“If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

II Chronicles 7:14

Just below the State Capitol steps and off the main walkway in a grove of juniper trees, a small group of local Christians gathers the first Saturday morning of each month to hear the blast of a shofar, sing worship songs and spend an hour in prayer.

The meeting, called Prayer Outreach at the Capitol, is a ministry of Bethany Church but includes, along with the Bethany members, some anti-abortion Catholics, a few Baptists, some nondenominational believers and at least one Messianic Jew.

“Anybody is welcome to come to it,” says Charles Carpenter, who along with his wife, Clelie Carpenter, oversees the informal service. “We are a group of believers from different denominations who are asking the Lord to continue to bless the state of Louisiana.”

The group’s theme Bible verse, Charles Carpenter says, is II Chronicles 7:14, where God tells Solomon, following the dedication of the temple, that “if my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

“The Lord says ‘cry out to me and I will hear you,’” says Charles Carpenter. “The Lord is speaking directly to Solomon — ‘if my people, who are called by my name’ — that is the principle. God’s design is that the government and his people be in harmony. When those things are fighting each other it is not a pretty sight.”

The group has been meeting for about two years at the Delta Center, Charles Carpenter says, where they have been praying for and counseling with the women entering the clinic to undergo abortions. Six months ago, they moved to the Capitol to focus on political issues, such as the legality of abortion, and to offer prayers for the elections.

Members of the group take turns praying for various issues like the Ebola outbreak in Africa, global terrorism and peace in the Middle East. At a recent meeting, Helen Poydras, a Bethany North member, prayed specifically about abortion and the sanctity of Biblical marriage.

“The wrath of God is on our nation because of the shedding of so much innocent blood,” Poydras says. “My prayer was for the unborn babies and the homosexual marriage, that the law will keep marriage between a man and a woman. The enemy has come in on marriages and he wants to pervert everything that God loves.”

Clelie Carpenter says that although they have not advertised their meetings, the group is slowly growing and averages between 30 to 50 people each time.

“The Bible says to pray for government officials so that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity,” Clelie Carpenter says. “If we want to live quiet lives we need to be faithful in praying for our leaders, and that’s where I feel like the church has failed — in many areas we have not been faithful to lift them up and pray God’s wisdom upon them and understanding so that godly legislation will come out.”

Derek Chang, a member of the King’s Fellowship Harvest Church in Walker, brings his African bushbuck horn shofar and begins each service with a series of short and long blasts. The shofar was first noted in the book of Exodus to signify God giving the Ten Commandments to Moses, he says, and is mentioned throughout Scripture for important events, ending in the book of Revelation to announce the Second Coming of Christ.

“We’re recognize and invite our king, Christ, into the midst of us,” Chang says. “When people hear it, they love it and instantly feel God’s presence.”

Chang refers to the Old Testament book of Jeremiah chapter 4 and verse 20, “where it says, ‘when you hear the shofar, child of Israel, your God will fight for you.’ I mean, who doesn’t want God to fight for us?”

The prayer meetings are open to anyone and take place below the State Capitol the first Saturday of the month at 10:15 a.m. The next one will be on Dec. 6, and then not again until Jan. 6, for the Christmas holidays.

For more information, call Charles Carpenter at (225) 935-5401.