Today, May 4, 2017, is National Day of Prayer -- a special time when millions of people gather to pray for our nation.
Dating back to 1775 and established in 1952, the annual observance is held the first Thursday of May. This year, the theme is "For Your Great Name's Sake," taken from the Bible verse Daniel 9:19, which reads "O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, listen and do; defer not, for your own sake, O my God: for your city and your people are called by your name."
This year's chairperson is Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of evangelist Billy Graham and founder of AnGel Ministries. On Facebook, Lotz encouraged Christians to pray that God will bring renewal, restoration, and revival to America.
"God uses dramatic world events to get our attention," she wrote. "Jesus said in Matthew 24 in the end of the age there will be 'famines and earthquakes', 'wars and rumors of wars', 'an increase of wickedness'."
The evangelist warned that "signs are all around us", from natural disasters to human trafficking.
"When political solutions repeatedly fail to remedy what must begin with broken hearts and bended knees," she said. "When faced with God's righteous judgment, there is nothing-no politics or president, no government or agreement-nothing will turn our nation around except prayer."
On this National Day of Prayer, "Is it possible that the prayer of one person could bring renewal, restoration, and revival to America?" she asked. "Listen to me! You'll never know until you pray," Lotz said.
A livestream of National Day of Prayer's Washington D.C. observance, which will be held from 7:30-9 p.m. ET (6:30-8 p.m. CT) Thursday, is available to watch here. Lotz will deliver the keynote address at Thursday night's event.
As reported, while its origins are Christian, the National Day of Prayer is meant to be participated in by people of all religions, according to the National Day of Prayer Task Force (Task Force) website.
However, National Day of Prayer Task Force, which is privately funded and coordinates events for the holiday, said it celebrates the holiday "based on our understanding that this country was birthed in prayer and in reverence for the God of the Bible."
Although it is not a public holiday, the day of prayer is recognized annually by the President of the U.S., and many professing Christian presidents have historically given distinctively Christian proclamations. The Rev. Billy Graham also played an important role in making the National Day of Prayer a national observance recognized by Congress, according to the Graham website.
After leading a worship service outside the U.S. Capitol, Graham famously expressed hope that one day, political leaders would kneel together before God.
"What a thrilling, glorious thing it would be to see the leaders of our country today kneeling before Almighty God in prayer. What a thrill would sweep this country," Graham said. "What renewed hope and courage would grip the Americans at this hour of peril."
Today, it is estimated as many as 2 million people attend more than 30,000 National Day of Prayer observances across the country, with commemorations in schools, businesses, churches and homes. Click here to find an event near you.