As everyone found their places, anticipating this long-planned event, sunshine, lively chatter among friends and colleagues and broad smiles, permeated the capitol rotunda in Des Moines, the seat of the Iowa General Assembly and the Office of the Governor. Passersby, captivated at the growing attendance and the active participation of so many state lawmakers, were understandably curious about the purpose of such an extensive gathering. The explanation caught some by surprise, but most were pleased to learn that their elected leaders, local churches, Christian organizations, prayer groups and ordinary citizens, had all come together to make a bold statement of faith and publicly declare an ongoing need to trust in God.
Recognizing the gravity of this event in the eyes of the people, in an unprecedented decision, the Iowa House leadership graciously cleared the legislative calendar for one hour so anyone who desired could participate in the ceremony. Rep. Joel Fry, Co-chair of the Iowa Legislative Prayer Caucus, commented, “As we started, there was concern that the events of the day for the House and Senate would cause issue for legislative members to participate in the program or attend the event. In a very unprecedented decision, House leadership made a decision to recess during our debate so that the Iowa Legislative Prayer Caucus event could be held in its entirety.”
Rep. Fry went on to say, “God was in every facet of the bipartisan event. Perhaps one of the most important pieces was the fact that dozens of legislators and citizens have been meeting every Tuesday at noon for prayer weeks prior to the launch event. With so many hours of prayer already poured into our State Capitol and the event itself, God was very present and very faithful to answer our prayers.”
Governor Terry Branstad drafted a Proclamation which was read by Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds during the ceremony. Other speakers shared from their hearts and with great passion, reiterating Iowa’s rich spiritual heritage and the importance of prayer in American culture. The co-chairs of the Iowa Legislative Prayer Caucus, Rep. Joel Fry, Sen. Joni Ernst and Rep. Phyllis Thede, were joined by Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix, House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, and Rep. Dwayne Alons, dozens of members of the General Assembly and hundreds of praying citizens.
Rep. Fry reflected on the event, “I am standing in amazement of God and all He did that day. We witnessed 41 members of the Iowa legislature, as well as the Lt. Governor, sign the Proclamation. There are many others who were not able to attend the event and indicated they would sign at a later time. Nearly 200 public citizens attended and signed the Proclamation with their elected officials. Most importantly, God was exalted in the Iowa State Capitol! We now look forward to all the Iowa Legislative Prayer Caucus will do to protect Iowan’s religious freedoms, our motto of ‘In God We Trust’ and our Judeo-Christian heritage.”
During the ceremony, Rep. Fry further encouraged citizens to look up, pointing to the visual imagery suggested by the top of the rotunda. A simple act of humility symbolized the need to look to the One who is the source of true freedom. Onlookers gazed upon a renowned quotation from Abraham Lincoln‘s Gettysburg Address that encircled the House and Senate Chambers just one floor above their seats, “This nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” How encouraging to see a public structure among numerous government buildings, boldly display these inspirational words that acknowledge man’s need for God, freedom, and the importance of embracing civic responsibility.
There was a strong sense of resolve in and through the people of Iowa to honor the Lord and advocate for the religious liberty our Founding Fathers championed in the Constitution. With soberness of spirit, legislators and citizens alike took their places in line to sign the “Call to Prayer Proclamation.” The pages are now filled with the names of men, women, and children who are committed to defending God and the right to publicly express their faith in Him. This excerpt from the Proclamation describes the gravity of their pledge,
“With clear vision and the recent Congressional re-affirmation of ‘In God We Trust’ as our national motto, it becomes more evident how important prayer is to this country and to Iowans. As such, we acknowledge the Preamble of the State Constitution, which clearly advocates a faith-based commitment by stating:
‘We the people of the State of Iowa, grateful to the Supreme Being for the blessings hitherto enjoyed, and feeling our dependence on Him for a continuation of those blessings, do ordain and establish a free and independent government, by the name of the State of Iowa.’ As a State with a legacy that desires to humbly lead where able–symbolic of our diverse culture, agricultural productivity, strong family traditions, and recognition for holding the first presidential caucus every four years–Iowa continues to celebrate a steadfast regard for independence, the free expression of faith, and a strong Christian ethic.
We, the undersigned, who believe in prayer and the Judeo-Christian principles that remind us our rights come from almighty God, unite in this Proclamation. Accordingly, this day we respectfully and humbly issue a ‘Call to Prayer’ for the State of Iowa and invite Iowans everywhere to pray that God will continue to bless this country, our noble State and the freedom for which they stand.”
The hundreds of leaders and citizens who filled the room clearly understood that freedom is not revoked or diminished merely because one is elected to public office. In many respects, the moral and solemn responsibility placed upon the shoulders of any public servant should be an inspiration for those who believe in the power of prayer–to use that God-given forum to seek His face for humility in governance, wisdom in decision-making, courage in times of testing, and providence for favor and blessing.
The Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation is honored to be connected with such exemplary leaders and citizens in Iowa. Please keep them and all associated with the American Prayer Caucus Network in your prayers. These kinds of strategic initiatives are extremely effective and help us to reach the mark. Thank you for sharing this special moment with us!