The first prayer for the Second Continental Congress, Philadelphia, September 7, 1774

WASHINGTON – Many Americans may know that President Thomas Jefferson coined the expression “a wall of separation between church and state.”

But, what most Americans may not know is, Jefferson also signed a law allowing the U.S. Capitol to be used for weekly Christian church services, which he attended.

Was that a contradiction? Not the way Jefferson saw it.

In his letter to the Danbury Baptists in 1802, Jefferson felt his “wall of separation” was to protect the church from the state, and, contrary to the modern interpretation, not to protect the state from the church.

President Thomas Jefferson

His letter described “religion (as) a matter which lies solely between Man & his God” and that government should not prevent the free expression of religion. Even, apparently, within the very halls of government.

After Jefferson signed the law allowing church services in the Capitol, it became the largest church on the East Coast, with as many as 2,000 in attendance from 1800 to 1869.

Services were held in the very chamber where the House of Representatives met from 1807 to 1857, now called Statuary Hall.

A growing movement over the last few years has brought prayer back to those hallowed halls, and aims to put prayer back into the heart of our nation.

“Washington: A Man of Prayer 2014” is the brainchild of Dan Cummins, pastor of Bridlewood Church in Bullard, Texas.

The ceremony commemorates the 225th inaugural anniversary of President George Washington, with members of Congress and national Christian leaders honoring the first U.S. president as a man of Christian faith.

Several members of Congress will offer prayers on behalf of the nation, our president and his Cabinet, the Supreme Court and its justices, and members of Congress.

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, initially gave Cummins access to Statuary Hall in May 2012, the first time a private citizen has been granted use of the hall to conduct a prayer service there in more than 120 years.

The U.S. House of Representatives in 1822

The service “commemorates the events of April 30, 1789, when after being sworn in at Federal Hall, President Washington along with Congress proceeded to St. Paul’s Chapel where, as his first official act, [he] offered a prayer of dedication to God on America’s behalf,” Cummins explained.

“On April 30, 1789, the world saw more than just the inauguration of the president of a new nation; it witnessed a watershed moment in world history: The birth of the American republic and a functioning Constitution,” he added.

President George Washington at St. Paul's Chapel in New York

Cummins calls this year’s celebration on May 7, now in its third consecutive year, “a historic first” because, even though the event is exclusively for members of Congress, churches around the world will be able to watch on a global webcast and join in offering prayers for our nations and its leaders.

The event will be broadcast globally by the Daystar Television Network, with World Net Daily Films and CBN News providing the satellite feed from Statuary Hall.

Statuary Hall

Churches can register online to host the webcast during their Wednesday midweek services at “Washington: A Man of Prayer.”

“Washington: A Man of Prayer 2014” will be hosted by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and emceed by former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark.

Attendees include Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Mike Lee, R-Utah, Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., and Reps. Louie Gohmert,R-Texas, Steve King, R-Iowa, Steve Stockman, R-Texas, Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., Kristi Noem, R-S.D., Corrine Brown, D-Fla., Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., Jeff Miller, R-Fla., Diane Black, R-Tenn. Steve Womack, R-Ark., and Chris Stewart, R-Utah, Jim Bridenstine R-Okla., John Mica R-Fla., and others will be in attendance.

As a bipartisan event, invitations have been sent to all 535 members of the 113th Congress.

Chaplains of the House and Senate, Fr. Patrick Conroy and the Rev. Barry Black will also participate. The United States Marine Band will also perform.

Christian leaders participating include the program director for the event, Dr. Jim Garlow, as well as Bishop Harry Jackson Jr., Dr. Robert Jeffress, Phyllis Schlafly, Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, Star Parker, Penny Nance, Dr. Peter Lillback, Bill Federer, Bishop Angel Nunez, Rosemary Schindler Garlow, Charmaine Yoest, Sergio De La Mora, Tony Perkins, Samuel Rodriguez and Rafael Cruz (father of Sen. Ted Cruz.)

Downloadable promotional materials are available “Washington: A Man of Prayer” website. Also, free school curriculum (K-12) on the historical events surrounding the inauguration of President George Washington has been provided by The Brook Hill School of Bullard, Texas.

WND will run a preview piece on “Washington: A Man of Prayer 2014” every week during the 10 weeks leading up to the event on May 7.

See a clip of Cahn speaking during last year’s events:

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.