The Prayers of State

April 14, 2007

Author: Ann S. Kim

Source: Portland Press Herald

AUGUSTA - The gavel came down three times, the lawmakers stood and bowed their heads. From the rostrum, Paul Cates asked the senators to join him in prayer. Cates, a member of the Vassalboro Friends Meeting, touched briefly on the need to improve the business climate, create good jobs and maintain a strong education system. He thanked God for respectful partisanship that illuminates issues from different perspectives and asked for help in understanding when partisanship needs to give way to cooperation.

"Help them and all us Maine citizens to remember that our political opponent is not our enemy," Cates prayed, "and that as we learn from each other and work with each other, we may achieve real progress in serving all Mainers."

After the "amen," the gavel came down, ushering in the rest work of the legislative day.

These ceremonies begin each session of the Maine Senate and House of Representatives.

The roots of the practice reach back to the start of the U.S. Congress, which may have taken its cue from the British Parliament. Most state legislatures have an opening prayer, although there are differences in how it is given, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.