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Christians add spiritual significance to inauguration with prayer services

WASHINGTON (BP)–While the U.S. Senate involves itself in confirmation hearings for President-elect George W. Bush’s cabinet nominees, some of the nation’s religious leaders are in Washington to provide spiritual encouragement to the new administration through intercession.

Prayer meetings and religious gatherings sponsored by church groups and the Presidential Inaugural Committee are scheduled throughout the city during the four-day inauguration celebration.

Evangelist Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham, will offer the invocation at the Jan. 20 inauguration. The elder Graham, 82, originally planned to deliver the invocation before President-elect George W. Bush is sworn in. However, doctors advised him to skip the ceremony after medical tests revealed that a brain shunt is working improperly.

Graham, according to a report in the Associated Press, was disappointed. He had hoped to offer prayers to help heal some of the wounds of the tense weeks after the election when Vice President Al Gore challenged Florida’s certification of Bush’s victory.

“Prayer is a common denominator that unites us as people,” spokesman Larry Ross told the Associated Press. “It is more important now than ever before to pray for all of our leaders and our nation at this critical time in our history.”

Graham, America’s best-known evangelist, will be honored at an interdenominational prayer luncheon Friday, Jan. 19 at Washington’s Hyatt Regency Hotel.

James Merritt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church of Snellville, Ga., will deliver a tribute to Graham at the luncheon.

“It’s a great honor and privilege to pay tribute to a godly man like Billy Graham,” Merritt said. “He has been a true servant of God and his untiring ministry has impacted this nation.”

Also scheduled to appear at the luncheon are Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the SBC’s Executive Committee; Adrian Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in metro Memphis, Tenn.; and Richard Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

The luncheon, called “America Come Together,” is sponsored by The Washington Times Foundation. Other special guests include Jerry Falwell, Anthony Evans, Kenneth Copeland, Pat Boone and Max Lucado.

Organizers of the event said the prayer luncheon will challenge religious leaders from all denominations and faiths to join in a call for unity and renewal.

“Members of Congress and the incoming Bush administration will assemble beyond race, denomination or political affiliation to pray for national unity and invite God’s transcendent love and power to bring about a genuine healing of our land,” spokesperson Diana Banister said.

A family prayer service for President-elect Bush and Vice President-elect Richard Cheney will be held at St. John’s Church on Saturday, Jan. 20, prior to the inauguration.

The St. John Prayer service is a private event for the families and close friends of the president-elect and vice president-elect.

In addition to delivering the inaugural invocation, Franklin Graham, 48, will offer a homily during the Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service at the National Cathedral on Sunday, Jan. 21.

The service at the Episcopal cathedral will include messages from Jane Holmes Dixon, bishop of Washington pro tem; Nathan D. Baxter, dean of the National Cathedral; Graham; Beulah “Bubba” Dailey, Austin Street Center, Austin, Texas; Rabbi Emeritus Samuel Karff, Beth Israel Synagogue, Houston; Theodore E. McCarrick, Catholic archbishop of Washington; Kirbyjon Caldwell, Windsor Village United Methodist Church, Houston; Archbishop Demetrios, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; Jack Hayford, The Church on the Way, Van Nuys, Calif.; Luis Leon, St. John’s Church, Lafayette Square, Washington; and Suzanne Love Harris, St. Johns Episcopal Church, Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Contemporary Christian musicians Michael W. Smith and Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers will provide musical selections.

Of particular note to historians, the service will include the reading of a prayer adapted from the Book of Common Prayer and from A Prayer for our Civil Rights, used at George Washington’s inaugural prayer service.

    About the Author

  • Todd Starnes