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National Day of Prayer in the United States

National Day of Prayer calls on all people of different faiths in the United States to pray for the nation and its leaders. It is held on the first Thursday of May each year.

Is National Day of Prayer a Public Holiday?

National Day of Prayer is not a public holiday. Businesses have normal opening hours.

National Day of Prayer

People of all faiths take part in National Day of Prayer.

©iStockphoto.com/ Robert Kohlhuber

What Do People Do?

Through the efforts of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, more than 35,000 prayer gatherings will be conducted by about 40,000 volunteers across the United States. Several million people are expected to participate in this call to prayer. Some celebrities, such as popular musician and Grammy Award winner Ricky Skaggs, will join millions of Americans in praying for the nation.

Other events in various communities across the United States may include: choirs and bands performing songs relating to prayer; community prayer breakfasts or luncheons; daytime prayer walks; and evening worship and prayer services or gatherings. National Day of Prayer is a time for people of all faiths to pray together in their own way.

Public Life

National Day of Prayer is not a public holiday. Schools, post offices, stores and other businesses and organizations are open as usual. Public transport services run to their usual schedules and no extra congestion on highways is to be expected.


In 1775 the Continental Congress allocated a time for prayer in forming a new nation. Over the years, there have been calls for a day of prayer, including from President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. On April 17, 1952, President Harry Truman signed a bill proclaiming the National Day of Prayer into law in the United States. President Reagan amended the law in 1988, designating the first Thursday of May each year as the National Day of Prayer.

The National Prayer Committee was formed in the United States in 1972. It went on to create the National Day of Prayer Task Force, with the intended purpose of coordinating events for the National Day of Prayer.  According to the Legal Information Institute, the President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.

National Day of Prayer Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2010ThuMay 6National Day of PrayerObservance 
2011ThuMay 5National Day of PrayerObservance 
2012ThuMay 3National Day of PrayerObservance 
2013ThuMay 2National Day of PrayerObservance 
2014ThuMay 1National Day of PrayerObservance 
2015ThuMay 7National Day of PrayerObservance 
2016ThuMay 5National Day of PrayerObservance 
2017ThuMay 4National Day of PrayerObservance 
2018ThuMay 3National Day of PrayerObservance 
2019ThuMay 2National Day of PrayerObservance 
2020ThuMay 7National Day of PrayerObservance 

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