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President Obama issued his annual proclamation declaring the first Thursday in May as the National Day of Prayer, a long-standing 62-year tradition that began with Democratic President Harry Truman.

This year’s theme for the National Day of Prayer is a call for believers to “pray for America,” and it echoes the words of Martha Washington, by honoring today as a day to “remember that God is our only sure trust.”  The scripture selected this year is Matthew 12:21, which reads:  “In His name the nations will put their hope.”

In his proclamation, the president asks all Americans of faith to pray for healing for the nation following the aftermath of the violent shootings in Newtown, Conn., the Boston Marathon bombings, and the fertilizer plant explosion in the town of West, Texas. He also requests prayers for the first responders who put themselves in harm’s way to protect their fellow Americans, and for the safety of the members of the U.S. Armed Forces and the families.

Observing the power of prayer in times of prosperity and during moments of hardship and struggle, Obama noted that throughout the nation’s history, Americans have turned to prayer to unite and sustain the country. “…Americans have prayed as a means of uniting, guiding, and healing. In times of hardship and tragedy, and in periods of peace and prosperity, prayer has provided reassurance, sustenance, and affirmation of common purpose,” Obama said.

Obama said communities can come together through prayer to support and strengthen each other. “In the aftermath of senseless acts of violence, the prayers of countless Americans signal to grieving families and a suffering community that they are not alone.”

“Their pain is a shared pain, and their hope a shared hope. Regardless of religion or creed, Americans reflect on the sacredness of life and express their sympathy for the wounded, offering comfort and holding up a light in an hour of darkness,” he added.

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