Barry Black is the 72-year-old Chaplin of the United States Senate. He was commissioned as a Navy Chaplin and holds the rank of Rear Admiral. Known for his colorful bow ties, he’s served as Senate Chaplin since he retired from the Navy in 2003.
In the early morning hours last Thursday, Black closed a joint session of Congress that had been marred by shocking, sickening and senseless violence with a powerful prayer. Delivered shortly after President-elect Biden’s victory was certified by lawmakers, it is said that “Mr. Black’s prayer cut through the chamber with force.”
In part, here’s Chaplin Black’s prayer for America.
Lord of our lives and sovereign of our beloved nation, we deplore the desecration of the United States Capitol building, the shedding of innocent blood, the loss of life, and the quagmire of dysfunction that threaten our democracy.
These tragedies have reminded us that words matter and that the power of life and death is in the tongue.
Lord, you have helped us remember that we need to see in each other a common humanity that reflects your image.
Use us to bring healing and unity to our hurting and divided nation and world.
Bless and keep us. Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to do your will, and guide our feet on the path of peace. And God bless America. We pray in your sovereign name, Amen.
Whether or not the Chaplin’s role is ceremonial and prayer in the halls of Congress has become ritualistic, we will not speculate. However, it reminds us that our country was founded on faith in God and that our forefathers believed that He heard our prayers. Here are a few, brief observations regarding Chaplin Black’s prayer worthy of our thoughtful consideration.
#1 God is sovereign (Isa 45:7-9; 21-22).
He is over all things. And all things are within His control. He is the Supreme authority and Creator of the universe. He is the Ruler of the nations. He has the power to plant a nation and the right to pluck it up.
#2 Our words matter (Prov. 18:21).
Words may inspire us to nobler motives, or incite us to our baser instincts. Words can help or hinder. Words can heal or hurt. Words can build up or tear down. Words can clarify or confuse. Words can comfort or agitate. Words can belittle or bless. Words can glorify God or dishonor His holy name.
#3 We all share a common humanity (Ax. 17:24-28).
As kids in Bible class we used to sing, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.” That’s more than a little kid’s song. It’s true. Republicans and Democrats. Liberals and conservatives. Believers and unbelievers. Male and female. People of every race, color, and ethnicity. We are all of one blood. And created in God’s image.
#4 We need healing for a hurting nation (2 Chron. 7:14).
The challenge is that many people in our nation are unaware of the medicine needed to heal us. It’s not political. Or philosophical. Or social. But spiritual. Jesus is the great Physician who offers healing. And it’s the Gospel of Christ and adherence to its principles and precepts that provides the balm to soothe our souls and heal our hurts.
#5 Drive us from sinful desires (Col. 3:5).
Jesus’ model prayer reminds us to pray “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matt 6:13). The Devil’s devious devices corrupt our desires and lead us into sin. We must rise above our fleshly lusts and control our carnal cravings (Gal. 5:16-26).
#6 We need to incline our hearts to God (Joel 2:12).
Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22:37). Through His revealed Word, penitent prayer, and heart-felt worship we can commune with God. And when we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us.
#7 May we be instruments of peace (1 Pet. 3:11).
The Prince of Peace calls His Disciples to be people of peace. Angry words, clamorous actions, and riotous activities are antithetical to the attitude of Christ. We must neither engage in such or approve and encourage others to do so.
It is easy to apply this prayer to others. Our President. The Speaker of the House. The minority leader in the Senate. Congress. People of another political party. Or a different race.
But the spirit of this prayer applies to me. And you. And it begins in our hearts. Our homes. Our churches. And our communities.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman