessings God has provided. And we thank God for sanctifying every human life by creating each of us in His image. As we observe this National Day of Prayer, we call upon the Almighty to continue to bless America and her people. Especially since September 11, millions of Americans have been led to prayer. They have prayed for comfort in a time of grief, for understanding in a time of anger, and for protection in a time of uncertainty. We have all seen God’s great faithfulness to our country…. On this National Day of Prayer, I encourage Americans to remember the words of St. Paul: ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.’”
Last year, President Donald Trump quoted Scripture and invoked God throughout his proclamation, which states,
“Today, as much as ever, our prayerful tradition continues as our Nation combats the coronavirus. During the past weeks and months, our heads have bowed at places outside of our typical houses of worship, whispering in silent solitude for God to renew our spirit and carry us through unforeseen and seemingly unbearable hardships. Even though we have been unable to gather together in fellowship with our church families, we are still connected through prayer and the calming reassurance that God will lead us through life’s many valleys. In the midst of these trying and unprecedented times, we are reminded that just as those before us turned to God in their darkest hours, so must we seek His wisdom, strength, and healing hand. We pray that He comforts those who have lost loved ones, heals those who are sick, strengthens those on the front lines, and reassures all Americans that through trust in Him, we can overcome all obstacles.”
It’s not just Republican presidents who Biden has broken with; even President Barack Obama, with whom Biden served as vice president, mentioned God in his various proclamations. His 2015 version, for example, included the following:
“For many of us, prayer is an important expression of faith — an essential act of worship and a daily discipline that allows reflection, provides guidance, and offers solace. Through prayer we find the strength to do God’s work: to feed the hungry, care for the poor, comfort the afflicted, and make peace where there is strife. In times of uncertainty or tragedy, Americans offer humble supplications for comfort for those who mourn, for healing for those who are sick, and for protection for those who are in harm’s way. When we pray, we are reminded that we are not alone — our hope is a common hope, our pain is shared, and we are all children of God.”
Outrage over Biden’s exclusion of God may be a slight overreaction. The United States is a pluralistic country that does not have a state-sponsored religion, so leaving out the name of God, in and of itself, is not necessarily a major ordeal.
However, it is puzzling to realize that God was left out of Biden’s proclamation and it is hard to imagine that it was by accident. If Biden is truly a devout Catholic, why wouldn’t his first thought be about God when proclaiming a day focused on prayer? The concept of separation of church and state, which is not in the Constitution, has been abused to mean that a person should not bring their faith into politics. That was not the intent of separation of church and state, nor is it the historical application. Moreover, the National Day of Prayer has specifically been tested in the courts and found to be constitutional.
Upon reading Biden’s proclamation, one is left to question, to whom or to what are we praying? Leaving God out of this proclamation is another sign that the Democratic Party is further distancing itself from faith. It is a statement that Democrats have broken with the Judeo-Christian heritage of our nation in favor of a new syncretistic system of values that features “inclusion” and “diversity” as its chief virtues.