How dare Riley ask people to pray!

Gov. Bob Riley has asked the public to pray for rain to end our serious drought.

You would think such a request would provoke little criticism. You would be wrong.

Today, clever bloggers and political opponents deride Gov. Riley’s request.

Why? Because they cannot conceive why anyone would want to pray. It is just some superstition. Right?

The hubris on display in the criticism of Riley’s proclamation shows an ignorance of history, and a lack of sensitivity to differing views. It isn’t a new idea to ask the nation or people of Alabama to pray. And it isn’t ignorance that encourages people to pray or have faith in God—I’d remind all the rationalists that Newton wrote more on theology than on physics.

Advertisement: (Story continues below)

And just to show Riley’s proclamation isn’t that odd. Here are a few proclamations from presidents, who asked the nation to pray and extolled the virtues of prayer.

The proclamations are from Washington (two), Wilson (one) and Truman (one). These are just a few samples after a very quick look at presidential proclamations.


October 3rd, 1789



Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and

Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other trangressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A. D. 1789.



January 1st, 1795



When we review the calamities which afflict so many other nations. the present condition of the United States affords much matter of consolation and satisfaction. Our exemption hitherto from foreign war, an increasing prospect of the continuance of that exemption, the great degree of internal tranquillity we have enjoyed, the recent confirmation of that tranquillity by the suppression of an insurrection which so wantonly threatened it, the happy course of our public affairs in general, the unexampled prosperity of all classes of our citizens, are circumstances which peculiarly mark our situation with indications of the Divine beneficence toward us. In such a state of things it is in an especial manner our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experience.

Deeply penetrated with this sentiment, I, George Washington, President of the United States, do recommend to all religious societies and denominations, and to all persons whomsoever, within the United States to set apart and observe Thursday, the 19th day of February next, as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, and on that day to meet together and render their sincere and hearty thanks to the Great Ruler of Nations for the manifold and signal mercies which distinguish our lot as a nation, particularly for the possession of constitutions of government which unite and by their union establish liberty with order; for the preservation of our peace, foreign and domestic; for the seasonable control which has been given to a spirit of disorder in the suppression of the late insurrection, and generally, for the prosperous course of our affairs, public and private; and at the same time humbly and fervently to beseech the kind Author of these blessings graciously to prolong them to us; to imprint on our hearts a deep and solemn sense of our obligations to Him for them; to teach us rightly to estimate their immense value; to preserve us from the arrogance of prosperity, and from hazarding the advantages we enjoy by delusive pursuits; to dispose us to merit the continuance of His favors by not abusing them; by our gratitude for them, and by a correspondent conduct as citizens and men; to render this country more and more a safe and propitious asylum for the unfortunate of other countries; to extend among us true and useful knowledge; to diffuse and establish habits of sobriety, order, morality, and piety, and finally, to impart all the blessings we possess, or ask for ourselves, to the whole family of mankind.

In testimony whereof I have caused the seal of the United States of America to be affixed to these presents, and signed the same with my hand. Done at the city of Philadelphia, the 1st day of January 1795, and of the Independence of the United States of America the nineteenth.


By the President:


Proclamation – Day of Prayer

May 11th, 1918

WHEREAS the Congress of the United States, on the second day of April last, passed the following resolution:

“Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), That, it being a duty peculiarly incumbent in a time of war humbly and devoutly to acknowledge our dependence on Almighty God and to implore His aid and protection, the President of the United States be, and he is hereby, respectfully requested to recommend a day of public humiliation, prayer, and fasting, to be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnity and the offering of fervent supplications to Almighty God for the safety and welfare of our cause, His blessings on our arms, and a speedy restoration of an honorable and lasting peace to the nations of the earth;”

AND WHEREAS it has always been the reverent habit of the people of the United States to turn in humble appeal to Almighty God for His guidance in the affairs of their common life;

Now, therefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Thursday, the thirtieth day of May, a day already freighted with sacred and stimulating memories, a day of public humiliation, prayer and fasting, and do exhort my fellow-citizens of all faiths and creeds to assemble on that day in their several places of worship and there, as well as in their homes, to pray Almighty God that He may forgive our sins and shortcomings as a people and purify our hearts to see and love the truth, to accept and defend all things that are just and right, and to purpose only those righteous acts and judgments which are in conformity with His will; beseeching Him that He will give victory to our armies as they fight for freedom, wisdom to those who take counsel on our behalf in these days of dark struggle and perplexity, and steadfastness to our people to make sacrifice to the utmost in support of what is just and true, bringing us at last the peace in which men’s hearts can be at rest because it is founded upon mercy, justice and good will.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done in the District of Columbia this eleventh day of May, in the year of our Lord Nineteen hundred and eighteen and of the independence of the United States the one hundred and forty-second.


By the President,

Robert Lansing

Secretary of State.

Proclamation 2660: Victory in the East–Day of Prayer.

August 16th, 1945

By the President of the United States of America a Proclamation:

The war lords of Japan and the Japanese armed forces have surrendered. They have surrendered unconditionally. Three months after victory in Europe victory has come in the East.

The cruel war of aggression which Japan started eight years ago to spread the forces of evil over the Pacific has resulted in her total defeat.

This is the end of the grandiose schemes of the dictators to enslave the peoples of the world, destroy their civilization, and institute a new era of darkness and degradation. This day is a new beginning in the history of freedom on this earth.

Our global victory has come from the courage and stamina and spirit of free men and women united in determination to fight.

It has come from the massive strength of arms and materials created by peace-loving peoples who knew that unless they won decency in the world would end.

It has come from millions of peaceful citizens all over the world-turned soldiers almost overnight–who showed a ruthless enemy that they were not afraid to fight and to die, and that they knew how to win.

It has come with the help of God, Who was with us in the early days of adversity and disaster, and Who has now brought us to this glorious day of triumph.

Let us give thanks to Him, and remember that we have now dedicated ourselves to follow in His ways to a lasting and just peace and to a better world.

Now, THEREFORE, I, HARRY S. TRUMAN, President of the United States of America, do hereby appoint Sunday, August 19, 1945, to be a day of prayer.

I call upon the people of the United States, of all faiths, to unite in offering their thanks to God for the victory we have won, and in praying that He will support and guide us into the paths of peace.

I also call upon my countrymen to dedicate this day of prayer to the memory of those who have given their lives to make possible our victory.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States of America to be affixed.

DONE at the City of Washington this sixteenth day of August, in

the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and forty-five, and

[SEAL] of the Independence of the United States of America the one

hundred and seventieth.


By the President:


Secretary of State