In 1776, President George Washington, in gratitude for divine assistance in defeating the British, proclaimed that a National Day of Fasting and Prayer be observed on the first Thursday in May. This was to be an occasion in which all Americans were encouraged to do nothing but intercede for God’s continued guidance and protection.
Yet, especially during the 20th century, the national day of prayer was virtually forgotten.
In 1980, my father, Rev. Claude Pike, a Christian conservative radio commentator in the Pacific Northwest, was deeply concerned that, with the election of President Reagan, spiritual as well as political renewal be encouraged for America.
Revival of the national day of prayer seemed a perfect means to help return America to faith. But what could he, just one man, do?
Twelve years earlier, our aviation family, my commercial pilot brother John, my father and I, had restored, as part of our youth ranch ministry to inner-city youth in Portland, Oregon, a 1929 Bellanca Pacemaker, a very rare, long-distance record-setting monoplane. We bought the wreckage, its fuselage broken in half, for $150.00. It had crashed in a lake in Canada.
“Why not take our Bellanca, christened as “Old Glory,” my father suggested, “and fly around America calling for re-establishment of the national day of prayer?”
So, in August, 1980, powered by a droning 450 horse power radial engine and $3,500 from a loan shark, the three of us took to the air. We had a super-loud speaker attached to the belly of the Bellanca as we circled around the major cities of America. Millions heard our loud speaker blare, “Pray for America.”
A huge aerial banner trailed behind us with the same slogan easily visible to multitudes. From Boise, Idaho, to Watervliet, Michigan; to Tupelo, Mississippi, to Dallas, and Los Angeles, we circled above patriotic rallies and gave interviews to the press. We gathered many thousands of signatures petitioning the President to revive the National Day of Prayer.
Finally, while in Washington, D.C., promoting our cause to religious and conservative leaders, my father was able to take his request directly to Morton Blackwell, President Reagan’s liaison to the religious community. Several weeks later, on Feb. 6, 1982, my father was in the Oval Office of the White House, witnessing along with other “new right” religious leaders, President Reagan’s re-instatement of this long-forgotten day of prayer and gratitude to God.
Soon Congress passed its own resolution and large Christian-conservative organizations, such as Campus Crusade for Christ and Focus on the Family, made observance of the National Day of Prayer a national institution. Predictably, the ACLU tried vehemently to nullify both the President’s proclamation and the Congressional resolution, claiming that they violated separation of church and state. Yet the National Day of Prayer survived all legal challenges.
Today, just as President George Washington intended, church bells all over America ring out on the first Thursday in May. They remind us that we as Americans are free only as long as we continue to remember God as the author of our freedom, and are ever vigilant to preserve His priceless gift.
Decades earlier, the twisted hulk of “Old Glory” lay on the bottom of a Canadian lake, its fuselage broken in half, its wings collapsed. Yet, a visionary radio preacher, by faith, resurrected it to soar again, fulfilling its greatest mission.
Today, America, with over half of her marriages failing, and drugs, pornography, sexual perversion and abortion rampant, is in a predicament similar to that broken airplane. Can God resurrect America to soar again to the potential that our Founding Fathers envisioned?
God’s promise remains: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (II Chron. 7:14)
The National Day of Prayer is a potent tool toward national revival.
Religious leaders and broadcasters, let’s make the most of it this Thursday!
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Email: Rev. Ted Pike, npntedpike [@] gmail.com