Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Question That Led to The Prayer...My Day at the Indiana Statehouse

Statehouse Prayer Service 2017

A funny thing happened after the Town Hall meeting…

Last month I shared here about a Town Hall meeting I attended in a neighboring town, in which I asked the simple question to our legislators, “What can we pray for you about?” I was rather shocked by the positive reaction to the question both from the crowd and the legislators. (You can read my post about that meeting here.)

Well, I have a confession to make. I left out one important thing that happened that day.

After the meeting, State Rep. Wendy
McNamara and I were talking and she expressed her appreciation that someone one care enough to offer to pray for her and her fellow state legislators. She then said, “Would you be willing to come to the state house and pray on the floor of the House of Representatives soon?” I gladly agreed to do it. She had been looking for pastors in our area that would come an open the session in prayer, and she said she has run out of names of pastors who would be willing to drive three hours to Indianapolis for a short prayer. (I thought that was a shame!)

Indiana Rep. Wendy Mcnamara
So, on March 8th I drove up to Indy very early in the morning and met with Wendy and a couple of volunteer chaplains on the House floor. I was “Minister of the Day” and had a seat on the House floor just a few feet from the podium.

I was to begin the session with prayer at 10:00, but the session did not actually get started until about 10:40. In this time of waiting, Wendy shared with us that it had been a very difficult morning for her, as she had just found out that one of her former students (she is a teacher at Ivy Tech in Evansville) was cruelly murdered the evening before. The family of this young man had already reached out to her for help, and she was understandably grief-stricken and a little overwhelmed. The head chaplain asked me to pray, and so on the House floor three of us gathered around around Rep. McNamara as we cried out for this family...and for Wendy as well. So, God was at work before I even went to the podium to pray.

On my drive up, the Lord began to work with me about the prayer that I believe he wanted me to pray on the House floor. In sharing this story with others, I’ve been asked to write down the prayer that God put on my heart. As far as I know, there was no recording of it, and I had nothing written down, so I’m sharing here the essense of what the Lord put on my heart to pray that morning, when I was called to give the invocation:

God of our fathers
We come to you in grateful acknowledgement
As we stand in this august chamber
Before a gathering of citizen legislators.
This morning we acknowledge You.

As King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was made to exclaim many centuries ago
You work Your will in the armies of heaven
And among the inhabitants of the earth
And none can stay You hand
Or say unto You, “What doest thou?”
It is to You, the God of our Fathers, that we come.

Lord, we come to you in a time of great moral crisis
in our state and in our nation.
This great moral crisis has spawned many other crisis,
which these legislators are having to deal with every day.
From the opiod crisis to the health crisis
To the breakdown of the family and to the spector of school shootings...
All of these crisis and many others are rooted in a great crisis of morals
in our state and in our nation.

Yet this great moral crisis is itself rooted in the fact
that we have turned from the God of our Fathers.
We have forsaken You and gone after other things.
For this we repent today
And ask Your forgiveness.

So today, we ask You to send a renewel of interest in spiritual things
to our state and to our nation
Lord, send a revival, a Spiritual Awakening
to our state and to our nation
As You have sent to our nation so many times in the past.

From Elkart to Evansville
From Frankfurt to Fort Wayne
From Kokomo to Corydon
We pray that a Great Awakening to the things of the Spirit
Will sweep through our state
Not only in our churches
But throughout the state
Even to this very building!

While respecting people of all faiths,
I pray this prayer in the name of my Savior
Jesus Christ,
Who is "the image of the invisible God
The firstborn over all creation."
"For in Him we live and move
And have our being."
In His Name we pray.

State Sen. Jim Tomes and Myself
After the prayer, I made my way to the other side of the statehouse to visit a friend of mine, Senator Jim Tomes, and his trusted assistant and former marine, Cody Smith. Sen. Tomes is a man of faith, and a man who works hard for his constituents every day.  We had a wonderful conversation not only about state issues but spiritual issues as well.  Cody was nice enough to take my picture with Sen. Tomes.

By the way, may I ask you, when you pray for those in authority (as we Christians are command to do in scripture), don’t forget to pray for your state legislators!  In Indiana (and I think in most states), they get very little money and even less appreciation for all they do.   Most of them are not supported by their meager state salaries, but have time-consuming "day jobs" as well.  These men and women are really the “nuts and bolts” of our democracy. It is from the pool of these state leaders that many of our national leaders are drawn, so, in a way, when you pray for the legislators in your state (and I might add in your local community), you are also praying for our future national leaders. Praying for them is a good thing!

After the meeting with Sen. Tomes and his assistant, I took a self-guided tour of the beautiful Victorian-era building that is the Indiana Statehouse. I thought that I was going to leave for home about then, but I received a light touch from the Holy Spirit about going back up to the House chamber and observing the morning session for about fifteen minutes. So I did. As it turned out, the remainder of the morning session lasted only about fifteen more minutes. At this point, the head chaplain, Matthew Barnes, asked me if I had seen the chapel. When I told him that I hadn’t, he and the other chaplain, Pam Russell, took me up to the fourth floor, to a small, simply-furnished room. When I found that room, I found the real place of power in the Indiana Statehouse!

Chaplain Matt, and his Associate Director Tim Overton, shared with me the amazing things that are going on at the statehouse which emanate from that place of prayer. Four days a week, a bible study takes place in the chapel, which is furnished by individual donations. The fifth day (Thursday), a worship service is held in the chapel. Also, on Thursday, a weekly Bible study is held at the Governors’ Office in another part of the statehouse. A fairly large percentage of the Governor’s staff attends this meeting every week. God is moving in Indiana!

I was invited to lunch after this, and enjoyed time with Tim and Pam for perhaps an hour, as I found out more amazing things that are going on at our state capital. Fourteen years ago, Matthew Barnes, sensing a call of the Holy Spirit, left his job at Home Depot and became Volunteer Chaplain at the statehouse. As far as I understand this, there had been no such position before Chaplain Matthew assumed it. He began an outreach to state senators and representatives, as well as members of the Governor’s staff and other state officials, which he calls simply “Public Servants’ Prayer.” (Follow this link to check out their website and to find out more about their important work.  You can also read this article about their beginnings that came out in a Charleston, SC paper.)

Matthew Barnes
Matthew Barnes was one time introduced at a banquet by a state official (half-jokingly) as the most powerful man in the Indiana statehouse. He or one of his staff sit on the floor of the Indiana House and Senate during every session. They have been building relationships with powerful men and women, and have become a great resource to these people on both sides of the aisle, not only in their professional lives but in their personal lives as well. When Mike Pence was governor, he sat in on many of the Bible studies at the Governor's office (and I understand our current governor, Eric Holcomb, has attended some meetings put on by Public Servants’ Prayer as well). 

As I was leaving, I expressed to Tim and Pam my desire for our church to be a prayer resource for them as well as those they are ministering to at the capital. We ended our day as it prayer. As I was driving home, I couldn’t help but reflect on the amazing turn of events that started with a prompting of the Holy Spirit in a Town Hall meeting in Poseyville, Indiana, to simply ask our legislators, “How can we pray for you?” Several times during my day in Indianapolis someone would speak to someone else in my presence and say something to the effect of  “Did you know that this is the man who asked the question at the Town Hall?” It was as if The Question became my calling card. The Question led to The Prayer. And where The Prayer leads to, only Jesus knows.

Rep. Tom Washburne, also a friend of mine (and the man who asked for prayer for his frequent colds at the Town Hall meeting), told me at the statehouse that he has shared the story of what happened at the Town Hall meeting to many people.  As a result, at two other Town Hall meetings (that we know of...maybe more), others have stood and asked the same question!  

A wise man once said, “Following the Lord is thrills, romance, and adventure!” Well, this day was quite an adventure. And (I can’t say much because I don’t know much) I have reason to believe that it won’t end here.  Praise the Lord!"

"Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgements and unfathomable His ways!"  (Romans 11:33)

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