I had the honor of delivering the convocation on Monday afternoon before the Illinois General Assembly in Springfield. I was graciously invited by the state representative whose district includes Gages Lake, Rep. Sam Yingling. I brought my eight-year old daughter, Grace. We are kindly hosted down in Springfield by my friends, Dan and Linda Anderson and their seven children. Dan is the director of Brazil Gospel Fellowship Mission. I also had a terrific time of fellowship with Shaun Lewis, who ministers with Capitol Commission Shaun reaches out to the representatives, senators, supreme court justices, and staffers with Bible studies, prayer and any counseling they need. I also had the chance to catch up with some good friends: Rep David McSweeney, Rep. Tom Morrison, and others. Grace and I also got to tour the fabulous Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum. If you are ever in Springfield, you must stop there.
The prayer itself was a little nerve-wracking. I've done quite a bit of public speaking and preaching and praying--so I'm not usually that nervous with this stuff. But when the presiding speaker spoke my name and I stepped up to the giant lecturn to pray, I did get a few butterflies. I prepped last week by looking at the prayers of several who have prayed before the assembly. Then I wrote it out to the approximate length of what the prayers are.
I wanted to accomplish three things: a) sincerely pray on behalf of the families of the representatives. Politicians are so despised these days, I wanted to be the one person who prays for their well-being and strength. b) represent Christ well in this public forum. I was determined to pray a Christian prayer to our Lord, Jesus Christ. I didn't worry about any retribution and, to the credit of those who invited me, I had no warnings on that. And the previous convocations included Christ. c) I wanted to offer a prayer asking for wisdom and guidance for our state in the many issues that face us.
At the end of the day, I hope I was a service to the men and women who serve Illinois in the general assembly. I hope I represented my Lord well. And I hope even this prayer might cause some, even one, to ask questions that might lead them to come to Jesus in faith.
Below is my prayer:
Prayer of Convocation
Illinois General Assembly
Monday, May 20th, 2013
Dear Heavenly Father. We offer our humble gratitude for the gift of freedom as Americans, forged over 200 years of messy democracy and protected by the blood of our fighting men and women. Let us be ever mindful of the many peoples around the world who are not as free, as prosperous, as blessed as we are.
We are grateful to live in the beautiful and diverse state of Illinois. For the leaders who have risen from this hallowed chamber. For the movements birthed here on our rich soil.
We ask humbly for your blessing on our great land. We offer prayer for the leaders today who serve you, here, in this town. As you have commanded us, we pray for them. For their families while they are away. For their safety while they serve here. For their integrity and wisdom in shaping the laws that will shape our future.
We are thankful for each representative who has stepped out of his ordinary life to serve in leadership here. They have spent countless hours campaigning and now serving. They have given up precious time and resources. They have sacrificed their privacy, putting their lives and their families’ lives on public display. Care for each representative, each senator, each staffer and all of the family members in a special way.
I pray that you’re Spirit visits this place in a powerful way. I pray these men and women find the fortitude to lead well. Give each leader rest, refreshment, and a clear mind. We ask you to move our leaders to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before their God.
Help each lawmaker to consider your command to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves, mindful of the dignity and worth of each human life, created in the image of God. Help them not to forget the poor, the immigrant, the marginalized, and the unborn. Help them create laws that support the institutions that make our communities flourish, that encourage and sustain healthy families, that give hope to those struggling to find their way.
We ask your forgiveness for yielding, too often, to the temptation to forget you in our national and political life. For the times we reject your gracious providence. For confusing courage with incivility. For confusing liberty with license. For substituting our own agendas for yours. For putting our own interests above those we serve. For the tendency to abdicate our responsibility to deal with the tough problems.
Lord, we ask for your grace this day as these men and women endeavor to govern the people of this great state. May they realize that their power is limited, granted to them by your gracious decree. Help them wield this power with caution and humility.
We long for the city to come whose builder and maker is God. We’re thankful for the gift of your Son, who has offered entrance into this kingdom by his sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection.
Grant each of these legislators fresh grace today.
In the name of your son, Jesus Christ, we pray, Amen.
Daniel Darling is the Vice President for Communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC). You can find more from Dan at his website DanielDarling.com.