- - Sunday, November 29, 2015

I can still remember the day that I fully gave my life to Jesus Christ. It was on Sept. 22, 1983. I had just turned 18 and was attending a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting at Presbyterian College. That day, one of my teammates — JR — held an altar call. Something was different. I went down, got on my knees and prayed. I told God about my greatest need. I needed for Him to love me unconditionally, accept me and guide me the way a father does.

I know in my heart that something special happened during that prayer. When I stood up, I had found my heavenly father. From that day forward, the importance of prayer has become clearer for me, and the results even more powerful.

Prayer, that simple ongoing conversation with our heavenly Father, has led me through the mountains and valleys of life. The most jarring personal low point since the death of my mentor when I was 19 years old came earlier this year — the tragic massacre at Emanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina.

That June night, churchgoers were killed in cold blood by a young man whose heart was filled with hate. This unimaginable act took the lives of nine men and women, each mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters and friends. The Emanuel 9 are now forever etched into our state’s history, and we continue to mourn for them and the future they all should have had.

But even in the midst of that dark time, we saw nine families, still reeling from grief and pain, show us the true power of faith. During the bond hearing for the man who was accused of murdering their loved ones, they shared three simple words: “We forgive you.” They stood in that courtroom and displayed for the world the absolute best of who we are as Americans. Upon watching this, I immediately thought of the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6, which states, in part “and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

The day after the shootings, I was also heartened to see the outpouring of support from folks around Washington as part of a prayer vigil on the Capitol grounds. People wanted to come together as a community and pray for the victims, their families and our beloved state. Members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, staff, South Carolinians and those who had Charleston on their minds and in their hearts, paused to weep with and pray for us.

Because of the nine families and their strength, we saw our state come together perhaps as never before — with faith serving as the glue. I knew then, that with the power of prayer and the inspiration given to us by the families, that our city and state would work every single day to replace hate with love, pain with kindness and hostility with good will.

As I returned to Washington, I felt the love and support of my colleagues, who shared that Charleston was a part of their prayer lists and morning devotionals. This reinforced to me that, as we debate important issues that determine the future of our nation, prayer is a powerful North Star in Congress. In fact, in my Washington office hangs a print depicting the first prayer in Congress. It reminds me that prayer is one of the important foundations that helps me work on behalf of our fellow Americans. I think of that first prayer, and one of the things they prayed for was that “Be Thou present, O God of wisdom, and direct the councils of this honorable assembly; enable them to settle things on the best and surest foundation.”

As we continue on that journey to build a better nation, I am constantly touched when a family or group will ask if they can pray for me. It is always a humbling moment, because with all of life’s issues, they ask to pause to pray for me. And when they ask me if I have any special requests, nine out of 10 times, I ask them to pray for wisdom. I believe that remains the most important thing anyone can put on their prayer list for public servants at all levels. With wisdom from God, we can continue to bring people together, address the major issues facing America and ensure our great country remains a city on a hill. That should be all our prayers.

Sen. Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) is South Carolina’s junior senator. He serves on the Finance Committee; Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee; Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee; Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee; and the Special Committee on Aging. He is also a longtime member of Seacoast Church in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, and a former member of the church board.

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