'Prayer pressure’: The Senate chaplain’s crusade to bring Congress to its knees

John Donvan, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps
Power Players
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Power Players

In the course of the Senate’s ordinary business, the chaplain is a somewhat anonymous figure. After delivering a prayer when the Senate convenes each day, he fades from the public view and into the background of the daily debate.

But since the government shutdown began two weeks ago, business in the U.S. Senate has been anything but ordinary as have the prayers from Chaplain Barry Black.

"Deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable," Black appealed in one of his recent morning prayers that have been doled out like daily scoldings to the deadlocked Congress.

Black sat down with “Power Players” to discuss the critical tone of his recent prayers, explaining that he sees it as his job “to be gadfly of sorts” – spurring his congregation of senators to action.

“I'm not judging and I'm not scolding, actually,” Black said. “My responsibility as a pastor is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. I need to be a gadfly of sorts. … I think that I should reflect the challenges of the environment that I'm working in.”

And, he adds, his prayers are not only for the lawmakers’ ears, but for God’s.

“I also believe that my prayers make a difference because God answers prayers,” Black said.

Despite the fact that Black is criticizing the congregation of senators whom he serves, he says he has received positive feedback.

“I've had senators say to me frequently, ‘Keep the prayer pressure on’,” Black said. “One senator come to me and said, ‘Chaplain, I hope our lawmakers are listening, because I've been following your prayers very, very closely … and they are really making a difference in my reflections’."

If you think the Senate isn’t a very prayerful place, Black says think again: “You'd better believe it.”

“I think there is something about the challenge of doing this job that strengthens your prayer life,” Black said. “People who are used to getting things done, former governors and mayors, find themselves in perpetual check. And that can be very exasperating and make you call on the transcendent.”

For more of the interview with Black, including why he says he’s not too worried about the fact that he is one of the many government employees whose pay has been frozen since the shutdown began, check out this episode of “Power Players.”

ABC’s Gary Westphalen, Alexandra Dukakis, Mark Stoddard, Wayne Boyd, Mary Quinn, and Pat Glass contributed to this episode.


For in-depth photos of the U.S. government shutdown, visit the Yahoo News slide show.