The White House service for the National Day of Prayer on Thursday focused on protection from the coronavirus pandemic. President Trump said Americans will continue to pray for divine assistance as the nation faces “unforeseen and seemingly unbearable hardships.”
Sister Eneyda Martinez of the Poor Sisters of St. Joseph community in Alexandria, Virginia was one of the religious leaders present to lead attendees in prayer.
“Merciful Savior, heal and comfort the sick so that with health restored, they may give you praise. Divine Physician, accompany our caregivers, so that serving you with patience they may heal wisely. And through wisdom, guide our leaders, so that through seeking remedies they may follow your light,” Sister Eneyda Martinez prayed at the service in the White House’s Rose Garden.
The National Day of Prayer was designated by Congress in 1952, and scheduled in 1988 to be observed annually on the first Thursday in the month of May.
In attendance at the White House service were President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, as well as Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence, and Paula White, and other religious leaders from Catholic, Christian, and Mormon churches, and Jewish and Hindu faiths.
The prayer service emphasized prayer for protection from the coronavirus pandemic, as well as prayer for the sick and their families, and health care workers.
“Christ, the Anointed, protect us in body and in spirit, so that free from harm we may be delivered from all affliction,” prayed Sister Eneyda Martinez.
Vice President Pence urged Americans to be “persistent in prayer,” especially for the families of the dead, those sick with the virus, and health care workers, many who have “literally taken the place of loved ones” in being the only close contacts of COVID-19 patients.
On Thursday morning, Trump issued a proclamation, noting the importance of prayer during the pandemic.
“During the past weeks and months, our heads have bowed at places outside of our typical houses of worship, whispering in silent solitude for God to renew our spirit and carry us through unforeseen and seemingly unbearable hardships,” Trump stated.
“Even though we have been unable to gather together in fellowship with our church families, we are still connected through prayer and the calming reassurance that God will lead us through life's many valleys.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control was reportedly drafting guidance for states to reopen public accommodations and religious services, but according to the Associated Press on Thursday, the document was buried by the administration.
That document reportedly advised against churches holding services if they were not in a “community no longer requiring significant mitigation.”
However, if that and other certain conditions were in place, churches should take precautions such as ensuring social distancing, wearing of masks by congregants, and intensifying cleaning of churches, the CDC document reportedly said.
State orders have varied in their restrictions on public gatherings during the pandemic; a Kansas stay-at-home order allowed religious gatherings of 10 or fewer people, while Illinois prohibited all religious gatherings.
After every U.S. diocese stopped public Masses during March, Catholic dioceses have started offering public Masses, beginning with the diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico, with several other dioceses following suit in ensuing days.
Officials from the CDC and the White House spoke with four of the bishops on April 28 and 29 about the resumption of public religious services.