Mount Rushmore Hosts Its First National Day of Prayer Observance
Hundreds gather at the mist-shrouded monument to pray and honor God
By Bob Ellis, Greg Johnson
Despite the cold, rain and fog, some 600 people came out to Mount Rushmore to attend a unique observance of the 55th Annual National Day of Prayer.
The event was held the evening of May 4 at 6:00 pm in the dining area at the monument to freedom, after inclement weather forced it to be relocated from the outdoor amphitheater at the base of the mountain.
Though the famous faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln were shrouded by the fog and low-lying clouds, the sounds of praise and prayer came through clearly in the crowded room overlooking the mountain. It was as if God had descended upon the mountain, covering the top half in smoke, while the people below confessed the nation’s sinful independence from Him.
Author and speaker William Federer emceed the two-hour prayer meeting as hundreds lifted up their prayers, seeking to do as this year’s NDP theme called for: “America, Honor God.” The theme is based on the Biblical scripture 1 Samuel 2:30 “Those who honor me, I will honor.” It is a call to the nation to seek God’s face and ask for his protection and blessings over our nation.
Guests were welcomed by Pastor Dale Bartscher of First Christian Church of Rapid City and the national colors were presented by the 28th Bomb Wing Honor Guard from nearby Ellsworth Air Force Base. Bruce Rampelberg of First Western Corporation read a prayer for the nation written by “Experiencing God” co-author Dr. Henry Blackaby:
Oh Heavenly Father, You have made Yourself known to us as a nation by Your mighty works throughout our history. From the beginning, You have been with us through many wars and conflicts; Your right arm has saved us. We have been amazingly and graciously blessed.
Today, we confess our sin of not responding to Your right to rule in our lives and our nation. Too often we have despised and rejected Your will while imposing our own, and we are now facing the consequences of our disobedience.
Draw us back to Yourself, that we may return to Your ways once again. Without You we can do nothing. You have promised that if we honor You, You will once again honor this great nation.
That is our fervent prayer.
For Your honor and glory we pray, Amen
Six key areas were focused on during the prayer time: government, media, education, military, family and church.
Governor Mike Rounds was on hand as a featured speaker. He recounted how South Dakota has always opened its sessions of the state Senate and House with prayer, and that he has declared a day of prayer in the past for relief from the drought. “We sometimes forget how powerful [prayer] can be,” Rounds told the crowd, reminding them that after the day of prayer in 2003, Sioux Falls received so much rain it flooded. “It is a very powerful tool that the good Lord has given us.”
Next a recorded greeting from Senator John Thune was played, in which he expressed his regret that business in Washington, D.C. had prevented him from being at the National Day of Prayer gathering at Mt. Rushmore. In the recording, Thune reminded those gathered of the numerous days of prayer which have been declared over the life of the nation.
Pastor Jim Sorum of Bethel Assembly of God in Rapid City prayed for the media, asking God to allow His presence to flow through the media, and for His followers who work in media. Pastor Sorum said that because of the power of media, Satan has worked overtime to capture that medium. “May the clarity of your truth be esteemed,” Sorum prayed.
Pastor C. Richard Wells of South Canyon Baptist Church in Rapid City spoke about the Christian foundations of our education system, citing Christ’s admonition to His followers to “teach” the Greatest Commandment to others. Wells also said that by the year 1800, 1.3 million children had been taught to read and write in the Sunday Schools of America, which were the precursors of the public school systems in England and the United States. He also spoke of Harvard, which was built “To advance Learning and perpetuate it to Posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate Ministry to the Churches” and of the Harvard charter which acknowledged the “good hand of God” in providing for the college to educate “in knowledge and godliness.” Wells lamented the deterioration of education in America and quoted Robert Maynard Hutchins from 1947: “Civilization is doomed unless the hearts and minds of men can be changed, and unless we can bring about a moral, intellectual and spiritual reformation.”
Chaplain Lynn Wilson of the South Dakota National Guard told of duty, honor and country, and the power of prayer to help meet the obligations demanded by each of these. “Our nation has lost power because our nation has lost prayer,” he said. “More magnificent than the faces on Mount Rushmore is the face of Jesus Christ.”
Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family said that Shirley Dobson, chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, was very excited about the Mt. Rushmore observance and wished she could be present. Minnery recounted the National Day of Prayer in 1996 when an armed man entered their headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado and took four hostages. He said people across the nation began redirecting their prayers toward the crisis in Colorado Springs, and after a few hours, the hostage taker gave himself up without any loss of life. Minnery said they left a bullet hole untouched in the wall of their lobby as a reminder that God answers prayer. He said God also responded to the prayers of the faithful in November 2004 when 11 marriage ballot measures went before the people in 11 states, and all passed in landslides.
Before the crowd sang “God Bless America,” Federer spoke of the cycle of blessing and backsliding it seems our nation has gone through. He mentioned the trying times under English rule, when the Founders appealed to “the Supreme Judge of the world,” and of the efforts of Founders like Benjamin Franklin and John Quincy Adams who fought against slavery, and how it took half a million deaths in the Civil War before we repented of the sin of slavery.
“Let us go forth to a tremendous country that we can change for the Lord,” Federer closed.
Also speaking and praying at the event were Pastor Paul Doriani of the First Presbyterian Church, Pastor Les Potts of Open Bible Christian Center, and Pastor Jeff Anderson of First Assembly of God of Rapid City. Gwen Relf led the national anthem. Jared Eben of KNBN and Jo Dawn Newton sang solos, and other music was provided by Rosellen Reese, Tom Haggerty and Friends.
This year was the first year the National Day of Prayer was officially observed at Mt. Rushmore. The event was organized by Rita Fischer, the West River South Dakota Regional Coordinator for the National Day of Prayer, Pastor Dale Bartscher, Bruce Rampelberg, Stacey Wollman of the CareNet Pregnancy Resource Center, and several others.
President Bush and all 50 governors issued proclamations of the National Day of Prayer this year, and millions were expected to unite in prayer for the nation today.