Missouri lawmakers gathered Wednesday afternoon on the first floor of the Capitol Rotunda to pray for America.
The "Keep Faith in America" event, sponsored by the Missouri Prayer Caucus, was part of a nationwide effort to join people together and share a message about faith, freedom, civility and prayer, said Ted Ballenger, Missouri caucus director.
Legislatures in about 40 states signed up to participate in the event, Ballenger said. Many held the event Monday. Since most Missouri legislators were out of town during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the state held its event Wednesday, he said.
In 2005, a group of congressional leaders "called a timeout before a big vote," Ballenger said. "They prayed before the vote."
The leaders began meeting regularly to pray over issues, he said.
Missouri Rep. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, acknowledged people gathered for the event were all there because they believe in the importance and the power of prayer. He said the audience at the event was there because it trusts God, as do legislators. And he compared the audience of about 25 people to Revolutionary War supporters.
Only about 25 percent of people living in the Colonies during the Revolutionary War supported the effort, Moon said. He added only about 8 percent actually participated in the effort.
"Eight percent of the people united with the right strategy changed the world," he said. "(Like them) the people who are here are the ones that need to be here."
State Sen. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane, described how prayer saved her twice. She said when she was 2, she had spinal meningitis and fell into a coma. Doctors thought if she ever came out of the coma, she would certainly be blind and most likely be deaf, Riddle said.
Her father prayed, and she woke and could see and hear.
At 45, a traffic accident crushed her back, pelvis and ribs, rupturing her intestines. Surgeons took her organs out and put them back in her body, she said. And she rapidly recovered. The doctors couldn't explain how she survived.
"What we found out later is I did have a really dear friend who brought people to the waiting room who prayed for God to knit me back together — which he did," she said. "Your prayers do matter."
As the event neared its conclusion, legislators read a proclamation by Gov. Eric Greitens, recognizing Jan. 16, 2018, as religious freedom day. Then, they read a pledge to "pray for America. Pray for our national, state and local leaders. Stand alongside those who stand for faith."
After the gathering, Mark Howard, who played piano during a musical interlude in the event, said he was surprised no one mentioned a Biblical passage he thought would be fitting.
"Pray first of all for those who are in authority, so we may lead quiet and peaceful lives," he said. "It's very important that we keep our leaders in prayer."
Riddle later reiterated that prayer works and God remains in her life.
"He's still got work for me to do," she said. "I'm grateful for his grace and mercy."