WASHINGTON — On a day set aside by Congress as a “National Day of Prayer,” Arkansas lawmakers turned to the Bible for words of strength, solace and encouragement in the wake of last weekend’s deadly storm.
“I lift up a prayer of intersession on behalf of all those suffering — especially after Sunday’s devastating storms,” said Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers. “I offer a prayer of thanksgiving for all who have come to the tornadoes victims’ aid and for our men and women in uniform, who selflessly serve to protect us every day.”
The annual “National Day of Prayer,” which dates back to 1952, has been held on the first Thursday of May since 1982 with the goal of uniting adherents of all faiths in prayer.
In floor speeches, press statements and on social media, members of the Arkansas delegation offered their own prayers and encouraged others to keep storm victims in their thoughts.
“The National Day of Prayer encourages Americans to pray for the U.S. and leaders today. Please also pray for the victims of the storm,” said Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, on Twitter.
The Sunday evening storm ripped through Pulaski, Faulkner and White counties. Fifteen people were killed as the tornado flattened homes and businesses.
Griffin, who represents the hardest hit towns of Mayflower and Vilonia, remained in Arkansas for the week. He has set up mobile offices — outdoor tents — in both towns where his staff will provide assistance through next Friday.
Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, issued a statement observing the National Day of Prayer that also focused on storm victims.
“I ask all Americans to join me in prayerful reflection. Let us lift up those who are hurting — particularly in Arkansas as they recover from the heartbreaking damage of this week’s storms — and those whose hearts are still seeking God’s grace,” Cotton said.
Cotton spoke earlier in the week on the House floor urging prayers for storm victims and thanking those who have come to their assistance.
“I want to thank the first responders and all those on the ground in Arkansas who continue to assist with rescue and recovery operations,” he said. “We are deeply grateful for your service.”
Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., returned to D.C. on Thursday and spoke on the Senate floor about the devastation he saw in Mayflower and Vilonia and reading the names of the 15 Arkansans killed by the storm’s fury.
“We’ll never forget them, and we love them and their families,” he said. “It’s a great loss to each and every Arkansan and really each and every American.”
Pryor thanked neighbors from Missouri and Oklahoma who came to Arkansas to help in the wake of the devastation as well as fellow Arkansans from church groups and businesses that are providing food and other comfort to victims.
Pryor also turned to the Bible, reciting Psalm 23 that underscores the blessings that God provides even as you walk through the shadow of death.
“Having that perspective is going to get a lot of these people through that,” he said.
The House on Wednesday observed a moment of silence for storm victims from Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Alabama at the request of Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro.
Crawford, speaking on behalf of lawmakers from all four states, thanked first responders, volunteers and neighbors for their “donations, prayers and tireless efforts” during a difficult time.
“Their hard work and dedication has saved lives,” he said.