WASHINGTON – More than 40 members of Congress gathered on the Capitol lawn Wednesday and asked Americans to visit a Web site and sign up to pray for the country for five minutes each week.
The call to prayer,led by Rep. J. Randy Forbes,R-Va.,aims to “build a spiritual prayer wall” around the country.
“We recognized that by asking people to pray for the country,we can literally end up with 24-hour-a-day,seven-day-a-week prayer for the nation,” Forbes said.
The Web site,www.prayercaucus.org,displays an image of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Blocks of the wall are lit up to signify times of day with significant “prayer coverage.”
The press event was delayed when a woman being handcuffed by U.S. Capitol Police began screaming shrilly,”Oh God,help me!”
A crowd gathered around the woman,face down on the ground near the prayer conference at the West Steps,and dissipated after paramedics and more police officers arrived.
Following that,police found an unmarked package and evacuated the West Steps. The area was reopened later in the day. Capitol police did not return phone calls Wednesday.
Twice delayed,the prayer event relocated to the lawn,and some members of Congress joked that it was God's way of moving the event to nature rather than buildings made by men.
Soon after the event began,a handful of protesters wearing pink and holding posters that said,”Pray for peace” approached the gathering and began singing loudly,but the representatives,though distracted,continued the call to prayer.
“We've had people give us a hard time,” Forbes said. “There's always a lot of obstacles. I'm sure there will people critical of us. There are people out there who don't believe in prayer,but they've got a right not to believe in prayer,the right not to believe in God. But just because we've become elected officials doesn't mean that we have to not believe in higher power.”
Forbes was joined on the lawn by 42 House members on their lunch breaks so no tax money was spent on religion,Forbes said. Many of them spoke about their personal belief in prayer.
Rep. Randy Neugebauer,R-Texas,said he knelt in prayer with his wife before he was first sworn into office to ask God to empower him with wisdom and strength. Rep. Virginia Foxx,R-N.C.,said she sometimes prays while she's walking to meetings. Several spoke about the United States' need to be healed and to be led wisely.
Some audience members said,”That's right,” and “Amen” as the representatives spoke.
“The power of prayer knows no bounds,and that's what's exciting about this,” said Rep. Mike McIntyre,D-N.C.
Christine Paul,55,who said she was a “traveling pastor” from Silver Spring,Md.,nodded and clutched her hand to her heart.
“Yes,yes,” she whispered. “That's it.”
“We deal with all kinds of different problems,” said Rep. Todd Akin,R-Mo. “Jesus is always the answer.”
“Oh my sweet Lord,” Paul said.
“This position,this job that I do,is much bigger than me,” said Rep. Bill Sali,R-Idaho. “There's no way we can do this alone.”
Paul lifted her hand in the air.
“Hallelujah,” she said,lips quivering. “Bless the Lord.”
Paul said she would participate in the call to prayer and she believes it will make a difference.
“God's going to shift America in a very big way with his mighty,holy hand,” she said.
Forbes said that members of the prayer caucus would hold similar events at their state capitols. He said the call to prayer is meant for people of all religions,not just Christians.
“Whatever faith you are,we encourage you that,if you believe in the power of prayer,to pray and ask God to bless the country,and God can sort it out as to what form he wants it in and what he wants asked,” Forbes said.