Hundreds of people on Capitol Hill – including US senators and representatives – have been fasting and praying since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, since Hamas’ attack on Israel, and during the last two presidential elections.
That was revealed by Senate Chaplain Barry Black, who addressed the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday. With President Biden, House Speaker Mike Johnson, and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries sitting in the front row, Chaplain Black, former Chief of Chaplains for the US Navy and a Seventh-Day Adventist, spoke about America’s choices in a time of many crises.
President Biden also addressed the gathering, urging listeners not to see one another as enemies but as “fellow human beings, each made in the image of God, each precious in his sight.”
Meeting a crisis with prayer and fasting
Black opened his address by focusing on Jehoshaphat, the fourth king of Judah, who faced a formidable challenge from neighboring nations that had risen against him. In spite of having a strong army himself, Jehoshaphat, a descendant of Kings David and Solomon, urged his people to enter into a period of fasting.
When his advisers scorned the idea, reminding him of his army of 1,165,000 soldiers, Jehoshaphat doubled down on the need for fasting. No army, no matter how strong, can stand against God, he emphasized.
“I wonder what would happen if we used — as many of us on Capitol Hill have been doing — the weapon of fasting,” Chaplain Black suggested, noting too that Jesus told his disciples that certain demons can be exorcised only through prayer and fasting.
Black also said that when Congress is in session, many members from both parties meet for a weekly prayer breakfast, “and representatives and senators talk about their faith pilgrimages.” In addition, Black said he’s been teaching a Bible study for a number of years that many Senators regularly attend. He said that only one senator has missed only one session of the study in 19 years.
The prayer breakfast was held for the first time in its 71-year history in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall. Prominent guests and speakers over the years have included Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, and Bono. This year, it was graced by Italian tenor Andrea Boccelli offering renditions of The Lord’s Prayer, Amazing Grace and other spiritually-themed pieces.