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Christian women gather on National Mall for day of prayer

Women prayed for racial reconciliation at the “Rise Up” prayer rally on Oct. 9, 2017, in Washington, D.C. Left to right are Beth Defrance of Colorado Springs, Colo., Akiliah Manuel Mills of Riverside, Calif., and Valerie Jungck of Colorado Springs, Colo. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

WASHINGTON (RNS) — Twenty years ago, men gathered as “Promise Keepers” and filled the National Mall for a prayer rally seeking repentance and spiritual revival.

On Monday (Oct. 9), it was the women’s turn.

A largely female audience of thousands gathered on the lawn in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol for the “Rise Up” prayer rally. Braving wind and rain, these Christian women —many charismatic or Pentecostal — declared their unity and sought God’s guidance to lead the nation.

At turns on their knees, huddled in small groups and facing a stage with hands raised, those gathered prayed for reconciliation between men and women, between racial and ethnic groups, and for ending abortion. In marked contrast to the Women’s March right after President Trump’s inauguration, these women had a different agenda.

“Know this: You have made history and you’re going to begin to see it unfold in the changes in government,” said Cindy Jacobs of the ministry Generals International as the gathering concluded. “You’re going to be able to see it unfold in the people that are saved.”

She told them that God will note what they accomplished on a humid and rainy day: “We’re going to make a decree right now on the count of three: a new Jesus People movement.”

Many wore yellow or transparent ponchos that had protected them from earlier rains. Others sat in chairs, held strollers with young children or the hand of the spouse who came with them.

Organizers — who did not give an estimate of the crowd size — had billed the event as a chance for “Esthers and Deborahs” – biblical women who are held up as courageous heroes — to congregate publicly and seek divine help to heal the nation. Some of the speakers, including Jacobs and Alveda King, an anti-abortion activist and niece of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., likened themselves to one of those two biblical heroes in videos summoning women to attend.

Baltimore resident Sandy Weiss, who wore a bright yellow T-shirt that declared “Jesus is my savior – not my religion,” said she followed the model of Esther and fasted and prayed for three days before she came to the Mall event.

“We’re looking for a spiritual revival of the world,” she said, adding that she’s praying for Trump. “He’s been personally anointed. He believes. He is a follower of the Lord.”

Speakers also talked about praying for Trump, and for President Obama before him, but another branch of government came under a pointed focus for prayer: the Supreme Court. At one point Jacobs and Lou Engle, founder of TheCall movement that sponsored the rally, took turns facing in the direction of the high court and prayed for the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion.

“We believe that we are in a moment when the judges of America can be shifted,” said Engle, after the assembled masses pasted their mouths with red “LIFE” stickers. “God gave us this dream that we are to pray for the reform or the resigning of judges.”

The crowd also prayed for millions more to adopt children – a response to critics of the anti-abortion movement.

Speakers took turns repenting for sins they said had been committed by others. Raleigh Washington, president of Promise Keepers, sought forgiveness from women who felt abused by men. Alveda King declared forgiveness for those repenting for racism.

Strangers gathered in circles, sometimes placing hands on the head of someone next to them or wrapping arms around one another as they prayed fervently. Sometimes they shouted. Sometimes they wept.

Rise Up followed the three-day “Awaken the Dawn,” an event that featured 50 tents along the expanse between the Capitol and the Washington Monument, with each one representing a different state.

For 72 hours, people prayed inside and outside of each tent, sometimes with a dozen or more others. Some women at Rise Up described spending hours with people from their state in designated tents.

When hundreds of thousands of men gathered on Oct. 4, 1997, some kneeled and others studied their Bibles. While that group was criticized for allegedly seeking to subjugate women, Monday’s event put women in prominent roles, leading most of the prayers and the worship songs.

Holly Pivec, an evangelical author of books on new Christian movements, said that while the Promise Keepers and some of their supporters questioned whether women should be in leadership roles, the leaders of the gathering on Monday had moved beyond those concerns.

“Many of them believe that women should be pastors and leaders in their churches and that they’ve been held back from those roles in more traditional churches,” she said in an interview before the event.

But some speakers spoke of being there more for unity than for feminism — criticizing the earlier Women’s March that took place at the same location.

Pivec is a blogger and critic of the New Apostolic Reformation, a series of networks that includes 3 million Americans in Pentecostal and charismatic churches.

She said the Rise Up event included some leaders of the movement, which focuses on a larger goal of sociopolitical transformation in addition to saving souls.

One woman from Alabama who attended with her husband and their four children said they were affiliated with NAR, while others called themselves “believers” or “Jesus followers.”

Engle’s ministry first gathered worshippers — tens of thousands of mostly charismatic Christian teens and adults — to the Mall in 2000 for 12 hours of prayer, preaching and music. It rained that day too, and most of the crowd stayed put.

Since that time, Engle has held “solemn assemblies” across the nation, in fields and stadiums.

Angie Aparicio, a Pentecostal from Santa Ana, Calif., said she felt her faith was affirmed by the latest rally.

“I feel more powerful by the Holy Spirit, with more vision, more motivated and free,” she said.

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.

55 Comments

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  • I’m surprised these women weren’t praying for our planet. The president they support has declared all-out war on God’s creation, and they should be praying for God to cause him to repent and change his ways. Nothing more important for children than to give them a healthy planet.

  • The group included Alveeda King and Cindy Jacobs. It was a pretty reactionary crowd and an astrotruf movement. Such people apparently have a vested interest in ignoring the obvious on many issues.

  • We are very blessed to have a good and faithful Christian woman as First Lady. Mrs. Trump stated that she is devoted to creating a home in the White House for her son and husband. This is the greatest calling that a woman could offer. She strives to provide our President and their son a loving home and family where they can retreat in peace at the end of each grueling day. Our First Lady’s humble righteousness gives stability, comfort and spiritual nourishment to her family and our Nation. May God Bless America.

  • According to Jesus Himself (Luke 16:18), she isn’t Trump’s actual wife at all, since she’s #3 on his list. Trump’s first wife is still alive, making Melania illegitimate, as was Marla Maples.
    If Jesus’ words are interpreted literally, both Donnie and Melania are engaged in unrepentant adultery. Adulterers by definition aren’t ‘good and faithful Christians’.
    If you don’t interpret Jesus’ words literally in this case, then you forfeit any right to claim to be a ‘Bible believer’, since Jesus spoke more explicitly and in more detail on this issue than virtually any other, which is why even His own disciples were stunned by these pronouncements.
    The perfect-present participle used in the New Testament Greek in these passages means that the liberal Protestant view (which also includes most ‘conservative’ evangelical views) is a huge distortion of Jesus’ clear meaning.
    The literal translation is ‘Whosoever divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery – and keeps on being guilty of adultery’, meaning that one cannot simply say ‘sorry God about that first divorce; I’ll get it right on this next marriage’.
    That is a textbook example of someone who has refused to repent.

  • Jeff,
    Mr. and Mrs. Trump are sinners who have been forgiven, both are publicly devoted to God and struggle to walk in righteousness. May God Bless.

  • Forgiven by whom? You?
    Certainly not God.

    The literal words of Jesus on the issue of divorce and remarriage make it impossible to say they have ‘repented’ since they are still living in their adulterous relationship. So-called evangelicals have created a false theology where ‘repentance’ is merely closing ones eyes and saying ‘Oops, sorry about that, Lord’, without ever changing their actual behavior.

    Repentance for the divorced and remarried would mean either ending their legal standing as a married couple and remaining single for the remainder of their lives, or, failing that, to cease engaging in all sexual activity together, which is an act of grave immorality in God’s eyes.

    Since Donald and Melania have a child together, it’s clear they haven’t abstained from sexual activity previously. I suppose it’s slightly imaginable that Melania has ceased her immorality with Donald (as would any sane woman), but you and I both know that’s almost certainly not the case. And thus, according to Jesus, they both remain unrepentant adulterers.

    Yes, God forgives. But the message of the gospel is ‘REPENT and be baptized, every one of you, for the remission of sins’.

    There is no forgiveness without repentance, and if one keeps on doing those things which God condemns, one cannot be said to have repented at all. Whatever ‘faith’ a person like that professes is a false faith, the kind that will cause Jesus to one day say ‘Depart from Me, you workers of iniquity. I never knew you.’

  • You now speak for God and the Bible regarding what sins are unforgivable, Jeff? Heh.

    Just say “I hate Trump no matter what” and save tons of time.

  • How weird, a bunch of “Christian” women who oppose women’s rights of conscience and religious liberty in dealing with problem pregnancies, who side with male misogynists. They seem ignorant of the fact that their Bible does not condemn abortion. And they support the misogynist-in-chief who lives in the White House. — Edd Doerr

  • “Reconciliation” in this case means “Shut up, unless you agree with us.” Another example of the true genius of reactionaries in how to make propaganda.

  • Sure, as soon as you admit that your love of Trump is far greater than your love for anything found in the Bible.
    And it is that very Bible that declares divorce and remarriage to be perpetual sin and adultery, regardless of how desperately you ‘evangelicals’ try and rewrite it. On this subject in particular, the Bible speaks for itself with amazing clarity.
    Which also begs the question – why do you accept it’s proclamations when it condemns the sins of people you don’t like, but all of a sudden become a non-literal, ‘oh, it doesn’t REALLY mean that’ liberal when it condemns your own sins?

  • Whether or not you believe in the god or the bible, Jeff’s logic is completely sound.
    Any attempts by thumpers to disprove that logic will simply reveal how flawed their own logic is. If one agrees with the word of the bible, specifically the Luke verse Jeff cited, there is no way a rational person could disagree with Jeff’s argument. Therefore, anyone who disagrees cannot be rational, thus we have come full circle to once again demonstrating the irrationality of Christian dogma. Of course, some of us knew it all along, but sometimes they need a little more light to see clearly.

  • Whether other’s are blessed or burdened by this event, I applaud the freedom exercised by these women to stand in defense of this nation’s primary values which is largely quite evident by the tenor of their expressions as elucidated on these pages. Agree or disagree, be thankful that such freedom remains both the letter and the spirit of the law.

  • (a) I take it pro-choice women were not invited to pray. That’s fine — as long as the pro-life groups that complained they were excluded from the Women’s March take back their complaints. It’s a free country (for now). Include or exclude who you want.
    (b) The next time I hear an uber-traditionalist Catholic call certain Popes (not just Francis) heretics for praying with Protestants, even with non-Christians (heaven forfend!), I am going to stick that picture of Pavone right in their face.
    (c) Is Sandy Weiss’s shirt saying that Jesus is not her religion, or that her religion is not her savior?
    (d) “I release it, I release it/So that you may increase in me.” too easy.

  • I am more interested in them being devoted to God in their private life. Too many Christians are devoted to God in public for show

  • Go crawl back under your rock. I will let God be my judge not you and not traditions at the time of Christ.

  • But you won’t let God be the judge of others. You have taken it upon yourself to take that role. Sorry, the position appears to have been already taken.

  • We all know many Christians like yourself have never let being without sin keep them from throwing self-righteous stones.

  • You know nothing about me but I have probably brought more to Christ than you with your bias bigotry. If the role of God has been taken then why don’t you stop applying for it

  • So let’s cut right to the chase:

    Where exactly did Jesus say that divorced-and-remarried people had to divorce their current spouse or go celibate on them or else God would consider them still unrepentant?

    Where does Jesus say that God won’t forgive Trump unless he dumps Melania or goes celibate on her?? You’re going a bit BEYOND what the Bible says. Doesn’t work.

    Now folks, this is the RNS. This ain’t no Hooligan HuffPost. So if you choose to hate on Trump, so be it, but if you try to appeal to the Bible to support that hate, you gotta support what you say.

  • Well said Edward! I am so grateful for the Women who took time out of their lives to take a stand to pray for our country. May God open the eyes to the blind regardless on where you stand.

  • God Bless this assembly, God Bless America. I support and pray with you all as Children of God. Not sociopolitical divisions of nuances but as fellow worshipers of Jesus Christ. In Unity Lord we call on you to Heal our Land. Amen.

  • You seem to be approaching this subject with a closed mind. I urge you to follow in the footsteps of C.S. Lewis, who was an avowed atheist challenged by a close friend to prove there was no God. In Lewis’ quest to do that, he read the Bible. The result of his ‘reasoning’ in-depth study is history. Lewis became one of the World’s most eloquent Christians of modern times. Why don’t you try doing that yourself? You just might be surprised by the result.–

  • You are wrong. The president has NOT ‘declared all-out war on God’s creation’ as you stated. You are listening to the wrong media channel if you believe that.–

  • You are guilty of ‘judging.’ “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.” Be careful of judging others…. you have not the clairvoyance nor the wisdom of God. Who are you to say who is forgiven and who is not?

  • Actually, this has nothing to do w/ the media. I am a pastor, but I’m also an environmental advocate and very engaged with policies and actions in D.C. I know exactly what they are doing and which industry lobbyists are writing their rules. It’s all there in black and white, released by trump people, not the media: weakening protection of air, water, wildlife, and public lands. Not to mention rolling back efforts to protect the climate.

  • Beyond what the Bible says? Hardly. You must not have picked one up recently.
    Perhaps you recall Jesus’ words to the woman found in adultery – “Go and sin no more’?
    If remarriage after divorce is perpetual, unrepentant adultery – and it’s JESUS who says that it is, not me – then the only remedy, the only true repentance for that, is to cease engaging in sexual activity with your adulterous partner, i.e. your second ‘spouse’.
    This is not just a Catholic interpretation, by the way. Until American evangelicals started trying to be hip enough to hang with the cool kids in secular culture, they too had a very strict line on people engaging in ‘serial monogamy’. Baptists in particular used to regard it as such a serious moral failure that one could be asked to leave the church for such a thing.
    No more, however. If they went back to their old beliefs, they know good and well that they’d lose half their congregations.

  • Your Bible also implies (Gen. 1:27 and 2:7) that human personhood begins with the first breath. The Hebrew biblical word for person is “nephesh,” which means something that breathes. The Bible does not condemn abortion, only the murder of born persons. Well over 99% of abortions are performed before fetal viability at about 23 weeks of gestation. All this comports with science, which, scientists have told the Supreme Court, holds that a functioning brain, necessary for being a person, is not possible before 28-32 weeks of gestation. So, both the Bible and science support every women’s right to terminate a problem pregnancy as a matter of rights of conscience and religious liberty. — Edd Doerr

  • I’m old enough to remember the Pre-Roe v. Wade country. It was not a good country. A classmate died from what was said to have been an illegal abortion. There was the gossip, the pathetic euphemisms, the fear.

  • Well, Jesus didn’t forbid having more than one wife, just divorcing a wife. Judging from the reaction of the apostles, it was at least party to discourage men from marrying at all, and partly to take the side of the School of Shammai on divorce against the School of Hillel.

    So, even if you don’t recognized the Trump divorces, having more than one wife isn’t strictly against scripture, even if it is against European Christian teachings and tradition.

  • While it may have been unsaid and unprayed over, you can practically feel a fog of homophobia over the event.

  • Here is the GLAAD file on Lou Engle. You would need to go the website for the links.

    — Prayed that 100,000 gays and lesbians would become “ex-gays,” which he said would bring about “radical salvations and healings of AIDS.”

    — Said the “homosexual agenda” is one of two “spiritual powers that were coming to sweep this nation” based in the “spiritual powers of death, the gates of hell.”

    — Said: “If we’re struggling with a homosexual, same-sex desire, LET THE BIBLE KILL YOU, rather than make it easier for you, and say well, there must be a better scriptural answer to this … Brothers and sisters, let the Bible kill you rather than you twist the scriptures! And in that killing, it will break you so that you can find a redeemer and a savior!”

    — While the so-called “Kill The Gays” bill was being debated in Uganda, Engle made an appearance at an anti-gay rally in Kampala. One reporter noted “[Ugandan leaders] told me that Engle had explicitly expressed his support for the bill, telling them that he had to lie to the Western media because gays control it.” The bill calls for the death penalty as punishment for being gay.

    — Publicly prayed for Ellen Degeneres to be “converted” so that God could use her to “change the minds of the masses” and tell the current generation that being gay is not acceptable. (0:10 – 0:13)

    — Said of criminal sanctions against homosexuality: “For instance, the court case Lawrence v. Texas, is the court case that basically decriminalized homosexuality in the U.S. Everybody knew that when that bill passed, or when that court case shifted, then it opened the door for the legalization, for the definition, or the legalization of same-sex marriage, which is now rolling into America. We knew that. So I’ve always had—yes, there needs to be a principled stand. There needs to be some kind of restraint from the homosexual agenda being able to roll over this, a nation that does not want it.”

    — Said that students who fail to take an anti-gay stand are being marked by “the beast”: “To compromise for the sake of getting a grade, you’re practicing to receive the mark of the beast”

  • Here is an excerpt from Right Wing Watch on a teaching by Cindy Jacobs. So…do as Cindy Jacobs says or God will kill birds. Doesn’t the Bible have something to say about extortion?

    “According to biblical principles, marriage is between a man and a woman, so we have to say “what happens when a nation makes a decision that’s against God’s principles?” Well, often what happens is that nature itself will begin to talk to us – for instance, violent storms, flooding. And you know there are actually some patterns that you can see where a nation will make a decision that is contrary to the principles of God and after that there is some kind of answer that God gives – being the God of creation, the God who created nature – but we don’t always understand what He’s saying.

    Well, there’s something interesting we have been watching – let’s talk about this Arkansas pattern and say, could it be a pattern? We’re going to watch and see. But the blackbirds fell to the ground in Beebe, Arkansas. Well the Governor of Arkansas’ name is Beebe. And also, there was something put out of Arkansas called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by a former Governor, this was proposed, Bill Clinton. As so, could there be a connection between this passage [Hosea 4] and now that we’ve had the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, where people now legally in the United States have broken restraints with the Scripture because the Scripture says in Romans 1 that homosexuality is not allowed.

    It could be because we have said it’s okay for people who commit these kinds of acts to be recognized in our military for the first time in our history, there is a potential that there is something that actually happened in the land where a hundred thousand drum fish died and also where these birds just fell out of the air.”

  • You might search for “How Alveda King is turning MLK’s ‘dream’ into a nightmare” by Earl Ofari Hutchinson, The Grio; August 27, 2010

  • “a functioning brain, necessary for being a person, is not possible before 28-32 weeks of gestation”

    Is that a fact? It’s also a fact that preemie survival rates are 39% at 24-week gestation, 50% at 25 weeks, 80% at 26 weeks, and 90% at 27 weeks. My own daughter spent 13 days in the NICU, and during all that time I never heard the preemies there referred to as anything but children. Certainly not “non-persons.”

  • But they are continuing to sin. So they are not repentant. If 2Rump were repentant, he would go back to wife #1.If she were stupid, shed would accept him.
    and who told you they were forgiven? Got a letter from god?
    but thanks for demonstrating that for oyu, the Word of god is a weapon to be used against others.,

  • Pre-28-week preemies, having been born even if their brains are not developed enough for consciousness, are legal persons under US law. Of course many pre-28 week preemies either do not survive or, if they do, may well have lifelong serious health problems. None of this, of course, has anything to do with every women’s right to follow her own conscience in deciding what to do about a problem pregnancy.

  • The headline should read: The Harlots of Patriarchy gather at the National Mall for day of prayer. That would make more sense.

  • Since they refuse to give out any numbers regarding attendance I am assuming there were only a few who attended this ridiculous event.

  • On the last point, it was quite refreshing to see the Global Warmers finally get their comeuppance for their one-sided, climategate-sodden, dissenter-bullying mess.

  • There’s no such thing as a “global warmer.” They are called scientists, teachers, and health professionals. And concerned citizens. And Christians. FYI.

  • Wait what?? You must be a troll, are you blind? She slaps away his hand, spends as little time she can at the WH. Can you not see that she hardly ever smiles? What is wrong with you?

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