March 21, 2020 | Aaron Mercer, IFA Contributing Writer
Coronavirus does not discriminate based on politics. Neither do prayer leaders interceding for victory against the malady.
The seriousness of the rapidly spreading pandemic hit home on Capitol Hill this week as two lawmakers—one Republican and one Democrat—announced they had tested positive for the virus. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and Ben McAdams (D-Utah) both began to exhibit symptoms on Saturday and subsequently received confirmation that they had contracted the illness. Notably, hundreds of House members had been in the Capitol Saturday morning as they pushed through coronavirus response legislation.
Post a prayer for Diaz-Balart and McAdams on the COVID-19 PRAYER WALL.
Understandably, legislators and their staff are alarmed. Some, including House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), have self-quarantined after being in extended proximity to those confirmed carriers of the virus. Others, pointing to the close quarters of the House Floor, have called for more social distancing via remote voting. Certainly, like so many Americans, many are wondering what comes next for them and their families.
Thankfully, as in so many communities around the nation, Capitol Hill has prayer warriors ready to serve and intercede for the congressional community. You know and bolster the notable work of IFA president David Kubal and intercessory allies who regularly visit and pray for leaders in Washington.
Perhaps not as well known are the important ministries of the chambers’ chaplains. Senate Chaplain Barry Black and House Chaplain Patrick Conroy not only ensure every legislative day begins with prayer, but they also operate inside the institution to provide spiritual care to a community of thousands who work for our nation’s legislative branch.
While a staffer for Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), I can tell you that I developed a great appreciation for the chaplain’s office. Week-to-week I valued the encouraging Bible studies the chaplain and his staff arranged. Moreover, in times of crisis, such as 9-11, the anthrax attacks, war, fiscal cliffs, and more, many look privately for encouragement, comfort, or just a steady presence from the chaplains.
Our nation’s recognition of a need for spiritual counsel is happily one that traces its roots to the prenatal days of the republic. In a tribute to the Senate Chaplaincy, the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) recounted that the Continental Congress chose the first chaplain at the start of its session in 1774. That decision was made after a heated debated sparked by a proposal for an opening prayer by “the fiery radical from Massachusetts, Samuel Adams.” Later, when the newly formed United States of America’s House of Representatives and Senate began their inaugural sessions in 1789, both appointed chaplains and continue to do so.
The constitutionality of the chaplains’ offices and prayer before legislative sessions have been challenged more than once. Thankfully, those objections have been repeatedly rebuffed in Congress and the courts. For example, in 1854 the House Judiciary Committee rejected such a challenge stating, “If there be a God who hears prayers – as we believe there is – we submit, that there never was a deliberative body that so eminently needed the righteous prayers of fervent men as the Congress of the United States.” The committee added that those in Congress needed to be reminded daily “that they are under the government of a Supreme Power.”
In this new coronavirus crisis, the chaplains are indeed reminding legislators of their place serving one nation under God. Just this past Wednesday, Senate Chaplain Barry Black opened the day praying, “Holy God, we love You. You are our strength, rock, and protection…. Lord, remind them that You have brought our nation through much greater difficulties than the ones we now face. As they strive to unite for the common good of this land we love, may they embrace Your promise that You will never leave or forsake us.”
The chaplains need our prayerful support as they minister daily and directly with Members of Congress who need guidance from our Lord, the Supreme Power. Let us lift them up! Post your prayer on the COVID-19 prayer wall.
Aaron Mercer is a Contributing Writer with two decades of experience in Washington, D.C.’s public policy arena and Christian associations. A seasoned strategist, he aids organizations with research, analysis, and writing services, and he reflects on faith, technology, and the public square at FTPolicy.com.
First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)