A prayer for 9/11

Mark Lennihan AP World Trade Center construction workers hold hands during a prayer at a ceremony for the September 11 … Continued

Mark Lennihan


World Trade Center construction workers hold hands during a prayer at a ceremony for the September 11 cross, Saturday, July 23, 2011, in New York. After the ceremony, the cross was installed at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. It was discovered upright in the ruins of ground zero following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In America, public prayer is unifying. At memorials, Americans pray. At inaugurations, Americans pray. At funerals, Americans pray. Americans pray before going to war, and Americans pray when the fighting stops. Americans pray in times of sadness and times of joy.

America has a National Day of Prayer because the nation respects prayer’s unique role in the past, the present, and the future.

Prayer brings people together and changes lives. So many of those devastated by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center nearly ten year ago have found solace and healing in the power of prayer.

The act of prayer did in fact unify the nation on September 11, 2001 and in the following days and weeks as the country began to recover from the shock and loss caused by the attack. As Lt. Col. Henry Haynes, the Pentagon Chaplain on 9/11, put it, “I believe in the power of prayer. There was a lot of prayer going on [that day].”

Recall all of the people from different faiths who gathered in Yankee Stadium in the days following 9/11 for the “Prayer for America” event. Representatives of many faiths, including Christians, Jews, Sikhs, and Muslims, offered prayers. It was not divisive. It united us – all of us.

Mario Tama


NEW YORK, NY – MAY 05: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) bows his head during a moment of silence with New York Police Department officer Stephanie Moses (2nd R) during a wreath laying ceremony at Ground Zero, after Osama bin Laden was killed on May 5, 2011 in New York City.

America has traditionally commemorated our best and worst days as a nation with prayer. At the close of the Revolutionary War, George Washington sent a letter to each governor of the new union encouraging them with his “earnest prayer that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection.” In his second inaugural address, President Lincoln stated, “Fondly do we hope – fervently do we pray – that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.” Prayer has become part of the fabric that holds our nation together, from the first prayer in Congress in 1774 to the National Day of Prayer celebrated each year.

In light of the power of prayer, its comforting effect on those suffering from the devastation of 9/11, and the prominent place prayer holds in our nation’s history, it is disconcerting that Mayor Bloomberg has decided to exclude clergy — of all faiths — and thus prayer from the 9/11 10th anniversary memorial service at Ground Zero.

Clergy of all faiths, and even those who share no faith, have urged Mayor Bloomberg to reconsider his decision.

Allowing prayer at this ceremony would not violate the Constitution. The Supreme Court has affirmed that public “prayer is deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country.” Just this year, two federal courts threw out challenges to public prayer, rejecting a lawsuit aimed at shutting down “The Response” prayer service in Texas and upholding the constitutionality of the presidential proclamation for the National Day of Prayer.

In fact, Mayor Bloomberg’s own New York City Council is required by rule to open each meeting with an invocation, which typically consists of a prayer offered by a clergy member of a variety of faiths.

This is all anyone is asking for on 9/11: allowing members of various faith traditions to honor the memory of those who lost their lives a decade ago and to bring comfort to those who are still grieving. That is exactly what a memorial service should do, and it is most appropriate for this solemn occasion.

Jordan Sekulow is Executive Director of the American Center for Law & Justice and a blogger for the Washington Post. Matthew Clark is an attorney for the ACLJ.

  • MsCrump

    Mayor Bloomberg CANNOT keep clergy out of attending the event if they choose to come. While they may not be welcome on stage, they can certainly attend. Also, if the people choose to pray individually or in groups, he can’t stop their free exercise and expression of religion; it’s against the 1st amendment. Pray if you want to people!

  • yeshu2004

    It is indeed perplexing that Bloomberg has decided to exclude clergy from the 9/11 tenth anniversary memorial service. Prayer has sustained the US during all critical periods. George Washington emphasized the need of prayer for the ‘holy protection’ of America. God has protected America and it became a super power. During the 19th and the first half of 20th century Americans gave importance to prayer and the country was enjoying global supremacy and economic prosperity. When America forgot God, it was exposed to 9/11 and economic disaster. When Americans forgot Christian principles and gave importance to secularism, the demographic profile of America itself has changed and the nation is heading towards disaster. Can Americans control America after ten years? Will the majority in Congress become Moslems and will a Moslem become President? Bloomberg wants to get cheap popularity by abandoning prayer, and god will abandon him in the next election.

  • Kingofkings1

    The article is interesting, but a reasnable assessment cannot be made until Mr Bloomberg’s views and justifications for his actions are known. That is lacking in this article.

    Religion has been a divisive force in the past – especially when hijacked by the base elements in society (Think Milosevic, think Avigdor Lieberman), but it doesn’t necessarily have to be.

  • JordanSekulow

    Bloomberg spokeswoman Evelyn Erskine: we don’t want “disagreements over which religious leaders participate.”

    That’s no excuse. He’s the Mayor of NYC, his job is to make decisions and he’s had no problem choosing clergy to participate in events with him in the past for his own political purposes. As Giuliani said, “it could be done very simply by just having a priest, a rabbi, a minister and an imam together and say a litter prayer at the beginning.”

  • mindajas

    One thing this Nation needs to learn is to pray continuously for our country not only when we’re in a crisis.

  • ThomasBaum

    Jordan Sekulow

    You wrote, “Allowing prayer at this ceremony would not violate the Constitution.”

    Not allowing it just might.

  • YEAL9

    No prayer can offset the following:

    What instigated the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon? And what drives today’s 24/7 mosque/imam-planned acts of terror and horror? The koran, Mohammed’s book of death for all infidels and Muslim domination of the world by any means. Muslims must clean up this book removing said passages admitting that they are based on the Gabriel myth and therefore obviously the hallucinations and/or lies of Mohammed. Then we can talk about the safety and location of mosques and what is taught therein. Until then, no female or male Muslim can be trusted anytime or anywhere…………………………….

  • Renna

    Mayor Bloomberg is a shallow individual who, if not for his father, would be nothing in life. He is also arrogant and lacks common sense. This is America’s tragedy and clergy were not only killed in this event but were there, right alongside the rescuers, for the dead and the living. To think that Bloomberg would even think about not having clergy play an important role in the anniversary of one of the most terrible tragedies in our history in sickening.

  • gdadkins142

    To the “gentleman” who decided that prayer is not acceptable at the memorail service. First of all, I use the word “gentleman” because the more appropriate word I will not repeat in public. You are the reason people of this country DESPISE politicians and political correctness. The first body tag from this tragedy was issued to the primary pastor for the New York city fire department and you defile his memory by not remembering him in the highest esteem HE could have hoped for. You sir, place religious words and entities with you when you’re trying to get your way, and then make people believe that those same religious beliefs are the problem. Sir, when you look in the mirror, you see the problem, depending on which face you decide to show. A prayer is the highest and most memorable way that ANY of the people who perished in this tragedy could be honored, because whether you believe in God or not, you are saying that you are asking that the most powerful thing ever THOUGHT of by man to watch over there memories (souls) and ensure they did not die in vain. Good day to you sir.

  • gdadkins142

    Mr. Baum,

    You sir are 100% correct. Thank you.

  • amelia45

    I think Mayor Bloomberg should ask citizens of various faiths to pray. One could have an opening prayor, with other prayors throughout and ending the commemorative service. Or hold a minute of silence at various times during the service. Preachers are not needed if the faithful are there. And, they will be praying with or without the preachers in attendance and with or without a call to pray. Remembering is a prayor.

  • gdadkins142

    Only the extremists are divisive, or the people that allow it to be divisive. Prayer is also the MOST unifying and healing action. That is why it is done for a tragedy, or a celebration. To use one persons good thoughts towards another only amplifies the self-esteem, self-respect, and mental strength of both.

  • jp1943

    Prayer and a $1.19 will get you a cup of coffee. I bet most people at public prayer are only pretending to pray. There is not one shred of evidence that prayer ever changed anything.

  • gpaandma

    To the Mayor: We can not forget how our hearts sank and we cried out to God. This memorial time is a time for the diversity of our faiths to shine in remembrance. Our God accepted many souls that day.

  • spencer1

    “As Lt. Col. Henry Haynes, the Pentagon Chaplain on 9/11, put it, “I believe in the power of prayer. There was a lot of prayer going on [that day].” And yet 9/11 shows, with extreme clarity and force, that prayer has exactly no power.

  • Elizabeth64

    Mayor Bloomberg, I don’t understand your need or desire to ban prayer for the 9/11 memorial. Put aside politics for a day, and remember that prayer and faith fills the lives of Americans. So many events in our lives begin with prayer, I’m sure you have looked to God in a time of need and asked for help and guidance. During this 9/11 memorial, people ask God for peace of mind, comfort and strength to live each day without their loved ones who lost their lives on 9.11. I ask that you reconsider your position and have ceremonies on 9/11 open and close with prayers from a variety of faiths.
    Best regards,

  • ThomasBaum

    Actually, there is plenty of evidence.

    People’s lives.

    If you think of prayer as “gimme” (things) and God as the custodian of the “big department store in the sky”, than I can see where you and others may be blind to what prayer is even about.

  • ThomasBaum

    Could be you are looking for the wrong kind of “power” in regards to the “power of prayer”.

  • mohammadakhan

    Those who insist on prayer belonged to the same group who helped build Pyramids for Pharaoh for thousands of years.

  • persiflage

    ‘America has a National Day of Prayer because the nation respects prayer’s unique role in the past, the present, and the future.’

    America has a National Day of Prayer because it’s a tradition based on past history and it’s still the politically correct thing to do in the USA.

    Given that prayer has never prevented a major calamity or catastrophe that we know of, the efficacy of prayer can’t possibly be the issue, so the unique role of prayer in the USA is somewhat mysterious, other than as a habitual behavior.

    Bloomberg had his reasons for excluding a prayer ceremony on 9/11 – this date unfortunately commemorates an act that was alleged to be an act of pure devotion to Allah, and many zealous Muslims from the fanatical side of that religion celebrated this mass murder of 3000 innocent humans as a tribute to their Creator.

    There’s nothing that any religious person can say to assuage the pain, the tragedy, and the utter senselessness of the act. Prayer adds fuel to the fire of that infamous day, if anything. On the other hand, there’s nothing standing in the way of private prayer ceremonies all over the city, if that’s what people want to do.

    In a sense, a public prayer ceremony simply gives other religiously inclined people an opportunity to rebutt the motives of the 9/11 terrorists by claiming that their God of mercy and love would never condone such a thing.

    Bloomberg is really just trying to avoid politics as usual, although of a particularly inflammatory kind. I think he’s being smarter than his detractors in this case.

  • david6

    But the people who posted this article don’t want private prayer, they want to use this memorial service to further their own religious purposes. They want to ignore the First Amendment. They want to trample the rights of others.

  • david6

    Calling something evidence when it manifestly is not is dishonest. There’s no evidence that God has ever answered a prayer.

  • YEAL9

    Don’t argue with Thomas “Moses” “The New Mohammed” Baum, he talks to god on a regular basis!!