Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette: D.C. lawmakers gather in Statuary Hall to pray

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Capitol has chaplains. Initially it had church services, too.

Now that practice, abandoned at some point after the Civil War, has been revived — on a yearly basis, at least — by some of Congress’ Christian members.

On Wednesday, lawmakers and their guests gathered in Statuary Hall — the old House of Representatives chamber — to sing, share their faith and celebrate America’s religious roots.

More than two dozen legislators, including two Arkansans and House Speaker Paul Ryan, delivered prayers as members of a predominantly Republican audience bowed their heads.

Known as “Washington, A Man of Prayer,” the event takes place around April 30, the anniversary of the date in 1789 when President George Washington took the oath of office in New York City. According to tradition, Washington added the words “so help me God” to the end of the official oath and then kissed the Bible that had been used for his inauguration. With the ceremony completed, he and his entourage headed for a church service at St. Paul’s Chapel.

Ryan said Washington set the right example. “He began his presidency by invoking the Almighty, and that is also how he ended it,” Ryan said.

Encouraging his listeners to rely on God, Ryan said: “We need to seek him now. In good times and in bad. We need to always ask for his guidance, follow in his ways.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California asked the Lord to “make us men and women after your own heart.”

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