The Senate’s chaplain, retired Admiral Barry C. Black, deserves some credit for the debt deal President Barack Obama and congressional leaders reached Sunday night following his prayers which turned more zealous as the chamber slid closer to a national default.
“The waters are coming in upon us,” The Washington Post quoted Black’s Sunday morning prayer as saying. “We are weary from the struggle, tempted to throw in the towel. But quitting isn’t an option.”
Hours later came President Obama’s announcement, boosting markets around the world: “The leaders of both parties, in both chambers, have reached an agreement that will reduce the deficit and avoid default.” A major adversity was averted.
Back on July 20, the 64-year-old chaplain was speaking only in hopeful generalities, the daily noted. Beginning the session with a prayer, the former Chief of Navy Chaplains asked God to “give to our lawmakers the wisdom to know the role they should play, in keeping freedom’s holy light bright.”
Six days later, the status quo remained, Black asked more help for the lawmakers. “Keep them,” he prayed, “from the pit of disunity and discord. And empower them to build bridges of cooperation. Give them the courage and humility to do what is right, knowing that you are the only constituent they absolutely must please.”
The 62nd Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, Black became the first African-American and the first Seventh-day Adventist ever elected to hold this position in June 2003. And part of his job has been to open Senate sessions with a brief prayer.
On July 27, “lawmakers only descended further into that pit of disunity... the Senate seemed to be digging that hole deeper,” the daily said. Black’s prayers began to warn of the consequences if the Senate did not straighten up and act right. “Lord,” the chaplain prayed that morning, “as our nation faces the potentially catastrophic [sic], inspire our lawmakers to seek your counsel which will stand forever.”
The two sides still remained divided, and the catastrophe came nearer on July 29. Black prayed, “Lord, help them to comprehend the global repercussions of some poor decisions, and the irreversibility of some tragic consequences. Quicken their ears to hear. Their eyes to see. Their hearts to believe and their wills to obey you. Before...” After a brief pause, to add emphasis to the warning, Black continued, “...it is… too late.”
July 30 came with no good news, impelling Black to be more specific with God: “We need you on Capitol Hill,” he said. Then he referred to John’s Gospel, saying, “When night comes… Deliver our lawmakers from the paralysis of analysis, when constructive and prompt action is desperately needed,” he asked. “Faced with potentially disastrous consequences, give the members of this body the wisdom to work while it is day. For the night comes, when no one can work.”
The chaplain’s work is not over yet. The agreement now has to be passed by both houses in Congress in the coming days, and that requires even more prayers.