National Day of Prayer Should Be Used to Celebrate Religious Diversity

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May 4, 2023

Manisha Sunil, West End Strategy Team; (202) 417-0171  

Interfaith Leader: National Day of Prayer Should Be Used to Celebrate Religious Diversity

WASHINGTON–On the National Day of Prayer, religious freedom advocates are underscoring the importance of ensuring the congressionally-mandated day is inclusive of people of all faiths and none. Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, president and CEO of Interfaith Alliance, released the following statement:

“There remains a legitimate question of whether the National Day of Prayer crosses the line of separation of religion and government. But as long as it is mandated by law, the president must ensure the proclamation is inclusive of the vast diversity of ways in which Americans understand and experience prayer. While President Biden’s proclamation was poignant, it failed to capture the rich tapestry of faith and belief in this nation. 

“We might start with the acknowledgement that not all religious, philosophical and ethical traditions use the word ‘prayer.’ An increasing number of Americans, especially young people, do not adhere to a religious tradition, yet are intensely interested in a range of spiritual expressions and practices. While prayer is a term that I, as a Christian, use, ‘reflection,’ ‘meditation,’ and even ‘contemplation’ are all ways in which Americans across traditions find peace and comfort. 

“Further, while we often think of prayer as something that emanates from humans to the Divine, in many faith traditions, prayer can be as much listening as it is speaking.  Listening to our neighbors’ diverse prayers can help us understand their needs and inspire us to action. After marching with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel famously said, ‘For many of us the march from Selma to Montgomery was about protest and prayer. Legs are not lips and walking is not kneeling. And yet our legs uttered songs. Even without words, our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying.’

“For it to be truly a day for all Americans, my prayer for the National Day of Prayer is that we transition from a narrow definition of a religion to a day when we celebrate the diversity of our spiritual and ethical traditions, demonstrating curiosity and respect for people of all religious backgrounds, and come together to ensure the rights and freedom of all people.” 

If you are interested in speaking further on this issue, please contact Manisha Sunil at (202) 417-0171 or