Christian Women Gather on National Mall for Day of Prayer

Twenty years ago, men gathered as “Promise Keepers” and filled the National Mall for a prayer rally seeking repentance and spiritual revival. On October 9, it was the women’s turn.

A largely female audience of thousands gathered on the lawn in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol for the “Rise Up” prayer rally. Braving wind and rain, these Christian women—many charismatic or Pentecostal—declared their unity and sought God’s guidance to lead the nation.

At turns on their knees, huddled in small groups and facing a stage with hands raised, those gathered prayed for reconciliation between men and women, between racial and ethnic groups, and for ending abortion. In marked contrast to the Women’s March right after President Trump’s inauguration, these women had a different agenda.

“Know this: You have made history and you’re going to begin to see it unfold in the changes in government,” said Cindy Jacobs of the ministry Generals International as the gathering concluded. “You’re going to be able to see it unfold in the people that are saved.”

Many wore yellow or transparent ponchos that had protected them from earlier rains. Others sat in chairs, held strollers with young children or the hand of the spouse who came with them.

Organizers—who did not give an estimate of the crowd size—had billed the event as a chance for “Esthers and Deborahs,” biblical women who are held up as courageous heroes, to congregate publicly and seek divine help to heal the nation. Some of the speakers, including Jacobs and Alveda King, an anti-abortion activist and niece of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., likened themselves to one of those two biblical heroes in videos summoning women to attend.

Speakers also talked about praying for President Trump, and for President Obama before him, but another branch of government came under a pointed focus for prayer: the Supreme Court. At one point Jacobs and Lou Engle, founder of The Call movement that sponsored the rally, took turns facing in the direction of the high court and prayed for the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion.

“We believe that we are in a moment when the judges of America can be shifted,” said Engle, after the assembled masses pasted their mouths with red “LIFE” stickers. “God gave us this dream that we are to pray for the reform or the resigning of judges.”

The crowd also prayed for millions more to adopt children, a response to critics of the anti-abortion movement.

Speakers took turns repenting for sins they said had been committed by others. Raleigh Washington, president of Promise Keepers, sought forgiveness from women who felt abused by men. Alveda King declared forgiveness for those repenting for racism.

Strangers gathered in circles, sometimes placing hands on the head of someone next to them or wrapping arms around one another as they prayed fervently. Sometimes they shouted. Sometimes they wept.

Rise Up followed the three-day “Awaken the Dawn,” an event that featured 50 tents along the expanse between the Capitol and the Washington Monument, with each one representing a different state.

For 72 hours, people prayed inside and outside of each tent, sometimes with a dozen or more others. Some women at Rise Up described spending hours with people from their state in designated tents.

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