Long-term staffers on Capitol Hill "will tell you that there is indeed a kind of spiritual revival taking place," says Frank Wright, director of the D. James Kennedy Center for Christian Leadership. "I would say there has been at least a tenfold increase in spiritual interest in the last 15 years."
Around 30 Bible study and prayer groups attended by members of Congress and staff meet on Capitol Hill, with membership ranging from a handful to between 50 and 60. More than a dozen ministries have been formed to encourage prayer for the city and its decisionmakers.
"When I first started praying in the city, I hardly saw anyone else here praying," says Sandy Grady, who moved to the area in 1974 to pray for the government and its leaders. "But now people come to our nation's capital all the time just to pray on-site."
Capital Christian Center in Boise, Idaho, last year founded the National Prayer Center in Washington, D.C., to enable visiting Christians to pray in the capital. Pastor Ken Wilde has brought groups of intercessors to the capital to pray on location for the last five years.
The rising level of prayer has not been without opposition. Pat Mahoney, executive director of the Christian Defense Coalition, has been arrested more than 25 times in the last nine years for holding prayer gatherings and carrying signs on the steps of the Supreme Court building. He is now banned from coming within 50 feet, but helps organize vigils for others.
In another initiative, national prayer leaders have issued a renewed call to prayer for President Bush. Before the inauguration, Intercessors for America urged prayer over the "Year Zero Curse," which some say links the untimely death of the president in office every 20 years between 1840 and 1980 to a Native American prophecy.
While many believe the curse was broken by prayer in 1981 when President Reagan survived an assassination attempt, U.S. Prayer Center directors Eddie and Alice Smith issued a "code red prayer alert" this week after hearing independently from several intercessors.
Each had written of dreams "in which George W. Bush appeared to have been assassinated," the Smiths said. Many of the dreams featured the Texas state flower, the Bluebonnet, which is in bloom until the end of May. The Smiths said this was "a critical time for urgent intercession.
"Just as America's Secret Service takes seriously every threat on our president's life, we who serve God as intercessory prayer warriors must take these warnings seriously as well."
The full story of prayer in Washington, D.C. is told in the May issue of "Charisma," out next week.