On April 30, 1789, after George Washington took the oath of office to become the first president of the United States, he proceeded to St. Paul’s Chapel in New York City, accompanied by Congress, to offer God a prayer of dedication on the new country’s behalf.
In that spirit, dozens of members of Congress will gather this year in the nation’s capital to offer their own prayers on behalf of America, the president and his cabinet, the Supreme Court and its justices, and Congress.
The sixth annual “Washington – A Man of Prayer” service will take place April 26 at 6:30 p.m. in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall, where weekly Christian church services were held from 1800 to 1869. House Speaker Paul Ryan is scheduled to open this year’s event, and Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Rep. Tim Walberg. R-Mich., will serve as honorary hosts.
The list of House members planning to attend includes such names as Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, Sean Duffy, R-Wis., Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., Trent Franks, R-Ariz., Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, Steve King, R-Iowa, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. and Mark Walker, R-N.C.
Steve Amerson, known as “America’s tenor,” and a National Christian Choir ensemble, directed by Kathy Bowman, will provide special music.
The event is invitation-only and not open to the public. However, WND will livestream the event, and Daystar Television Network will broadcast it around the world.
It was Dan Cummins, founding pastor of Bridlewood Church in Bullard, Texas, who launched “Washington – A Man of Prayer” in 2012 as a way to bring a Christian-led prayer event back to Statuary Hall for the first time in over 100 years. Each year, Cummins has received permission from the speaker of the House, first John Boehner and then Paul Ryan, to use Statuary Hall, which used to be the House chamber.
“I believe the impact of this event could be a spiritual turning point for the nation as Americans witness senators and members of Congress reaching out to God in penitent prayers from inside the nation’s Capitol,” Cummins wrote on the event website.
WND founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief Joseph Farah has endorsed this prayer event.
“I attended the ‘Washington – A Man of Prayer’ event in the historic Statuary Hall in the nation’s Capitol for the first time in 2013 and was blown away by the spiritual power unleashed there when dozens of members of Congress gathered with just one purpose in mind – to pray for America according to George Washington’s example,” Farah wrote. “With Americans reaching the breaking point in frustration with their elected representatives, this gathering can be an example to all of how believers can come together in the kind of common spiritual bond that served as the glue to hold Americans together for more than 230 years. Maybe it can work again.”
Many people doubt Washington was really a man of prayer. Conventional wisdom holds the first president was a deist. However, Peter Lillback, one of the nation’s leading experts on President Washington, maintains Washington was a man of prayer.
For one thing, Lillback said, there are some 100 written prayers in Washington’s writings as well as numerous eyewitness accounts of him praying. In 1771, Washington ordered a copy of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer with specific dimensions so he could carry it in his pocket.
In a 2014 article titled “Top 10 Reasons Washington Was a Man of Prayer,” Lillback recounted several times the revered Founding Father lent his support to public and private calls to prayer.
One such occasion was when he proclaimed America’s first official Thanksgiving in 1789, writing, “[I]t is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”
Furthermore, Lillback provided written evidence that Washington prayed for his family, his army, his new nation and the American people. The culmination of Lillback’s 20 years of primary-source research and scholarship on Washington’s life can be found in his No. 1 Amazon.com national bestseller, “George Washington’s Sacred Fire.”
Based on all his research, Lillback supports the idea of “Washington – A Man of Prayer.”
“[L]ike Washington at Valley Forge, we still have a prayer of a chance,” he wrote. “Why not join those who gather in the Capitol building, in the spirit of prayer of our Founding Father? Even if it seems as though the Constitution is slipping away, for now at least, the First Amendment allows us all to pray just like George Washington did.”
More information about the April 26 event, including instructions for how to invite your representative or to host WND’s livestream, can be found at WashingtonAManOfPrayer.com.