Molly CahillMay 06, 2021

On May 5, President Joseph R. Biden Jr. issued a proclamation on the National Day of Prayer, which was to be observed on May 6. Speaking to people of all religious backgrounds and acknowledging his own prayer life, the president stated: “I invite the citizens of our Nation to give thanks, in accordance with their own faiths and consciences, for our many freedoms and blessings, and I join all people of faith in prayers for spiritual guidance, mercy, and protection.”

After a year marked by the Covid-19 pandemic and other experiences of loss, Mr. Biden suggested that “the determination to overcome adversity, rise above our differences, and come together as one nation to meet this moment in history” could be found in prayer.

While the U.S. government had previously marked days of prayer, fasting or thanksgiving, a National Day of Prayer was signed into law by President Harry S. Truman in 1952. During the Reagan administration in 1988, the law was amended to specify that the National Day of Prayer would be observed each year on the first Thursday in May.

To participate in observing this National Day of Prayer, America issued a call to our social media followers, asking them to share their prayer intentions and favorite ways to pray.

Some readers shared particular challenges for which they seek God’s help: illness and loss, mental health struggles, broken relationships and political divisions.

Jeannie Gaffigan, an actress and writer who is well-known for her comedic collaborations with husband Jim Gaffigan, joined the chorus of voices praying for a more reasonable and peaceful political climate: “I am praying that no one sticks their flag too deeply on one side of anything or the other.”

Many others shared the words that they pray daily or that bring them comfort in moments of need.

Elizabeth Bruenig, an opinion writer at The New York Times, shared three short prayers that hold particular meaning for her:

America’s editor at large, James Martin, S.J., recounted his lifelong love of the Hail Mary:

My favorite prayer is the Hail Mary, which I must have prayed, by conservative count, a million times. Once, as a boy, I knelt before a statue of Jesus and instinctively started to say the Hail Mary, and looked up and felt him saying, “Hey, how about praying to me for a change?”

Even Jesus Christ (or at least an account that Tweets under his name) joined in, sharing the words spoken by our Lord on the cross: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

And all the way from Australia, Bishop Richard Umbers, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Sydney, made a musical contribution: the Latin hymn “Adoro Te Devote,” by St. Thomas Aquinas:

Ashley McKinless, an executive editor at America and co-host of Jesuitical, highlighted a part of the Mass she has grown to love:

“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
It took awhile, but the new version has grown on me.

Bill McCormick, S.J., contributing editor at America, picked out a quote from the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: “Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine.”

Sara Perla, who works in communications for The Catholic Project at The Catholic University of America, shared a quote from “soon-to-be-Saint Charles de Foucauld”: “Father, I abandon myself into your hands, do with me what you will. Whatever you do, I will thank you. I am ready for all; I accept all. Only let your will be done in me and in all your creatures.”

Kerry Campbell shared the prayer that guides her music ministry: “Before teaching music to preschoolers, singing at church, writing or recording a podcast: Lord, please let it be you in me that they hear and see, amen.”

Mike Poe echoed many other readers when he wrote about a very popular favorite: “My favourite prayer has always been the Prayer of St. Francis @Pontifex. The call for us to be ‘instruments of peace’ and the intention, ‘to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love’ has always resonated with me.”

Ken Homan, S.J., shared a prayer of his own that he uses to close out his morning prayer:

Come Holy Spirit,
Fill our minds with knowledge of God’s will,
Set our hearts ablaze with love for the poor and the oppressed,
And be the breath that sends us forth on mission this day and always.

In their own words, members of the America staff shared their prayers for the transformation of their own hearts.

Erika Rasmussen, a Joseph A. O’Hare fellow, wrote: “A deep prayer right now is that we all know love more deeply, in that we know we are loved, really, truly know it, and allow that love to pour into and out of us. That we come to know we do not need to scramble for love. And that this knowing transforms us.”

Vivian Cabrera, an assistant editor for digital media, was inspired by the call of Pope Francis: “Every day I pray to live out what Pope Francis said in#FratelliTutti: We belong to each other.”

Tell us what you’re praying for today in the comments section below!

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