History of the Week of Prayer

In a letter to the London YMCA in 1856, F.R. Starr of Philadelphia suggested:

“the appointment of a week to be simultaneously observed by the Young Men’s Christian Associations throughout the world for Prayer for the conversion of the world, and for young men especially”.

In 1867 at the Vth World Conference in Paris, the American delegation made the proposal to consecrate Sunday 2nd November and every evening of the week following that day for special prayer for all associations throughout the world.

But it was only in 1875 at the VIIth World Conference in Hamburg that the second Sunday of November was fixed as the beginning of the “Week of Prayer”.

In 1891, the “Week of Prayer” was included in the Constitution of the World Alliance of YMCAs.

In 1901 the YWCA and the YMCA agreed “on the adoption of the same subjects for the annual Week of Prayer”. In 1904 a joint call to prayer was issued by the World YWCA and the World Alliance of YMCAs, and the joint Week of Prayer has continued since that time.

Beginning with 1927, messages of the President of the World YWCA and the President of the World Alliance of YMCAs were included in the call to prayer.

In 1931 the name of the Week was expanded to “The Week of Prayer and World Fellowship”.

Since 1948, the booklets for the Week of Prayer have been presented with pictures, daily messages and appropriate Bible texts and prayers.

Since 1942, the World YWCA and the World Alliance of YMCAs have published jointly a booklet each year for the Week of Prayer.