Senate Chaplain Barry Black, 64, has been delivering the morning invocation on Capitol Hill almost every day since taking over the position in 2003.
Though he maintains that his opening prayers are nonpartisans, he openly acknowledges that they are deliberately political.
"My prayers have to have a political intonation if I am to be germane to the environment and the context," Black told the New York Daily News. "What do you want, the ‘Our Father’ when you've got a government shutdown, you've got hundreds of thousands of people out of work, you've got folk who don't know whether they are going to be able to pay their mortgage, and I am supposed to get up and say, 'Let us pray, 'Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep?'"
Here are a few samples of Black's powerful pre- and post-shutdown "conscience checks":
Eternal God, as our nation stumbles toward a seemingly unavoidable government shutdown, keep our lawmakers from sowing to the wind, thereby risking reaping the whirlwind. Let them remember that all that is necessary for unintended catastrophic consequences is for good people to do nothing. Lord, lead them away from the unfortunate dialectic of us versus them. (Sept. 30th)
Save us from the madness. We acknowledge our transgressions, our shortcomings, our smugness, our selfishness and our pride. [...]
Deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable. Remove the burdens of those who are the collateral damage of this government shutdown, transforming negatives into positives as you work for the good of those who love you. (Oct. 3rd)
Forgive us also when we put politics ahead of progress. (Oct. 7th)
Black, a rear admiral who spent nearly three decades ministering in the Navy, was installed as the Senate's first African-American chaplain exactly ten years ago by Bill Frist (R-TN), who was the Senate Minority Leader at the time.