Today began the new legislative session in the Indiana Statehouse. For the eighth straight year, my good friend Matt Barnes hosted the annual Capitol Commission prayer service in the atrium just before the opening of the session. Each year in this service, a mix of pastors, legislators, and others lead in prayer for families and churches in the state, for public safety officials, for the media as they cover legislative session, for the staff and lobbyists, for the judiciary, and for the governor, the senators, and the representatives of the house. The purpose is to obey 1 Timothy 2:1-2: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (ESV).
Proposed right to work legislation drew thousands of protesters to this year’s opening day of the new session. Tension and publicity were built because a capacity limit was put on the number allowed into the building for the first time. In the midst of great potential for chaos, the governor rescinded the cap late in the morning. The halls began to fill with ordinary people who came to make their voices heard – hundreds more were lined up to pass through security as I left at 1:00 p.m.
In the midst of the chatter and buzz, with spectators looking on from balconies on the stories above, hundreds of us bowed at noon to pray and commit the session to the Lord Jesus Christ. Some had come simply to pray, many were statehouse workers, and many more took their lunch hour to come from surrounding office buildings to pray. Scores of the protesters joined in too. Every prayer was offered in Jesus’ name. I was personally struck by the humility with which voices were lifted to the Lord. Those who prayed,
including legislators from both sides of the aisle, prayed deeply Scriptural and richly theological prayers that obviously flowed from the heart. The thoroughly Christ-centered nature the event is probably a rare sight in our nation’s various state capitols. It’s the sort of thing one would expect to see in a gentle reformation of civil government.
Those who prayed would quickly be at odds over various bills, but to begin the session, those who gathered sought the Lord together. It’s going to be a very tough session. But for that half hour, there was an obvious and glorious hush in center of Indiana’s government. May the Lord be pleased to hear and answer those prayers.
You might ask: “How did this happen?” It happened because Matt Barnes has labored in the Lord for eight years to care for the souls of those who work in the statehouse. He has earned their trust. He loves God and the truth, and he also loves people from the heart. He has also worked hard to call churches around the state to pray regularly for their local representatives and to minister to their needs.
We who believe that Jesus reigns over civil government and love to proclaim it would do well to take note and learn to practice it more.
Thanks to Beth Magnuson for the photos.