I was honored and humbled on Wednesday to serve as the guest chaplain in the U.S. House of Representatives, at the invitation of Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia).
I offered the following prayer (full text):
“Our heavenly Father, we thank you for our great nation. We thank You for what You have done to make this nation a lighthouse to the world and a beacon of hope to people everywhere. We know as our Forefathers knew and as the Scriptures tell us that righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people. And so today, we ask Your forgiveness for the sins that we as a people, and we as a nation, have committed. Today we seek Your wisdom and Your guidance in all that takes place in this room. We ask You to be a Lamp unto our feet and a Light unto our path. We ask you to protect the men and women who serve here in this place. We ask you to protect the men and women who serve our nation around the world today and are in harm’s way. We ask You to lead them as they lead us. And above all, we ask You to continue to bless this great land that we call home. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.”
As I approached this honor, I thought of the first Congress of the United States of America. When it convened, the members felt a deep need to appeal to the Almighty, asking that He would bless the young nation. The members understood that the rights and freedoms they desired for the nation were gifts from our sovereign God.
Nevertheless, I’ve been told that on the YouTube website where my prayer is posted, many are suggesting my prayer crossed the nebulous line of “separation of church and state.” This is typical in modern times. I’m afraid these individuals are unaware (possibly intentionally unaware) of our rich heritage of prayer and even Bible study in government buildings, including the U.S. Capitol.
As reported on WallBuilders.com: “The approval of the Capitol for church was given by both the House and the Senate, with House approval being given by Speaker of the House Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg and Senate approval being given by the President of the Senate Thomas Jefferson. Interestingly, Jefferson’s approval came while he was still officially the vice president but after he had just been elected president.”
In fact, the Capitol building was actually used for church services even before it housed the Congress. Further, Mr. Jefferson — long revered by the left as the principle figure in the “separation of church and state” debate — attended the Capitol church services as president and vice president. Other presidents, including Madison and Lincoln, attended the Capitol church services.
This is annoying history to modern civil libertarians who falsely teach that even the most basic religious expressions are violations of law. I have pointed out that Barry Lynn, who heads Americans United for Separation of Church and State, has stated that the simple phrase “In God We Trust” should be removed from our currency. It’s ridiculous, but many buy into such beliefs.
When I consider criticism regarding public religious expression, I often think of the dazzling words of Benjamin Franklin, who stated at the 1787 Constitutional Convention: “I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that ‘except the Lord build the House they labor in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel …”
Preach it, Ben.
I am so pleased to have been able to thank God for His blessings while standing among our nation’s leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives. And I thank God that we can still, at least for now, praise His Holy Name in the halls of our legislative bodies.