WASHINGTON—Secular media critics were outraged when the White House made public earlier this month a photo of Vice President Mike Pence leading members of the Coronavirus Task Force in prayer for the nation and for their work.
The internet promptly exploded.
Similarly, Gizmodo editor Matt Novak wrote on Twitter: “Mike Pence can pray whenever he likes, but I do find it odd to see him leading a prayer during a meeting of the coronavirus task force with people like the head of the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and Dr. [Anthony] Fauci.”
But Pence had his robust defenders as well.
Samaritan’s Purse founder Franklin Graham wrote on Twitter: “A touching & powerful photo of [Vice President Mike Pence] & the President’s Coronavirus Taskforce praying when they met last week in his office. Thank you VP Pence and each one who is serving. Let’s join them in asking God for His wisdom, direction, & help in the response to this virus.”
And Jonathan Merritt, a contributing writer for The Atlantic, responding specifically to Williams, observed: “Criticize Mike Pence all you want for being inept in his strategy to dealing with this. But mocking him for praying—like 79 percent of Americans have done in the past 3 months—is why so many regular Americans despise wine-and-cheese liberals.”
A few days after the Pence prayer photo became public, President Donald Trump declared March 15 a National Day of Prayer. Millions of Americans participated through online church services, in family prayer sessions, and in quiet individual appeals to the Almighty.
“We are a Country that, throughout our history, has looked to God for protection and strength in times like these,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “No matter where you may be, I encourage you to turn towards prayer in an act of faith. Together, we will easily PREVAIL!”
Trump isn’t the first president to declare such a day. Franklin D. Roosevelt took to the radio personally to lead the nation in prayer a few hours after the D-Day invasion of Europe began, while Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation during the Civil War was an invitation to prayer.
The first “national” day of prayer was declared for July 20, 1775, by the Continental Congress. And the official annual National Day of Prayer is held on the first Thursday of May, by an act of Congress signed by the president.
To this day, members of the Senate and House of Representatives are led by their respective chaplains each day in an opening prayer. In short, America has been officially praying since before the nation’s founding.
Americans have long been and remain a praying people. Merritt’s reference to 79 percent of Americans having prayed at least once in the past three months comes from a 2017 survey of 1,015 adults by the Barna Group, which also found:
“American adults who pray with regularity do so with varying motivations, the most common being to offer ‘gratitude and thanksgiving’ (62 percent). Generationally, this is lowest among millennials (53 percent) and highest among baby boomers (71 percent).” Barna also found that 61 percent pray for the needs of their families and communities.
Barna editor Roxanne Stone said the study demonstrates that “prayer is by far the most common spiritual practice among Americans.”
“The vast majority of Americans—no matter their religious affiliation or non-affiliation—participate in some kind of prayer activity. Barna has found this to be true consistently over the last several decades,” she said.
The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.
Contact Mark Tapscott at Mark.Tapscott@epochtimes.nyc