WASHINGTON, D.C. (FR) – According to a recent report in Time magazine, the nation’s capital has more prayer groups per square block than any other city outside of the Bible Belt. In the political power center of the nation, the distinctive pressures of the city have apparently driven politicians, businessmen, lawyers, and journalists to seek spiritual help. “People are always surprised to learn that there are spiritual people here in the Sodom and Gomorrah of politics,” said Sen. Mark Hatfield, a veteran of the movement.
The meetings are attended by political luminaries such as Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia, Marilyn Quayle, and Mrs. James Baker. Senate Chaplain Richard Halverson explained, “In this city, it is very rare to find friendships for friendship’s sake. I think it is an expression of the need to share and express feelings with people you can trust.” Besides praying, group members also confide personal problems and search the Bible for answers.
There are prayer meetings in the Capitol, the State Department, the Pentagon, and the White House, as well as special groups for lawyers, real estate agents, businessmen, and journalists. When the prayer meetings began, they were geared towards men; today, however, there are sessions for couples and congressional wives. Susan Baker and Joanne Kemp lead Bible studies for several wives of White House cabinet members and other officials.
The National Prayer Breakfast, a gathering which was launched by the late Sen. Frank Carlson of Kansas, is now viewed as the most visible evidence of the spiritual tone in Washington. President George Bush, a regular churchgoer, held his initial prayer breakfast last month – an event which was attended by 4,000 people including ranking officials from all branches of government.
At this year’s prayer breakfast, President Bush told the audience, “Pray not only for what we want but for what is in the heart of God for this nation. I acknowledge my need to hear from God.”
Although the growth of prayer groups in Washington could lead to conspiracy theories, especially with the rise of evangelical conservatism in the 1980s, participants come from a wide variety of political spectrums and churches. “There is a religious right that is very prominent, just as there was a very activist religious left in the ’60s,” said Don Bonker, a liberal Democrat from Washington State who gave us his House seat for an unsuccessful Senate race. Bonker added that most of the DC prayer groups do not get involved in political matters.