WASHINGTON – For 12 hours under the beating sun and then a full moon, tens of thousands of people consumed nothing but water and juice as they shouted prayers for mercy and an awakening in America.
Church groups, pro-life advocates and youth flocked to the National Mall on Saturday for TheCall DC – a rally that organizers described as a sacred assembly and not a music festival.
"The cry for change in America is louder than the cry for mercy. We need mercy, not change!" TheCall founder Lou Engle shouted Saturday morning as he kicked off the 12-hour fast.
Joining Engle on the stage, former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee kneeled with the thousands gathered to cry out for mercy, mainly for the 50 million babies that have been killed through abortion.
"It's easy to point fingers ... and blame people in this place, but the problems that this country has are with us who claim we know the Lord but have not lived it and not been as faithful," said Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, at the backdrop of the Capitol dome. "So repentance and revival cannot start in the building behind me until it starts in the temple inside me."
Calling it a day for prayer and not politics, Huckabee continued, "We think answers for the nation's ills will be in the next election ...we know that ultimately unless we are faithful, unless we, oh God, have lived a life that pleases You it's hardly appropriate that we would expect others to please You."
TheCall DC came just months ahead of the 2008 presidential election. Organizers have said TheCall is not about the election but about a spiritual awakening. Engle says many leaders across America do not have hope in the political realm or anywhere else and that divine intervention is needed during what he called a "moral crisis of a huge magnitude."
Thus, corporate prayer and fasting seemed appropriate at this time.
TheCall held its first DC rally in September 2000, the year George W. Bush was elected president. Over 400,000 people crowded the National Mall then. This year, 100,000 people registered, according to Bishop Harry Jackson, who is on the national board of TheCall, but some reports say an estimated 50,000 people showed up, many of whom were young believers.
"I am so moved today. I see a young generation coming that wants God more than pornography, wants God more than food, wants God more than fame," said Engle.
Much of the prayers on Saturday were centered on abortion. Participants were adorned with the familiar red stickers reading "LIFE." Organizers, including Engle, insist that the foundational issue for young evangelicals is abortion, despite reports that say the young generation is shifting their focus to other issues.
"End abortion! Send revival to America!" the thousands sang at the DC rally.
TheCall is hitting countries around the world this year, including Brazil, Indonesia, Canada, France and Kenya. Its next U.S. stop is southern California where participants will make the call to protect traditional marriage, days before residents are scheduled to vote on an amendment that would overturn a ruling in May that legalized same-sex "marriage." TheCall California will be held in Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego on Nov. 1.