WASHINGTON — Many of the nation's most influential pastors and spiritual leaders gathered at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial Saturday for UnitedCry DC16 to offer much-needed prayer for America.
The day's proceedings were called to order by the bellowing of a shofar, a horn used in ancient Jewish tradition to bring people together, as a diverse gathering of thousands of participants across denominations, ethnicities and generations braved wintry elements to act as intercessors seeking God's forgiveness and favor on behalf of the nation.
UnitedCry's emphasis on repentance, spiritual revival and empowerment called for reflection on the legacy of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and included a ceremonial foot washing for members of the King family to atone for America's past wrongs against King and the struggle for racial equality.
Drs. Alveda and Bernice King, the niece and daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., respectively, among others, represented the King family as pastor and historian Mike Berry prayed that God would cleanse the nation of its past trangressions of dehumanization and racism.
Following the foot washing, Alveda King opened up to The Christian Post to share her feelings about the symbolic gesture. According to King, the need for repentance was not one-sided.
"A lot of prayer went forth to bring us to this moment," King told CP. " ... The repentance is needed on both sides, and you notice that the response from the King family [was], 'We repent, we forgive and we love.' And so it has to come on both sides so that that deep healing can come, and we believe that this is definitely a sign that that is happening."
King believes that America's reverence for Christ veered off course decades ago. "We [went] off track in America when we took prayer out of schools in 1963," she said. "When we began to no longer regard the sanctity of life in 1973 (Roe v. Wade). When we begin to believe that 'in God we trust' is something that's just printed on the money, but not imprinted on our hearts. If my uncle Martin Luther King, Jr. were here today — my daddy's brother (Rev. Able King) — [he] would say, 'Come back to God,' and I believe that that was part of our mission today."
The activist and former Georgia state representative added that prayer has always been the foundation of America, and without it the nation would be headed for disaster. "You will know that this nation is really in trouble when the people no longer pray."
UnitedCry founder Lewis Hogan believes that many of the country's problems can begin to improve when its spiritual leaders come together in unity and prayer, and that's exactly what they did at Saturday's event. Some of the nation's leading pastors and faith leaders, including Ronnie Floyd, Anne Graham Lotz, Jim Garlow, Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr., Doug Stringer, and Samuel Rodriguez, participated.
Hogan previously told The Christian Post, "There is hope for America and prayer can make a difference."
Prayer gatherings like UnitedCry are not isolated events. From coast to coast prayer movements seem to be catching on. On the same day as DC's UnitedCry another prayer event, Azusa Now, was simultaneously unfolding in Los Angeles, California at the L.A. Coliseum, and at one point the two events shared a live simulcast.
Azusa Now commemorates the historic Azusa Street Revival of 1906 in which blacks, whites, Asians and Latinos came together and received an outpouring of Christ's spirit as prophesied in the Book of Acts, ushering in the Pentecostal Movement. The Christian Post reported that Azusa Now had more than 115,000 people register. On its event website, Azusa Now asks: "If the kingdom has expanded in spite of our division, how much more could it achieve in unity?"
The fact that Azusa Now and UnitedCry were held on the same day was more than just good planning. UnitedCry took place on April 9 to honor the Azusa Street Revival, which occurred on April 9, 1906. But the symbolism doesn't end there.
As previously reported by The Christian Post, April 9 is also significant in that it pays homage to April 9, 1865, the end of the strife of the American Civil War battle of Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Furthermore, as President Abraham Lincoln once tried to unite a racially divided nation, UnitedCry was symbolically situated beneath the Lincoln Memorial.
Epic prayer gatherings like these are becoming a regular occurrence as God pours a common vision into the hearts of His people, said evangelist Nick Hall, who was on hand at UnitedCry to lead attendees in prayer during a portion of the program.
This summer Hall is set to host his own prayer gathering in the nation's capital, called Together2016. The founder of PULSE, a prayer and evangelism movement to empower the church and awaken the culture to Jesus, Hall is calling on Americans to unite on the National Mall on July 16 to offer prayer that God will change the hearts of a divided America.
While the premise of Hall's event may sound similar to UnitedCry, the evangelist told The Christian Post that Together2016, which is geared more toward millennials, will be very different.
"There's a lot of things that happened today [at UnitedCry] that won't happen at Together, because Together is more of a millennial [event]," he told CP. "If the next gen is going to plan a prayer gathering, it's going to look different." As a millennial himself, Hall has been dubbed by some as the "Billy Graham of the next generation."
Although the evangelist says his event will be very different from UnitedCry, he maintains that God's plan is the same.
" ... We're just really believing that God is doing something when you see the massive rallying and the call for unity, and all of these things happening. It just seems like it's something that's on God's heart. This isn't just something that people are coming up with [on their own]. It seems like across different lines, people that weren't talking, people that didn't know anything about each other — God is kind of downloading the same vision into many people's hearts."