By: Christa Meland
Rev. Cynthia Williams has seen firsthand how prayer can unite people with vastly different beliefs and experiences—but she never expected to have the opportunity to lead hundreds of political leaders from across Minnesota in prayer.
Last month, she received a phone call from Governor Mark Dayton’s office and was invited to give the invocation at the governor’s State of the State Address. The governor’s chief counsel had heard her preach and recommended her for this year’s invocation.
“It was a great honor,” says Williams, who immediately accepted the invitation. “Just as I’m a public Christian leader, a public servant, they are public servants,” she said. “I know how deeply we need to have God’s grace covering the work that we do . . . We know how divided not only our national government but our state government is—prayer is one way we can come together.”
Williams, an associate pastor at Park Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis and Camphor United Methodist Church in St. Paul, had about a week to write the prayer. She was told it should be two minutes and ecumenical. She knew she wanted to acknowledge the state’s beauty and magnificence, but there was another message she also wanted to convey.
“For me, it was about reminding our public leaders that their work really is about not forgetting those who live on the margins,” Williams says. “Even as they do justice, they have to stand for justice, they have to stand for equality. They have to make the difference for the people who might never have access to power and influence.”
At the same time, she wanted to pray that as our state’s leaders stand for the voiceless, God’s grace and mercy would uphold them. “I do know their work is difficult. To stand with integrity and to stand up for those who have no voice—it takes great courage,” she says. “It’s not a natural courage. It’s a Godly courage.”
On April 30, she delivered her invocation before Governor Dayton and hundreds of Minnesota senators, representatives, justices, and staff at the Capitol. This is what she said:
“Let us pray!
Merciful and glorious God, thank you for the privilege and gift of prayer.
This evening we come thankful for the blessing of living and serving in this great state that we call Minnesota.
We thank you for our land in all its beauty; for the majesty of our many lakes, the green of wooded hills; prairies rolling to their far horizons, fertile valleys where the rivers run.
We give thanks for the sacred trust of standing in the gap, especially for the voiceless, the poor, the marginalized, and those clinging to a thread of hope.
Keep before our elected leaders the high desires of our pioneers and our prophets—their belief in the possibilities of the common people.
Keep before them the ideals of our nation, the vision of a human commonwealth in which all people live in equality, justice, and freedom.
As we gather this evening, give our leaders eyes to see, ears to hear, fleshy hearts, open to fresh vision that the abundant resources of this state may bring peace, provision, and prosperity for all.
Lord, this day we ask that you give our governor, senators, representatives, and all who have answered the call to public service, an extra measure of wisdom, courage, and an abundance of grace to faithfully complete the work they have been elected, appointed, and called to do.
This is our prayer. Amen!”
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church