“Father, our heart breaks for America, we see discord at home, we see fear in the marketplace, we see anger in the halls of government,” Perry told the crowd in his prayer. “As a nation, we have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses us, and for that, we cry out for your forgiveness.”
Invoking a passage from the Old Testament’s Book of Joel that he said inspired him to organize this event, Perry read: “You call us to repent Lord, and this day is our response.”
Perry, who is expected to announce in the next few weeks whether he will run for the GOP nomination, said nothing about his presidential prospects.
But political strategists say the event, his biggest appearance so far on the national political stage, is likely to impact his candidacy. It could strengthen his ties to evangelicals, a powerful bloc in the Republican Party, but also turn off more secular voters.
In remarks that lasted about 11 minutes, Perry read passages from Ephesians, Isaiah and Joel. He invoked the familiar Christian phrase “blow the trumpet in Zion” to loud applause from the crowd.
“Like all of you, I love this country deeply,” he said at the start of his remarks. “Thank you all for being here. The only thing that you love more is the living Christ.”
Perry's speech and prayer was only a small part of the event, which started at 10 a.m. and ran on for seven hours. Those attending were urged to bring bibles and fast during the ceremony.
“The Response” included various choirs and bands that performed a range from music, from gospel to “America the Beautiful,” while the audience clapped and sang along. In between the music, the Christian leaders and officials who organized “The Response” led the crowd in a series of prayers.
The prayers were immediately translated into Spanish. The audience was diverse, with a sizable number of black and Hispanics, and also included many children and young adults.
“We plead for your wisdom,” said Shirley Dobson, chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force in one of the prayers, telling the attendees they were at times “surrounded by evil” in today’s America.
Perry had originally called for this event earlier this year, before he was considering a presidential run, arguing America suffered from a range of problems from a sluggish economy to “moral relativism.”
The day was officially described as nonpolitical and most of the prayer leaders did not speak of current political issues except for abortion, which they condemned.
At the same time, a conservative group called the American Family Association paid for the stadium’s rental and many of the leaders onstage were familiar figures in the Christian conservative movement, such as Dobson and her husband James, the original founder of the group Focus on the Family and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R.)