Missouri's governor and first lady were among more than 100 people, including multiple state lawmakers, who attended a special prayer service Wednesday morning as the state's 101st General Assembly prepared to get underway.
Organizers held the "Prayer Service for Missouri Government Leaders" at Concord Baptist Church in Jefferson City.
The Rev. Monte Shinkle, senior pastor at the church, said this year's service would be a little different than others. He decided to — instead of simply praying for government leaders — pray over some of the major issues lawmakers face.
Prayers, Shinkle said, would focus on issues such as racial unity, the COVID-19 pandemic and "election controversies that rage around us."
"And an issue that continues to hang over us as a nation — and that is the issue of sanctity of life," he said.
Truth was the theme for the Rev. Jon Nelson's discussion on the charge to elected officials.
Nelson, pastor at SOMA Community Church in Jefferson City, said he wanted to pray for lawmakers and get into a simple subject they could talk about — truth.
Nelson prayed for God to be in the midst of all the lawmakers do this year, that he guides them, shapes their spirits, lifts them and gives them strength.
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Following the prayer, he said one of the things his parents did well was to tell him the truth, even when it hurt. He said he does the same with his children.
"I'm going to tell you the truth, even if you don't like it. Even when it hurts," Nelson said. "And sometimes they don't like that."
For a Christian soldier, a vital piece of armor is the armor of truth, Nelson said. It is vital to have on so Christian soldiers are always ready for action.
He said he didn't know if all the legislators he was addressing were Christians.
"But if you are, I charge this to you — that you should be the soldiers of truth because our enemy is the father of lies," Nelson said. "Therefore, we live in truth."
Truth gives Christians guidelines for the honor and integrity of their Christian walk. The belt of truth, he said, holds Christian soldiers' armor close to their body and keeps it from flapping about as they run into battle and fight.
"Legislators, you are going to fight battles. But if you do not strap up with truth, well, you're fighting with your pants down," Nelson said.
Man is frail and impure, he said.
Only God can possess enough pure truth within himself to address all men, he continued.
"If you live here today, if you are in this world today, you must be a person of truth," he said. "We have to live with the belt of truth strapped on us right now."
You need to be girded with truth when you sit in the halls of a Legislature, he said, even when it hurts.
"That's hard," he added.
Christians must live the truth because they may be the only Bible others encounter, he said.
The past 60 days have been challenging, said John Yeats, Missouri Baptist Convention executive director.
"My flesh, my reason, really doesn't want to pray for peace for those who are elected officials who do not exhibit a biblical world view," Yeats said.
But the book of 1 Timothy, a letter from the apostle Paul, tells us we should pray for all people, including those in authority, he continued.
"He reminds us that we're to pray for all — not some — who are in authority," Yeats said. "This wasn't theory. This was practical. It was the truth that needs to be fleshed out."
Chezney Schulte, the Cole County Health Department's communicable disease coordinator, led a prayer concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.
Only God knows what people went through in 2020 and what the future will bring, she prayed.
"Thank you for letting us come to you with our frustration, anger, heartbreak and fear," she said, "as well as our praise and celebration. Please be with those who have struggled through job and food insecurity, those who suffer from anxiety and depression and felt the weight of isolation, and those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19."