Friday, April 23, 2010

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews

The head Rabbi of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews is the invocation speaker at the National Day of Prayer in Washington, DC on May 6. He wrote this in support of Prayer (how could that possibly be controversial- and yet...):

Prayer: An American Tradition

April 22, 2010
Dear Friend of Israel,
On Thursday, May 6, I will be privileged to deliver the invocation at the National Day of Prayer, an annual event held in Washington, D.C. that for 59 years has brought together people of all faiths to pray for the U.S.In recent years, the National Day of Prayer has attracted controversy, and this year's event is no exception. Earlier this month, a district court in Wisconsin ruled the event unconstitutional. President Obama said that he will recognize the event despite the court ruling. The Wisconsin court's decision is not surprising. For years, there has been an ongoing debate about the role faith should play in our public life. This debate can be healthy and invigorating. Where free speech is valued, ideas are constantly being put to the test and beliefs being held up to close scrutiny. This is part and parcel of our democracy, and acts as a check against governmental abuse of power and state-sanctioned religious discrimination.Yet, it is clear that, from the founding of our republic, government has not been hostile to public displays of faith. In fact, the public record, including the words of some of our greatest elected officials, reveals just the opposite.The examples are too many to ignore: George Washington in 1795 spoke of the duty of citizens "to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experience." During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling on Americans to observe "a day of … fasting, and prayer." On D-Day in 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt read a prayer during a radio address calling on God to "help us … to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice." In 1980, Ronald Reagan urged Americans to "seek Divine guidance in the policies of their government and the promulgation of their laws."Time and again those who have held the highest office of our government have publicly recognized that faith and prayer are part of our duties as citizens, and their duties as elected officials. The National Day of Prayer acknowledges this fundamental truth—and this is one of the reasons I believe the event will survive for many years to come, despite the challenges it faces in court.I am reminded of the words of another of America's founders, Benjamin Franklin, who in 1787 said: "In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered… do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?" On May 6—and every day—let us appeal for God's assistance in securing health and safety for both the U.S. and Israel, and pray for the day when God will bless our nations, and the entire world, with his most precious gift of shalom, peace.

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein

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