In this inspiring message recorded at the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast, U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black reminds Christians about the power of prayer and the importance of praying for government leaders.
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U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black: My friends, God wants us to pray when we need Him, even as a parent wants to be with child who needs him or her.
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John Fuller: That's U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black, who will have an inspiring message for you today on "Focus on the Family" on this National Day of Prayer. Your host is author and Focus president, Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller and Jim, a couple of months back, you were at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. when Chaplain Black delivered this message.
Jim Daly: And John, it was a great message. There were thousands of people kind of "shoehorned" into that event at the Washington Hilton for the prayer breakfast, but the President, the vice-president were there and Senate Chaplain Barry Black, someone who I was introduced to by our own Tim Goeglein, who works for Focus on the Family--he used to work for the Bush administration-- it was stellar.
John: Well, he's remarkable man, Chaplain Black. He began working as Senate Chaplain in 2003 and prior to coming to Capitol Hill, served in the U.S. Navy for over 27 years, ending his distinguished career as the Chief of Navy Chaplains.
Jim: And John, I'm tellin' you, as soon as I heard the speech, I made a note in my iPhone and just said, "We need to air this on 'Focus on the Family.'" So, we're grateful to the National Prayer Breakfast organizers allowing us to air this and for Salem Media, who recorded it.
The theme verse for this year's National Day of Prayer is from Daniel 9:19, which says, :O Lord, hear. O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not for Your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by Your name." That's a great reminder for us to be on our knees for our country today and every day.
John: And with that, here's U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black on today's "Focus on the Family."
Chaplain Black: I want to talk about making your voice heard in heaven. As has already been stated, our lawmakers get together each week for a prayer breakfast. One of the things that really inspires me about that prayer breakfast is the closing prayer when they stand and join hands and they pray together. To see Republican, Democrat, Independent, praying together, I find myself thinking where are the C-Span cameras when you need them, eh? (Laughter)
One senator observed, as some of you may have heard, it's difficult to pray like that and then leave that room and go to the upper chamber and secretively stab one of your colleagues in the back. The senator quickly added, it's not impossible (Laughter), but it is difficult. Fewer of you may know that the next day in one of the hideaways, senators from both sides of the aisle meet for a Bible study. The Bible study begins and ends with a prayer, again both sides of the aisle praying with and for one another.
Some of you may not know that every Wednesday the chiefs of staff get together for a Bible study that begins and ends with a prayer. Some of you may not know that every Friday, more than 100 staffers, Capitol police officers, janitors, waiters, waitresses come together for a Bible study. And that Bible study begins and ends with a prayer.
Paul had it right in Philippians 4:22, there are saints in Caesar's household. And I am encouraged by the robust spirituality of so many who work on Capitol Hill. We had senators who are under the radar but ordained ministers. I won't out any of them right at this time. We also have senators whose spirituality dwarfs my own. And so, we need to come together and realize that when we pray, we are making our voice, our voices heard in heaven. I believe they gather because of that.
Now, we work at making our voices heard on earth. We march; we left placards. We're involved in social media; we blog. We've got LinkedIn and we've got Google and YouTube and all the ways that we tried to make our voices heard on earth. But when I see a group of people of faith of this size, I get an adrenaline rush, because I know that where two or three are gathered together in God's name, He is there in the midst.
So, what happens when we get this many people gathered together in His name? I feel the palpable presence of God in this place, and far more important than letting our voices be heard on earth is the opportunity to make our voices heard in heaven.
Now I know that there are those who say that the efficacy of prayer does not go beyond the interior life of the intercessor. Prayer doesn't change anything, but I agree with Tennyson, that more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.
I also believe that when we pray, humanity cooperates with divinity. My friends, there are things we will never get except by request only. There are blessings that hang on silken cords that we will never receive except by request only. James chapter 4 verse 2 says, "You have not because you asked not."
In Matthew chapter 17, the disciples made an abortive attempt to cast out a demon from a boy. They were unsuccessful, of course. When they got Jesus privately, got Him somewhere privately, they asked Him, "Why couldn't we cast out the demons?" And Jesus said in Matthew 17:20, "Because of your unbelief, because if you had faith, the size of the grain of a mustard seed, you would be able (praise God) to move mountains." My friends, when we make our voices heard in heaven, it makes a palpable difference. So how do we do it?
Mr. President, you may be familiar with the Scripture because it was read at your inauguration, but it is so spot on. 1 Timothy, chapter 2:1-4, New Living Translation; I urge you, said the tentmaker from Tarsus to his protégé, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them. We need to pray for everyone, all people. We need to pray for all people. (Applause) Hallelujah to the Lamb of God. (Applause)
Ask God to help them, intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings, and all who are in authority, so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by Godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God, our Savior, who wants--hear this--who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. Praise God. What a word for those who want to make their voices heard in heaven.
So how do we do this? First of all we pray from a sense of need. I used to have about 45 seconds worth of prayer material, until I became a parent. My son is here today. Then you got plenty of prayer material, praise God. (Laughter) You pray out of a sense of need. My friends, God wants us to pray when we need Him, even as a parent wants to be with a child who needs him or her.
The Bible says in the 50th Psalm verse 15, "Call upon Me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you." In Philippians 4:4 and 7, the Bible says, "Have no anxiety about anything but pray about everything with thanksgiving." We pray out of a sense of need.
1 Chronicles, chapter 4:9 and10. The Bible says that this Jabez fellow who prayed a powerful prayer, he made his voice heard in heaven, says Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. And his mother named him Jabez because she said, "I bore him with sorrow."
Now imagine having your given name "Sorrowful". Imagine being introduced, you know. Senator, I'd like you to meet Chaplain Sorrowful Black." I mean, imagine (Laughter) the pushback that you would get. Ladies and gentlemen, our speaker Sorrowful Black. I mean, and Jabez says, verse 10, praise God, called upon the sovereign God out of a sense of need. He said, I love this prayer, he said, "Oh that You would bless me indeed," because every blessing is not a blessing indeed. In South Carolina where my mother came from and grew up, they used to talk about a "sure enough" blessing. That's a blessing indeed. I hope the translators won't have a problem with that, but we'll help you out, eh? (Laughter)
And Jabez said, "I want you to enlarge my territory." You see, you have not because you asked not. And then I love it. He says, "I want You to keep Your hand on me." Oh, my friends, just to have God's hand on us, we ought to pray that God hand will be on our President. I was talking with a Vice President backstage and I said I am praying that the hand of God will be on you. Ezekiel 37 says, "The hand of the Lord was upon me." We need people who govern, who have the hand of God on them. (Applause)
John: U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black on today's "Focus on the Family." There's more to come. Let me just say we have a free audio download of this message.
Jim: And I am glad to do it. This is the kind of message when you think about it, the President, the vice-president, other government officials being there, they heard a full-throated gospel presentation by Chaplain Black. And I don't want to restrain this in any way. If you want to get a free download, go to the website and it's there for you. Hopefully, you can pass it along to others who might need to hear the gospel for the first time.
John: Yeah that download is at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. And let's rejoin Chaplain Black as he concludes the story about Jabez as found in 1 Chronicles and carries that into his prayer point.
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Chaplain Black: And then he said, "I want you to keep me from evil, that it will not grieve me." My friends, God is no respecter of persons, Acts chapter 10 verse 34. If He did it for Jabez, He will do it for you and He will do it for me. So pray out of a sense of need.
Secondly, pray with intimacy. Jesus said to His disciples in John 15:6, "I no longer call you servants. I call you My friends." God wants a relationship with us. Jesus said again in His wonderful intercessory prayer in John chapter 17, verse 1 says, "He lifted His eyes to heaven and said Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also might glorify You, as You have given Him power to give to as many as would receive Him, eternal life." And verse 3 of john 17, "This is life eternal, that they might know You, Abba, Daddy and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."
My oldest son is in the audience, and one of my pet peeves is he calls and when he calls he says, "Hello, dad, this is Barry." Really? (Laughter) I mean I've got Caller ID and he's gotta identify himself? If I get a call that says, "Hello, darling," I should not respond, "Who is this?" (Laughter) God wants an intimacy with us. And so, in my tradition we sing a hymn that I love, "I Come to the Garden Alone"--someone knows this hymn—"while the dew is still on the roses and the voice I hear falling on my ears, the Son of God discloses. And He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me, Barry, you belong to Me. And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known."
Pray with intimacy. Pray like Hannah in 1 Samuel, chapter 1, when she wanted that baby. She prayed with such specificity and such intimacy and such fervency, that Eli, the priest thought she was inebriated. We need to pray with that passion and fervor. Finally, pray for those who govern, praise the Lord. Pray for those who govern.
Pray this way for kings and for all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. We fasted and prayed for months during the presidential election, the presidential primary. We fasted and prayed, hundreds of us on Capitol Hill, that the will of God might be done.
Isaiah 55:8 and 9, God says, "My thoughts are not your thoughts. My ways are not your ways." Newsflash, God is smarter than we are. (Laughter) I know that startles some of you. (Applause) One of those startling verses in the Bible for me is Daniel chapter 1, verse 1. It says, "And God gave Jehoiakim, the king of Judah, a good guy, delivered them into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. Now you remember Brother Nebuchadnezzar was a guy who said to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, "Heat the furnace seven times hotter than it is right now." God delivered Jehoiakim into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.
Now Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. He couldn't remember the dream. And he said, "Since you wise men can't remember the dream, I'll tell you what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna kill you and kill the members of your family and make your homes dung hills." And Daniel And Daniel walked out to Nebuchadnezzar and said, "We've been praying for you. God has given us what you dreamed and the interpretation of the dream." We must pray for those who govern, and make our voices heard in heaven.
I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. In fact, I grew up in Freddie Gray's neighborhood. Yeah, you remember that, right? My mother had a 4th-grade education, the daughter of a sharecropper--an activity that Martin King called "a new form of slavery covered up with certain niceties of complexity." So I grew up about 30 miles from Washington, D.C. I did not shake hands with a white person until I was 16-years-old. No white people in my church. No white people in my neighborhood. No white people in my school.
My mother motivated my siblings and me to study the Word of God. She provided us with a monetary incentive, 5 cents for every person you memorized. So if you would enter our domicile, you would find my siblings and me searching the Word of God for short Bible verses. (Laughter) I knew every short Bible verse in the book, okay? My favorite Bible verse is not John 3:16; it is John 11:35, "Jesus wept," powerful verse, powerful verse. (Laughter)
I love Luke 17:32, "Remember Lot's wife," powerful verse, powerful verse. (Laughter) 1 Thessalonians 5 is a treasure trove, "Quench not the spirit." "Rejoice evermore." "In everything give thanks." "Despise not prophesying." In fact, I was doing my riff on 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 and my mother put me on a flat rate. She said, "Hold it; hold it, hold it. (Laughter) I don't care how much you memorized, you're only gonna get a quarter, okay? All right." (Laughter) But my mother knew what she was doing.
One day I memorized 1 Peter 1:18 and 19. I was only 10 years of age. It says, "And we are redeemed not with corruptible things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ." And even at 10, I had sufficient analytical skills to know that the value of an object is based upon the price someone is willing to pay. And when it dawned on me, a little guy in the inner-city, that God said what John 3 calls in the Greek, the monogenes, the only one of its kind, His only Begotten Son to die for me, No one was ever able to make me feel inferior again. (Applause)
Moreover, I said I've got to get to know this Man who died for me. So, now it was not just for the nickels that I started reading the Word, it was to try to find this man. And as I searched the Scriptures, it was like a Zeffirelli [FYI: Sergio Leone] movie with the Man With No Name. I kept finding Him. In Genesis, He's Shiloh. In Exodus, He's the I AM. In Numbers, He's the Star and Scepter. In Deuteronomy, He's the rock.
In 1 Samuel, He's the Lord of Hosts. In Job, he is the Redeemer. In Psalms, He is the Great Shepherd. In Proverbs, He is the Beloved. I kept running into that Man.
In Isaiah, He's Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. In Daniel, he's the fourth man in the fiery furnace. In Micah, He is the one who's going forth of old. (Applause) He is from everlasting to everlasting. In Zechariah, He is the Branch. In Malachi, He is the messenger of the covenant.
Matthew calls Him Savior. Mark calls Him Son of Man. Luke calls Him the Great Physician. John calls Him the Word made flesh. Acts says He is the One who will mobilize as to witness. Philippians said God has exalted Him so that at His name, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that He is the Lord to the glory of God the Father.
1 Thessalonians says He is the One who will descend from heaven with a shout with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God. And Jude says He's able to keep me without stumbling or slipping and present me without fault, without blemish before the presence of His glory, with unspeakable, ecstatic delight in triumphant joy and exultation.
And John said, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, on that Isle of Patmos in the Aegean sea. I saw Him high and lifted up." He is Alpha; He's Omega. He is beginning; He is ending. And so, because I kept meeting that man, my hope does not rest in the various branches of government, executive, legislative or judicial. My hope does not rest in the alliances that we build. My testimony is simply this. "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. (Applause) I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name. (Applause) On Christ, the Solid Rock I Stand. All other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand."
God bless you.
Audience: (Applause and Cheers)
John: U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black with a rousing message on today's "Focus on the Family" as recorded at the National Prayer Breakfast a few months back in Washington, D.C.
Jim: Man, John, there was a ... a charge through that room and it came right through. The Holy Spirit came right through Chaplain Black and spoke to every heart in that room, including all of our government officials. It was awesome. Today is year 66 for the National Day of Prayer observance and we wanted to use this broadcast as a reminder, both personally and as the church to be in prayer for our families, for our country and for our leaders on this very day. To recap, Chaplain Black said we need to pray from a sense of need, pray with intimacy and pray for those who govern us.
John: Well, I so appreciated this message and as we said earlier, it's available to you today as a free download at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio for your encouragement, for you to play for someone else. Share it with someone who needs to hear what Chaplain Black said.
And then, he's written a book. He's got a very interesting story, Jim. The book is called Nothing to Fear: Principles and Prayers to Help You Thrive in a Threatening World. And of course, we've got that, as well at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio .
Jim: And John, let me remind people to pray for Chaplain Black. He is in an important role in the Senate as the Senate's chaplain. He sits with the members of the Senate to talk about travesty or issues related to their family, to their faith. That's an important role of influence. So, we need to remember to pray for him, as well.
And I think Nothing to Fear is a great insight into this chaplain, Chaplain Black and I'd like to make that available to you for a gift of any amount. Just help us cover the cost and we'll get that out to you as our way of saying thank you.
John: Again, www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or give us a call. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back next time, as we help you and your family thrive.
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Chaplain Barry BlackView Bio
In 2003, Rear Admiral Barry Black (Ret.) was elected the 62nd Chaplain of the United States Senate, becoming the first African American to hold the office. Prior to that, he served in the U.S. Navy for over 27 years, ending his distinguished career as the Chief of Navy Chaplains. Chaplain Black has authored three books: Nothing to Fear, The Blessing of Adversity and From the Hood to the Hill. He and his wife, Brenda, have three sons.