WASHINGTON — You could have heard a pin drop as a hush fell over the audience. It was a gentle and touching moment between father and son – ironically, right in the heart of raw political power, the U.S. Capitol.
Embracing tenderly, pastor Rafael Cruz turned to his son and said, simply, "I love you."
"I love you," replied Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
"How precious it is to have a good dad," he observed.
On this special night, the love between father and son was symbolic of the deep, abiding love the "father of our country" had for America, when George Washington dedicated the new nation to God.
Ted and Rafael Cruz were among a number of religious leaders and lawmakers who gathered at the Capitol Wednesday evening to salute and honor Washington as a devout man of prayer. They also sought to remind America how important religious belief, especially a faith in Providence and the guiding hand of God, were to the Founding Fathers, particularly, the nation's first president.
"Washington: A Man of Prayer, 2014″ commemorates the events of April 30, 1789, when, after he was sworn in at Federal Hall in New York City as the new nation's first leader, President George Washington, accompanied by Congress, proceeded to St. Paul’s Chapel where, as one of his first official acts, he offered a prayer of dedication to God on America’s behalf.
Now in its third year, "Washington: A Man of Prayer" is the brainchild of Dan Cummins, pastor of Bridlewood Church in Bullard, Texas. The event was broadcast globally by the Daystar Television Network, with WND Films and CBN providing the satellite feed from Statuary Hall in the Capitol.
The evening was a combination of prayers, history lessons, expressions of joy, gratitude, repentance and celebration.
The elder Cruz recounted his tremendous gratitude to God in finding freedom to practice his religion in America after suffering persecution, imprisonment and torture in Cuba.
And, even though he thanked God for the tremendous blessing of living in the greatest country on earth, he wondered, "If we lose our freedom here, where will we go?"
The pastor prayed for divine direction to restore America's greatness and the purpose for which it was created, to be a bastion of liberty.
His son, the senator, thanked God for the extraordinary freedoms Americans enjoy.
The Texan noted that just as Washington dedicated America to God, the evening's gathering had assembled to recommit the nation to the Almighty.
Cruz also prayed for the safe return of the more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Muslim jihadists in Nigeria, asking God to erect a hedge of protection around them and to "throw boulders" at their captors.
The senator also prayed for the safe return home of pastor Saeed Abedini, the American who has endured torture while serving one year of an eight-year prison term in Iran for practicing his Christian faith, noting it was the pastor's 34th birthday that evening.
And, echoing the sentiments of many speakers during the evening, Cruz prayed that God would restore America's legacy as a shining city on a hill.
The evening was kicked off by congressional host Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who related how the U.S. Capitol was once the largest church on the East Coast in the1800s.
It was Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, who dug up that information by contacting the Library of Congress' Congressional Research Service and learning about the history of prayer in the U.S. Capitol.
He told the audience how the prayers were held from 1807 to 1857 in the chambers where the House of Representatives first met, later to become Statuary Hall, the very room in which they were gathered.
President Thomas Jefferson, the man who coined the expression "separation of church and state," had approved nondenominational Christian services in the hall, seeing no conflict with the Constitution.
Gohmert had previously told WND it was a long-forgotten fact of history that shows just how far the modern interpretation of the First Amendment had strayed from the original intent of the founders.
The Texan gave another history lesson that kept the crowd mesmerized, pointing to the spot where John Quincy Adams, who returned to Congress after his stint as the nation's sixth president, would stand up to cry out against a particular evil, time and again.
The congressman described how the son of America's second president had dedicated his career to realizing the Founding Fathers' ambition of abolishing slavery. Adams asked how God could continue to grant his blessings to the nation while "we were putting our brothers and sisters in chains."
Gohmert described how Adams' time in the House overlapped with a young, lanky attorney from Illinois who sat in the back of the room. The congressman revealed how Adams took a liking to Abraham Lincoln, took him under his wing and mentored him on the evils of slavery.
And, as Gohmert related how Lincoln's elimination of slavery was the direct realization of a dream from the inception of America by its founders, and how the Great Emancipator gave Adams credit for the accomplishment, soft but astonished murmurs of "I didn't know that" and "Isn't that something?" rippled through the crowd.
Another fascinating glimpse of American history was provided by a woman with quite a historical background herself, Rosemary Schindler Garlow, the wife of pastor Jim Garlow and niece of Oscar Schindler, the German businessman who saved so many souls from Hitler's concentration camps and who was immortalized in the film "Schindler's List."
She spoke of the Jewish community's indispensable role in winning the Revolutionary War and ensuring the birth of the American nation, and the remarkable story of Haym Solomon, who immigrated to New York from Poland in search of religious freedom.
She called Solomon "the answer to George Washington's prayer" who provided his starving army with food, clothing and gun and ammunition
Solomon raised a majority of the war aid from France and Holland by selling bills of exchange to American merchants.
In addition to funding the war, that money also paid the salaries of the early members of Congress, including Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe.
Garlow described how when Washington found himself desperately needing $20,000 to conduct what would turn out to be the final and decisive battle of the war, the assault on Yorktown, he was kneeling in prayer when he heard the words "Call for Haym Solomon."
Robert Morris, the finance superintendent for the colonies, found Solomon deep in prayer at his synagogue on Yom Kippur, a time when conducting business is generally not permitted.
But Solomon said this is an exceptional moment and this nation must survive -- it is a matter of life and death.
In just 15 minutes, Solomon raised the $20,000 through the sales of bills of exchange and by canvassing the Jewish community for donations.
Overall, the genius financier gave more than $800,000 for American independence, a total that would be $120 million in tdoay's dollars. But, Garlow said, with interest, it would amount to $2.5 trillion donated by a man who, for all his extraordinary efforts, died penniless, having never received 1 cent of remuneration.
Again, expressions of amazement spread through the crowd in Statuary Hall.
Another particularly mesmerizing speaker was Senate Chaplain Rev. Harry Black, his deep baritone and rich, moving oratory reminding more than one listener of "the voice of God."
He said he was so optimistic about the future of America, because "we have a weapon that is greater than anything the Department of Defense has: We have the weapon of prayer," a remark that prompted applause and a cascade of whispered "Amens."
"We need to use this weapon," the reverend observed, "because it is the antidote to despair."
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee introduced Rabbi Jonathan Cahn by calling his best-selling book, "The Harbinger," "one of the most soul-stirring, stunning, spellbinding books I've ever read."
Cahn described how only two nations on earth had been both conceived by God and dedicated to Him: Israel and the United States of America.
As WND reported, Cahn preached that Americans should not put their hopes in the White House, Congress or the Supreme court, but in God alone. The heartfelt plea elicited one of the most rousing ovations of the evening.
Afterward, Huckabee declared, "A nation is never so tall as when its leaders are on their knees."
While introducing historian William J. Federer, Huckabee noted the author had just been quoted in the Supreme Court decision on Monday allowing prayer in town hall meetings.
Federer recounted the amazing series of bizarre coincidences that convinced Washington and other Founding Fathers of the reality of Providence and God's guiding hand in the creation of America.
The author detailed those events in a column he wrote last week for WND.
Like Cahn, pastor Robert Jefress warned that America should not take the blessings of God for granted.
"George Washington understood that God blesses nations that serve Him, but God rejects nations that reject Him," he said.
Garlow also warned: "We forget that nations are born and die just like people. This nation could die, and the hour is late. God, we need you, and we need you now!"
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told how Washington attributed all of his success to his mother's wisdom and moral guidance. He implored Americans to revere motherhood once again and to protect the unborn.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., noted that on the spot in Kansas that represents the geographical center of the country, appropriately, sits a chapel.
Rep Steve King, R-Iowa, mused that "when God moved the Founding Fathers around like pieces on a chessboard, He knew what He was doing."
He observed that all of our nation's founding documents were written with divine guidance, with "just a little lower standard" than found in the Bible.
Follow Garth Kant on Twitter @DCGarth
Read these WND articles on “Washington: A Man of Prayer, 2014″: