Today marks the 70th annual National Day of Prayer, an observance held the first Thursday in May to call on Americans of all faiths to pray for the nation.
Congress established the National Day of Prayer with a joint resolution in 1952. President Harry S. Truman signed it into law, and every U.S. president since then has recognized it.
“Prayer has nourished countless souls and powered moral movements,” President Joe Biden said in this year’s presidential proclamation. “Today, we remember and celebrate the role that the healing balm of prayer can play in our lives and in the life of our Nation.”
To mark the occasion, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio joined The Shepherd Network to talk about prayer, the state of the pandemic recovery and more. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. To hear the full conversation and other National Day of Prayer interviews, listen to today’s edition of “Afternoons With Mike.”
MIKE GILLAND: These are difficult times we’re living in, are they not?
MARCO RUBIO: Well, I think our whole history has been challenging, because being America is not easy. No society in history has ever tried to live up to the principles that we’re aspiring to live up to. And each generation brought us closer to it—the principle of equality and the belief that your rights come from your Creator and not from government. These were revolutionary principles. And to put them in play in real life in a diverse and large country over an extended period of time has always been a challenge.
I think what’s challenging us now is that we’re living in a time of incredible, rapid, historic, economic and social transformation that is moving faster than our institutions and our people’s ability to keep up with it—and certainly our government’s ability to keep up with it. So there’s a lot of pressure on everyone.
GILLAND: On this National Day of Prayer, what do you see as the country’s greatest needs?
RUBIO: I always remind people America is not a government. It’s not even an economy. At its most basic level, America is a society The most basic unit of society is family. That’s the first school, the first government. It’s the place where people learn values, they learn not what’s legal or illegal—they learn what’s right or wrong. Something can be legal and be wrong. And if that falls apart, nothing else matters. Nothing else works. There’s no law you can pass, no government program you can come up with as a substitute for the family.
So I would say our biggest need is to rebuild the family. And that’s not really a government function. The government should certainly be pro family. And we shouldn’t have any policies that are anti-family. I think it’s really important that the we focus on the importance of family.
What happens in your house is so much more important than whatever happens in the U.S. House or Senate. What happens in your house is more important than what’s happening in the White House on a daily basis.
I think if you rebuild family, then you can rebuild community. And that’s the places where we come together with one another, to do things—sometimes they are leisure activities. But sometimes it’s the place where we come together to volunteer to help the less fortunate, to put our faith in practice for those of us of the Christian faith.
So I think it goes first you rebuild the family, then you rebuild our community. And if those two things get right, then a lot of the other noise that’s out there doesn’t matter as much. One of the things that’s tearing this country apart is we’re a nation of strangers. We literally don’t know each other. And and culture is constantly forcing us to line up against one another, to choose sides and politicize every issue.
The one thing I pray for is not the fake unity that people talk—we’re not all going to agree—but unite is about unity of purpose. We do have some things in common that are more important than whatever divides us, and we’ve lost that as a country, because we don’t interact anymore—community and family have fallen behind everything else.
GILLAND: What’s the mood in the Senate about how things are going right now?
RUBIO: I’d have to say it’s one of uncertainty. Nobody runs for the U.S. Senate, spends three days a week away from their families, and gives up opportunities in the private sector because they want to sit around all day, scream at one another and see nothing happened. On both sides, they do it because they want to make a difference.
So the mood includes hope that we can do some good things for the country together—like what we did last year, passing COVID relief bills where no one got everything they wanted, but the country got things that it really needed. There’s a hope we could do more of those kinds of things, but there’s also some real concern that when push comes to shove, there’s not real interest on the other side and talk of unity is only lip service. So that’s why I mean by uncertainty.
GILLAND: Speaking of COVID, one year ago Florida was much like the rest of the nation in the sense of lockdown, and now things are opening back up. How do you feel about how things are going in Florida?
RUBIO: I think Florida is ahead of the rest of the country in that regard and the governor deserves a lot of credit for that.
People can criticize how America responded to the pandemic, but no nation on Earth has done vaccines better—in innovation, production and distribution. The United States has produced three and soon appears will be four effective vaccines in record time. About half of American adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, a substantial majority of people over 65 have received both doses.
There are still people getting sick, unfortunately, and we don’t let our guard down. But I think you always have to balance that with the reality that, like anything else, when you’re making policy decisions there’s a cost benefit analysis and a role for common sense. I think Florida’s handled that better than the rest of the country and it’s reflected in our economy and in the state of play here.
GILLAND: How can people pray for you on this National Day of Prayer?
RUBIO: Thank you for asking. There’s two things: prayer for my family, who I do spend some time away from. So pray for them. Also, pray for wisdom—not just for me but for all of our leaders. Wisdom to make the right decisions, and decisions that honor God.