Thursday is National Day of Prayer, as mandated by Congress. What should President Obama do? Should he follow tradition and sign a ceremonial proclamation? Should he follow President George W. Bush’s practice of hosting a formal White House event? Should he ignore it completely?
I am sure, with so much of President Obama’s public opinion teetering on the balance of economic recovery, a quick military/political solution to the growing tension in Afghanistan/Pakistan, and rapidly expanding government-run infrastructure, that to have an event at the White House to gather people across party lines, regardless of religious affiliation, and dedicate a day to remember; to grieve and celebrate the dawn of hope in the human spirit; to invoke a heart of adoration and supplication — that to do those things seems inconsequential. Yet, at what other time is it more appropriate to do so?
Leaders lead by example and not just words. For the President to invoke a National Day of Prayer, but not to gather a community of people to pray, I wonder if it is accidentally sending a message — to think about praying, but not actually pray. There is a difference. I understand in a country of diverse backgrounds that to have an event that is predominant to one religious affiliation is dangerous, but to have none? Is that a solution or an avoidance of criticism by a minority of people who choose to live a life devoid of the ontological question?
Prayer starts in the human heart and intellect. It does not need spectacle to be initiated. But it does need consciousness and intent; and if there was ever a time in the history of America for our social, religious and political leaders to come together and pray, now is the time. If there ever was a time that the American people needed to be reminded to come together in the spirit of fraternity and charity, and meditate and supplicate, it would be now. I hope that the President would have the courage to lead in this way as well.