At U.S. Capitol, leaders pray in Statuary Hall

WASHINGTON (BP) -- Members of Congress -- including several Southern Baptists -- prayed one after another for America April 29 in the U.S. Capitol.

Twenty-one representatives joined others in petitioning God during "Washington A Man of Prayer," a nearly two-hour service in honor of the 226th anniversary of the inauguration of George Washington, the first U.S. president. The Wednesday evening event was held in the Capitol's Statuary Hall, the House of Representatives' chamber from 1850-57 and the site of Christian worship services for much of the 19th century.

Two Southern Baptists -- Sen. James Lankford, R.-Okla., and Rep. Randy Forbes, R.-Va. -- served as honorary hosts of the event.

Lankford encouraged the audience in the Capitol and those watching by television and livestreaming to apply one of Washington's principles: "[M]ake sure that we pray more than we complain."

"We get in the habit of griping about what's happening in government," he said. "We get in the habit of complaining about what's happening in the nation and in the culture. We should be in the habit of praying more than we complain."

Senate Chaplain Barry Black told the gathering of about 150 in Statuary Hall his mother "made prayer as natural as breathing. I think that's what Washington learned."

Prayer should be "natural as breathing" because prayer "connects us to the wisdom of God" and "the power of God," Black said. Also, "it is prayer that will bring healing to our land," he said.

Listening to the prayers of the members of Congress -- "saints in Caesar's household," as he called them -- made him think God is up to something, Black said.

"[I]t's not too late for God to stand up on His throne and move in behalf of this great nation so we can again be a shining city upon a hill," he said.

The House members, joined by two guests, lined up in two groups to pray. Southern Baptists who prayed were Reps. Jeff Duncan, R.-S.C.; Bill Flores, R.-Texas; Gregg Harper, R.-Miss.; Jody Hice, R.-Ga.; Steve Pearce, R.-N.M.; Mark Walker, R.-N.C.; and Randy Weber, R.-Texas.

Before praying, Flores described the United States as "truly a troubled nation. Think about the ridicule of the traditional family, of a man and a woman joined together in a sacred bond of marriage. Think about the ridicule of people for their Christian beliefs and for the persecution of Christians around the world."

In his prayer, he asked God to "give us the wisdom and protection that we need to stand up for everyone in this country."

Hice prayed for the persecuted, saying, "[T]onight we look in our own nation, as well as around the world, and there are indeed people who are suffering persecution for your name's sake. And we pray, oh God, for Your kingdom to come, for Your will to be done right here on earth as it is in heaven. Lord, let us stand strong. Let us stand firmly."

Suzann Johnson Cook, who served as the State Department's ambassador at large for international religious freedom from 2011-13, prayed for Baltimore residents affected by civil unrest.

She prayed "that we might be a just people, a righteous people, that you will forgive us of our sins and allow us to seek Your face. Bless all those this night -- parents and children in Baltimore and all throughout this land -- who are suffering, crying out."

For Congress, Rep. Glenn Thompson, R.-Pa., requested "courage to stand for what is right, resistance when pressed to do wrong, compassion for the concerns of Your heart, and the ability to preserve and protect the Constitution of these United States of America." He also prayed for President Obama and all national, state and local officials "that their hearts and minds would be open to Your will and their actions would bring glory to Your name."

Rep. Randy Hultgren, R.-Ill., told God, "We need you more than ever. ... We need you to change hearts in this place and across this nation. Draw us back to you. Please God, start a revival and sweep across this nation once again and make us a nation truly under God."

Among other requests, congressional members also prayed for first responders and U.S. military personnel.

Pastor and author Jonathan Cahn issued warnings to Obama and the Supreme Court. The high court had heard oral arguments the day before on whether the Constitution requires states to legalize same-sex marriage.

"Supreme Court justices, can you judge the ways of God? Can you with manmade verdicts overrule the eternal laws of God?" he asked.

"Mr. President, with all the respect that is due, what happens if one assumes the presidency by placing his left hand on the Word of God and then with his right hand enacts laws that war against the very same Word of God on which he laid his hand? Such an act invokes the judgment of the Almighty," said Cahn, senior pastor and messianic rabbi of the Jerusalem Center/Beth Israel in Wayne, N.J.

Of the April 29 event, Cahn said, "We have come to this hill to declare there is only one God, and He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; He is the God of Israel and of all nations."

During the service, Keith and Kristyn Getty performed the modern hymn "In Christ Alone."

It was the fourth year of "Washington A Man of Prayer," which was cofounded by Dan and JoAnn Cummins. Dan Cummins is the convening pastor of The Jefferson Gathering, a Christian worship service for members of Congress and their staffs held in the Capitol each Wednesday evening for the last eight months.

Video of the April 29 event is available online at http://washingtonamanofprayer.com/226th-inaugural-anniversary/.

Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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