Legislative prayer service settles in as January tradition
JEFFERSON CITY – Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder paused for a moment of reflection in the back of the sanctuary just before the third annual Legislative Prayer Service, Jan. 3, at Concord Baptist Church.
“The Lord told us that when more than one is gathered in His name, He is among us, so I always have that feeling when I go to worship,” Kinder said. “What could be a more appropriate time than the beginning of the lawmaking session that is ordained of God—and we’re all servants of His—and so we gather in His name to bless that endeavor. It’s very important, and it goes back to the founding of the country, where there were prayers at the constitutional convention.”
Kinder was one of several dignitaries in attendance at the event which is set apart to honor the executive, legislative and judicial branches of Missouri state government. Gov. Matt Blunt maintained his perfect attendance record, occupying his customary seat on the first pew. The governor was flanked by Kerry Messer, lobbyist for the Christian Life Commission (CLC) of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), and MBC Executive Director David Clippard. To the right of Messer sat Pathway Editor Don Hinkle.
“It’s always a nice service,” Blunt said. “It’s a great way to kick off the legislative session.”
Other luminaries who came to the prayer service and/or preceding breakfast in the Family Life Center included Sen. Pro Tem Michael Gibbons, R-Kirkwood, Missouri State Supreme Court Judge Mary Rhodes Russell and several heads of state departments.
The event was covered statewide by the Associated Press, and the Jefferson City News-Tribune made room on its front page for an article and a photograph.
“I’m glad that Missouri Baptists do this,” said master of ceremonies Michael Knight, pastor of First Baptist Church of Viburnum and a member of the MBC Executive Board. “It’s a wonderful experience.”
The focus of the event, which is sponsored by The Pathway, the CLC and the host church, is prayer. Dedicatory prayers were offered by four Missouri Southern Baptist pastors. Music was provided by soprano Cindy Baumann, who performed a stirring rendition of “God Bless America,” pianist Debbie Poire of Concord Baptist Church and MBC Worship Specialist John Francis, who led congregational singing. CLC Chairman Rodney Albert delivered an 18-minute message even as prayer remained the centerpiece of the program.
Bruce McCoy, pastor of Canaan Baptist Church in St. Louis and first vice president of the MBC, was charged with praying for state senators, their families and staff. He chose to invoke the memory of the late President Gerald R. Ford, whose funeral was taking place in Grand Rapids, Mich., that very day, as an example to Missouri’s civil servants.
“I pray that his life of humility, honor and compassion will cast a shadow of wisdom over this 94th General Assembly,” McCoy prayed.
MBC President Mike Green, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Republic, felt led to apologize to the government leaders for the various moral failures of Christian leaders that seem to be on the increase.
“Dear friends in the world of politics, I apologize for me and for the people who claim to serve Jesus Christ,” Green said. “We fail you, and I don’t blame you when you don’t listen to us, but I ask you this morning, forgive us.”
Green then prayed for the judicial branch, their families and staff.
Host Pastor Monte Shinkle prayed for Blunt, Kinder and the other members of the executive branch, their families and staff. Rounding out the prayer lineup was David Krueger, pastor of First Baptist Church, Linn, who prayed for state representatives, their families and staff.
Albert, preaching from Romans 13, instructed the civil servants that all authority is from God, which means that they are to govern by honoring God. Anything apart from that is usurpation and insurrection, he said.
He went on to state that government officials are God’s ministers. Proceeding from that truth, he preached that governing is to follow and execute God’s desires for His kingdom.
Albert’s third point was that everyone is due something, which means to the government official that to honor God by extending His kingdom by the way you govern, means that the government official will be honored.
“We are ministers of God,” Albert said. “You, as a civil servant, are a minister of God. Discharge your duty well.”
Projected high above the sanctuary on two big screens was part of the Bible verse Isaiah 9:6, which reads: “And the government will be on his shoulders.” The reference is to King Jesus, ruler of all nations and sovereign over the government of Missouri.
Plans are already in place for a fourth service next January at Concord Baptist Church.