Missouri lawmakers heard calls to lead with grace and let God guide their decision-making hours before Wednesday's start of the 2023 legislative session.
About 150 people attended the 18th annual prayer service and breakfast for government leaders Wednesday morning at Concord Baptist Church in Jefferson City. The hour-long service is intended to "seek God's wisdom for Missouri's legislative, executive and judicial leadership" at the onset of the legislative session, according to the event program.
After opening prayers and a scripture reading, Rev. Kenny Qualls of First Baptist Church of Arnold offered a charge to the General Assembly, urging legislators to "abide by God" and grow in their faith.
"The key to not having a life that amounts to nothing is to know that without Jesus you are nothing and without Jesus you can do nothing," Qualls told the lawmakers.
"The single greatest thing you can do as a state leader and a state legislature is number one, know Jesus as your savior, and number two, abide in Jesus daily as your source," he continued.
Qualls referenced Missouri's state symbols, specifically the Norton Grape, to explain the ideal relationship with God as described in the Bible.
"It's all about the vine," Qualls told the congregation, referring to a healthy relationship with Christianity and God. "Without the vine, a branch is powerless, lifeless and useless. It's just a dead stick on the ground."
Qualls said a strong relationship with Jesus bleeds into interactions with others, including an elected official's relationship to their constituents.
The Rev. Timothy Faber of the Missouri Baptist Convention led prayer for the governor and executive branch.
Gov. Mike Parson and first lady Teresa Parson were seated in the front row while other statewide elected officials were scattered throughout the audience.
Faber said government leaders are no strangers to challenges and opposition but reminded them that those who are different are not an enemy. Faber prayed for God to grant lawmakers grace when dealing with others and to be bold in carrying out God's will.
Lincoln University President John Moseley led a prayer for the Missouri Senate while the Rev. Matt Goodsell of Capitol Ministries prayed for the Missouri House.
Several area lawmakers attended the service, including: Reps. Rudy Veit, R-Wardsville; Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City; and Willard Haley, R-Eldon. Several Cole County and Jefferson City officials were also in attendance.
Goodsell prayed for the words of representatives to "consistently be seasoned with grace, mercy and understanding."
Moseley urged senators to look beyond party affiliation and "understand that we have a lot more in common than the world often wants us to acknowledge." Seek first to understand before being understood, he told them.
"I pray that this Senate will serve as an example of civility and production for the rest of this nation," Moseley said.