News

Evangelicals gather for prayer rally in Washington

“Together 2016,” an evangelical Christian prayer rally
“Together 2016,” an evangelical Christian prayer rally, attracted throngs of people to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on July 16, 2016. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

WASHINGTON (RNS) Evangelical Christians converged on the nation’s capital for a prayer rally on one of the hottest days of the summer.

With the nation reeling from recent shootings and shocked by news of a terrorist attack in France and an attempted coup in Turkey, speakers at “Together 2016” cited the global events from the stage and spoke of the challenges facing Americans.

“Jesus can heal our nation,” said former Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd to applause and cries of “Amen.” “Jesus can heal relationships. America is like a broken bone that needs to be put back into its correct place in order to experience healing.”

With their calls for prayer and unity, speakers generally focused on spiritual rather than concrete solutions to the nation’s problems. The event had been promoted by Pope Francis and noted by President Barack Obama.

Nick Hall, 34, the leader of the Pulse ministry that organized the event focused on millennials, also addressed the crowd in the shadow of the Washington Monument.

“God, we don’t need to hear from some man or some woman,” he said in an opening prayer. “God, we don’t need to hear from some band. We need to hear from heaven today. That’s why we’ve come.”

Others taking the stage included some of the top names in evangelicalism, preachers such as Josh McDowell and Samuel Rodriguez, Christian artist Lecrae and the group Hillsong United.

Hall, speaking especially to the millennials, said “we want to get the hashtag #JesusChangesEverything trending around the world today.” It remained one of the top trending tweets on Twitter hours after the event.

Many in the multiethnic crowd joined in as contemporary Christian singer Michael W. Smith sang a song about compassion. As people sweated and fanned themselves, wearing beach hats and hovering under umbrellas, they offered bottles of water and welcomed others to the scant shady spots in earshot of the stage’s speakers and songs.

Though cut short due to the heat, the event moved methodically through discussions of how to “reset,” with sermons and prayers calling for repentance, prayer and service. The generation of Facebook and Twitter was urged to put down cellphones and meet people for coffee instead, and to think about people less fortunate than themselves.

“We, the people of the cross, repent of 1.2 million children who will be trafficked around the globe this year while we care more about traffic reports,” prayed Christian author Ann Voskamp, “repent of the 3.1 (million) children under 5 who will die this year because of starvation while we spend $60 billion dollars this year trying to lose weight.”

Some members of the audience prayed for others who they thought needed a divine touch.

Jennifer Yeisley, 31, a nondenominational Christian from Rockville, Md., got on her knees and prayed for Jacque Herbertson, 73, from Brooksville, Fla., who sat in a wheelchair, her toes curled by arthritis.

Though the crowd included many millennials near the stage, there were also families and senior citizens.

“My husband has been praying for a revival in this nation,” Herbertson said of her spouse Dave, adding he had written to pastors and evangelist Franklin Graham. “He wanted to see us all get together and pray. So when we heard about this one … we wanted to come.”

Some of the prayers from the stage were tied to pleas for improved family and race relations.

“Let me die for my home, let me die for my community, let me die for a white man, let me die for a black man, let me die for an Hispanic man, let me die for an Asian man,” prayed gospel artist Kirk Franklin. “Let me get out of the way so you can be God in my life.”

The event follows many other religion-related gatherings — both of believers and nonbelievers — on what is known as the nation’s front lawn. Together 2016 was planned in ways similar to Promise Keepers’ 1997 “sacred assembly” for evangelical Christian men — but this time including women, too.

The program, which included an unusually high number of women speakers for an evangelical gathering, featured Voskamp and poet Amena Brown in a spoken-word segment that featured calls for forgiveness and reconciliation related to racism and privilege.

“We will not be the people who turn a blind eye to injustice,” cried Voskamp.

“We will use our voices, our time, our resources to effect change,” replied Brown.

As the event drew to a close, many pledged to pray more and study the Bible. Charlene Atkins, 49, who attends a mostly black Bible church in Dallas, said she hopes to encourage greater work across racial lines in her church community.

“One of the things that we talked about while out there was helping people who are Christians understand what it means to be as one body in Christ,” she said. “How do we look more like Christ and less like ourselves? I think that would help a lot in the issues that our nation is facing if the church would start to look more like the church.”

About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.

17 Comments

Click here to post a comment

  • These people need to pray for forgiveness for supporting a radical hateful racist serial adulterer like Trump and for promoting so much hatred towards their LGBT children.

  • It’s not hard to see how some people might feel that evangelicals have earned being hated. I don’t say that to defend: hate isn’t a Gospel value in my book, but a case could be made that evangelical Christians’ reputation in our time rests mostly on the propagation of hate rather than on the Gospel.

  • Many words about & to God…BUT all live desiring FREEDOM to exalt & magnify self-rights…& they worshiped this ABOMINATION that desolates the TRUTH…& it stood in place of HOLY as man’s “god of fortresses”. President Obama has proclaimed in Jerusalem this FREEDOM to be the ‘LIGHT’ of man. But very soon, Lord Jesus, Son of the 1GOD, will rule earth as the One King according to the Will of His Father and not according to man’s first love for his FREEDOM.

  • Do you ever contribute anything but hateful insults to those that disagree with you? If you have a reasoned statement of fact to make…make it, and avoid the ad hominem chatter.

  • Quoted: “Jesus can heal our nation,” said former Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd to applause and cries of “Amen.”

    Hmm. One wonders why he hasn’t already done this?

  • If He told you why he thinks Jesus hasn’t done it he would reveal his own bigotry. He’s apparently too smart for that, unlike his brethren, Graham, Robertson, Huckabee – the list goes on and on.

  • Very soon. Any minute now.

    Any wont you be surprised when Jesus says, “Satan get thee behind me.” And “get away from me. I never knew you.”

    I won’t be surprised, but then, I’m an atheist.

  • Why didn’t you ask Doc that question? the OP mere posited something that doc disagrees with. He declared it was HATE. disagreement isn’t hate.

  • Jesus can heal our nation, but when he comes back, its going to be all fire and brimstone and earthquakes and floods and plagues of locusts and mythical beasts and seven headed hoo-hahs and all.
    And of course, since he is god, he doesn’t need all of the fireworks and drama, and in any case, wouldn’t be impressing anyone if he did. If there were anyone. And in any case, he could just snap his fingers and poof– everything is exactly the way he wanted it.
    So the question is, is it Jesus or his followers that that needs all of the drama? And why are these evangelicals praying to him? Trying to get him to change his mind? Letting him know that they are with him? Pleasing for him to spare them because they are special?
    What?

  • I’m sure I must have missed the exchange you mention, however, I frequently call out my fellow Christians when I think they’ve crossed the line of decent civility. I often visit a much more rabid religious website than this, and admonish my fellow believers for their coarse, vulgar, and unloving language; for my troubles, I get called a “Liberal,” an “idiot,” and am accused of self righteousness (I get that a lot from both the Left and Right). I agree disagreement is not hate. But I strenuously avoid personal insult. It does nothing to forward a point of view. If someone disagrees with me, that’s O.K. But stooping to name calling and gratuitous insult says something more about the person who responds in that way, than the person it’s directed towards.

  • I’ve met Atheists who can make reasoned arguments that I respect, but you don’t make arguments, you simply insult. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it, but I won’t block you, because I believe passionately in the freedom of speech, but I also believe in civility and decorum.

  • They certainly are praying to Him to let Him know they’re with Him, I would hope not because they think they are special. As far as changing His mind, that is more of an Old Testament strategy than New Testament. I think the reason He doesn’t just snap His fingers to make everything just the way He wants it, is because that would make us His creation, nothing more than automatons. It is His desire that we respond to Him out of our own volition, demonstrating our faith in him, and trust in Him. We don’t always get what we want…I certainly haven’t, but I have to trust He knows better than me what’s in my best interest.

  • I study the word. The bible is the truth. There is no peace to come sorry. I care for each and every person to argue. For the real truth is not an arguement. Jesus wearns us, he did not come to bring peace, when they say peace it will come upon them like the birth pains of a woman. The Pope is gathering a peace movement. The Beast ofd the sea. watch the movie: the bride and beast of babylon, this is the truth. god bless, us all.

ADVERTISEMENTs