(WASHINGTON) — It’s not a position that’s often in the spotlight – but with the government shutdown still ongoing, the Senate chaplain captured the nation’s attention last week with a surprising scolding for the legislators he pastors.
“Remove from them that stubborn pride,” Chaplain Barry Black entreated in his opening prayer in the Senate chamber as the shutdown stretched into its fourth day. “Forgive them for the blunders they have committed.”
Black’s heartfelt yet strictly non-partisan prayers have subtly evolved over the past two weeks, adjusting to the most pressing issues facing senators each day.
Prompted by news of the delay of benefits for military families, on day nine Black said, “It’s time for our lawmakers to say ‘enough is enough,” asking God to “cover our shame with the robe of your righteousness.” On day eleven Black called on the Lord to “give our lawmakers the wisdom to distinguish between truth and error.”
“Give them a hatred of all hypocrisy, deceit and shame as they seek to replace them with gentleness, patience and truth,” he said.
Every day of the government shutdown, Black has continued to open the senate chamber with a prayer for Congress to find a solution – even though he himself isn’t being paid for his efforts.
“I’m being remunerated from above,” Black told ABC’s John Donvan on This Week. “And that’s pretty special.”
Black, a former Navy Rear Admiral with a doctorate in psychology, has the respect and affections of senators on both sides of the aisle. Several dozen join him weekly for prayer breakfasts and bible study.
“One senator came to me and said, ‘Chaplain, I hope our lawmakers are listening, because I’ve been following your prayers very closely for the last four to five days. And they are really making a difference in my reflections,’” Black said.
Throughout the crisis Black has called upon members of the Senate to examine their consciences and reflect on the damage caused by the shutdown. Although he is voicing his prayers in a public forum, Black said his conversation is with God alone – not with lawmakers.
“The fact that they overhear it is just one of the fortuitous advantages of what I do,” Black said.
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