In late 2004, Matthew Barnes was working at a hardware store when he heard a sermon about praying for political leaders.
The Bible verses that caught his attention were 1 Timothy 2:1-2: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”
“I thought that would be a neat idea for a ministry,” said Barnes, “because many folks, citizens across the United States, don’t even know their legislators’ names, much less what they care about.”
Thus was born Public Servants’ Prayer, initially a website that named three senators, representatives, or state politicians from Indiana each day and encouraged people to pray for them.
Barnes, a volunteer chaplain at the Indiana Statehouse, decided after a while to expand Public Servants’ Prayer nationally, and hired a firm that specialized in political data to supply him with information about the more than 8,000 members of Congress and state legislators.
Now, the project has around 25,000 followers across 50 Twitter accounts (one for each U.S. state), which name three politicians per day to pray for.
Barnes hopes the project will help with what he calls the country’s “civility problem.”
“The neat thing about prayer is that, as someone begins to pray for someone, it’s impossible to hate someone you’re earnestly praying for. You end up loving them,” he said. “That’s my hope, my prayer, is that as people begin to pray, that their hearts begin to be softened towards people who don’t think like them.”
New Jersey Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer, who was featured in early November, said he applauds the idea even though he believes strongly in the separation between church and state.
Gusciora said he hopes the faithful pray “that I do the right thing and that we make sure we take care of the people who most need it, especially in times during the holidays.
“I think it is important to think about helping others, and this fits in with that,” he said.