Merri Guzaitis is one of my very best friends. Her commitment to God and country are unparalleled in my world. Recently, the Chicago gal up and moved with her husband and family to Texas. Her daily presence in my life is sorely missed, as she has always inspired me towards being more politically aware. I think you will find this first hand point of view from the prayer rally compelling and full of information that might surprise you. Enjoy! and…don’t you think she should start a blog of her own?
“There are hundreds of protestors. perhaps thousands!” This was the news my husband Ed and I were hearing on the local news this past Saturday from our hotel room in Houston, TX. As we walked the three-quarter mile to Reliant Stadium, a plane flew overhead with a banner declaring the need for separation of church and state. A billboard truck passed that warned us to beware of pious politicians and demanded that they “Get off their knees and get back to work!”. The closer we got to the stadium, the more excitement built. We were anxious to see the protestors. Perhaps even a little nervous. Would they be peaceful? We were mentally preparing our responses to the throngs of haters. We prayed God would give us His words in case the media stopped us so our “sound bite” might be well thought out. What we found when we arrived was nothing like we had been warned to expect.
Friday afternoon, Ed and I packed up our SUV and headed out to make the 5-hour trip from our Fort Worth area home to Houston, TX. We went because our governor, Rick Perry, had called a rally. What was this rally about that was so polarizing, so divisive, that had caused so much anger and hatred? What was this rally that had so many so scared? It was called “The Response” and it was a prayer rally. That’s right. The highest elected official in the state of Texas had dared to call a prayer rally. And this not to be a warm and fuzzy, let’s all hold hands and sing Kumbaya prayer rally. No. It was to be a solemn assembly. A call for prayer for repentance and fasting for America, a nation he said was in crisis.
When we arrived 30 minutes before the event started, already there were long lines. A gentleman was standing outside the gates. He blew a shofar, an instrument used in the early days of Israel to signal it was time for the people to gather together. With thousands in front of me, I turned to look at the man and saw behind him cars still finding spaces, couples and families heading toward the gates from all directions. God’s people were certainly gathering. My throat tightened.
As we found our seats, a gospel choir was singing soulful tunes and the audience was already engaging. At 10 a.m., the official start of the days events, with people still pouring into the stadium, as a sort of “Call to Order”, we were lead in the singing of “America the Beautiful”. After this, a gentleman came forward who would guide us through the days events. In a matter of a few sentences, he dispelled much of what the media had told us. We were here to pray. Specifically, we were here to come before God in the name of Jesus, in humility and repentance, to beg the Lord’s mercy and beseech Him to continue to bless America. This was NOT a political event, therefore we were asked not to wave flags, raise banners or any show other forms of patriotism. He told us there would be no one selling books or other items. The cost was covered by private donations, so a collection would not be taken.
What then transpired over the next 7 hours was precisely what the organizers had hoped for, what churches and individuals had prayed for, what others had feared would happen. More than 30,000 people were in attendance, nearly 4 times more than the 8,000 anticipated. We were told that 1,400 churches and other groups in all 50 states had signed up to hold streamed events. And 80,000 individuals or families were watching the live stream.
We were led in times of worship, a time of personal confession and repentance. A time of corporate repentance. Sometimes we agreed in our hearts or with our voices with those praying from the stage. Other times, we were gathered in groups of 3 or 4 to pray in small groups, strangers praying together. Some prayed with hands to heaven. Some prayed in the quietness of their own hearts. Some literally danced before the Lord. Many were unashamed as tears flowed. As we were lead through one type of response to another, Scripture was read and recited as motivation, inspiration and Biblical support for every type of prayer offered. There was no food in the stands. The few that purchased food understood. This was not just a time of prayer, but of fasting. We came there prepared to be broken before the Lord.
A couple of hours into the gathering, Governor Perry took the stage to hearty applause. Rumors had circulated earlier that because of the controversy his involvement had stirred, he would not attend. Ed shot me a cautious glance. Almost bracing ourselves for what was sure to be a political speech, an announcement of his intent to run for president? A call to evangelicals to come together to support his campaign? Again, media had been wrong. As he spoke, if I had closed my eyes, I could have sworn I was listening to a preacher. My governor spoke not of politics, but instead preached a gospel of repentance, through Jesus. He prayed for our nation, for it’s leaders, and for our president and his family. When he prayed for the military and the special operators who’d lost their lives the previous day, he choked up. There was no mention of politics from the governor except a humorous remark that God is wise enough not to affiliate Himself with any political party.
The day ended with the older generation blessing the younger. As older believers laid their hands on children, teens and young adults and prayed, those in attendance were left with a hope. All is not lost. We are not alone. A bold, faithful remnant is still here in America and we, by the grace of God, are alive and well.
Ed will tell you we attended this event for two reasons. 1) To pray for our nation. And 2) So that when we saw the news reports, we could know and report what REALLY happened, which brings me back to the news from our hotel room that morning. Were you wondering about those “hundreds, maybe thousands” of protesters? Yeah. Me, too. We never saw them. Not one. Later that evening I watched reports with a plane, a billboard truck and a small spattering of protestors on a street somewhere outside the stadium. Where were the hundreds? The thousands?
I learned many lessons on Saturday, not the least of which is this. We who call ourselves by the name of Jesus and recognize there is power and hope in bowing before him are frequently hated, misunderstood, feared and mocked. The enemy may speak louder and have more numbers in his camp, but let us never forget that enemy is often much smaller and weaker than he’d like us to believe!