Mississippi needs Christian leadership to steward the state through the coming tribulations as Armageddon draws near, Secretary of State Michael Watson, the top elections official, announced at a prayer event alongside other state leaders today.
“I believe we need Christian men and women in office today more than ever before. And if you’re a believer, if you’re a member of the church, you understand the signs of the times right now,” Watson, the son of a pentecostal preacher from the Assemblies of God denomination, said today. “In the last few years, no more than ever before in the history of the church, we see the end times.”
Watson, who is Presbyterian, made the comments during the Mississippi National Day of Prayer event at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson. The organizers behind the event are part of a national evangelical organization, the National Day of Prayer Task Force.
‘Seven Spheres of Influence’
The event in Jackson included leaders from each of what the national task force describes as “the seven centers of power” it wants to influence: government, military, media and arts, business and commerce, education, church and family. In its press release announcing today’s event, National Day of Prayer Mississippi called them “the seven spheres of influence in our culture.”
The organization borrows the idea from the New Apostolic Reformation movement’s “seven mountains mandate” theology, which teaches that God has begun “raising up” Christian apostles and prophets in the United States to take dominion over the “seven mountains” (or “spheres”) of political and cultural influence.
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Critics of the movement, which dates back to the 1970s, accuse it of promoting theocracy. NAR leaders and other proponents of the seven mountains mandate, also known as dominion theology, gained heightened mainstream prominence during the Trump administration. Trump’s former White House spiritual advisor, Tupelo-native Paula White, is a practitioner of seven mountains theology.
Jennifer Biard, the pastor of Jackson Revival Center Church, told attendees that she was there to “pray for the cultural mountain of education.”
“Father, use our prayer today that our schools, our colleges and universities may become centers for revival. Father, we pray that instead of faith being torn down, faith would be built up. … We pray that the Holy Spirit would use Christian administrators and faculty members as mighty forces for good,” she prayed.
Selika Corley-Funchess, who is on the board of Jubilee Havens, an anti-sex-trafficking organization, prayed for child-trafficking victims and also against abortion—a top issue for evangelicals.
‘A Nation That Is In Peril’
Gov. Tate Reeves was the first speaker at today’s event. Both as lieutenant governor and governor, he has prioritized evangelical causes, such as anti-abortion legislation, “religious liberty” laws that enshrined religion-based discrimination against LGBTQ people into state law and a recent ban on transgender high school and college sports participation.
Debra Brown, one of the Mississippi National Day of Prayer group’s organizers, praised the governor for doing an “amazing job” leading the state.
“He is a conservative who believes in the power of prayer and remains committed to working toward the people of Mississippi,” Brown said as she introduced Reeves, who promoted the event on his official social media pages.
The governor read the Day of Prayer Proclamation that he issued yesterday. Then, he prayed.
“We live in a nation that is in peril. We live in a nation that should be united but is oftentimes divided. … Please give us the courage to stand up for you and for what we believe in,” the governor said, his head bowed and his eyes closed.
Col. Terry Partin, Command Chaplin of the Mississippi National Guard, represented the military “center of power” during today’s prayer event. Jim Prince, the conservative publisher, owner and editor of the Neshoba Democrat, represented the media “center of power.” He thanked God for “a free press” and asked God to “use the media … to root out evildoers” and “expose good.”
“We beseech you, Lord, to work in the hearts of the people who are in the media and may not even be believers, Lord. We know you can use a fencepost to bring a soul to your will,” Prince said.
Organizer Prayed For Jewish Conversions
Patti Herrington, the Mississippi Day of Prayer’s capitol coordinator, used her time on stage at today’s events to pray for two nations, starting with the United States, which she proclaimed “was built on a solid foundation of righteousness and justice.” (The speaker did not mention the nation’s history of Native genocide, though others did, nor slavery).
“We decree and declare this day that what this foundation of the United States of America was built on, it shall stand,” she said. “The nation shall not be moved in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. We will not tolerate evil forces of darkness that would try to come in and bring destruction to this land, oh God. … Father, we need an awakening in this land like we’ve never needed before.”
Then, Herrington turned to the other nation that was on her mind today: Israel.
“Lord, we pray that Israel’s enemies are confused and scattered, oh God. We pray, oh God, that every force of darkness will be rendered powerless, oh God. We decree and declare that the United States of America stands with the Apple of your eye, oh God,” she prayed aloud.
Herrington also prayed that God would stop leaders from “dividing” the land in Israel—a reference to Israeli-occupied Palestinian lands. Most evangelical Christians see the rise of Israel, and specifically Jerusalem, as a central component to bringing about the end times and the return of Christ and pushed the Trump administration to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
Evangelical groups also promoted “anti-B.D.S.” legislation in states across the country, including Mississippi, banning state governments from contracting with businesses that support pro-Palestinian boycotts of Israel. Former Gov. Phil Bryant signed an anti-B.D.S. bill into law that Reeves helped shepherd through as president of the Mississippi Senate in 2019.
During her prayer, Herrington called on God to convert the Jewish people to Christianity.
“We pray for a spiritual, supernatural awakening over Israel, oh God. Lord, remove the veil over the eyes of your people, oh God, in Israel, that they would recognize the Messiah, oh God, that they would recognize Jesus, their king, that they would know him, they would see him, and you would reveal yourself to them,” she cried.
Behind her, Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson, a Baptist pastor, clapped and nodded in agreement with Herrington’s prayer. He spoke and prayed as a representative of the business and commerce “sphere.”
Critics Accused Task Force of ‘Hijacking’ Day of Prayer
Gipson prayed that God would “grow and bless” commerce in the state.
“We’re not asking it in our name or our sake, we’re asking it for your Glory in the name above every name, the name before which one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, for the glory of God the father,” he said.
In past years, the National Day of Prayer Task Force has garnered criticisms for excluding non-Christians or non-evangelical Christians at its events. The organization sparked controversy in Utah in 2004 when it excluded members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints from its event there—even though 62% of that state’s residents are Mormons.
Though the National Day of Prayer Task Force, which evangelical groups founded in 1983, describes itself as a “Judeo-Christian” organization, critics have noted that branches have excluded Jewish speakers at past events.
U.S. presidents have issued annual National Day of Prayer proclamations since 1952, originally promoting it as an interfaith observance. But in recent decades, the evangelical task force that bears its name has used its influence with Republican leaders in national state government to hold evangelical-dominated events like the one in Jackson today. Other groups, unrelated to the National Day of Prayer Taskforce, still hold ecunemical National Day of Prayer events.
In 2008, Jews on First, an interfaith organization, claimed the task force had “hijacked” the National Day of Prayer.
“What began as President Truman’s declaration of a National Prayer Day for all Americans is now excluding and dividing us on religious lines,” Jane Hunter, co-director of Jews on First, said at the time. “The volunteers themselves have to . . . make a statement of faith that is very narrowly drawn so that only a conservative evangelical Christian would be comfortable doing it.”
During past Republican presidential administrations, including under Reagan, both Bushes and Trump, the National Day of Prayer Task Force drew extra scrutiny for coordinating with events held in the White House. Like past Democratic presidents, including Presidents Clinton and Obama, President Biden issued a National Day of Prayer proclamation, but did not coordinate with the evangelical task force.
“Throughout our history, Americans of many religions and belief systems have turned to prayer for strength, hope, and guidance,” Biden said in his National Day of Prayer proclamation. “Prayer has nourished countless souls and powered moral movements—including essential fights against racial injustice, child labor, and infringement on the rights of disabled Americans. Prayer is also a daily practice for many, whether it is to ask for help or strength, or to give thanks over blessings bestowed.”
Gipson Apologizes to ‘The Original Mississippi People’
Before he prayed, Gipson used the event to offer an apology to the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, whose chief, Cyrus Ben, was among the speakers.
“I’m sorry for the way our fathers and mothers, grandfathers, those who came here in those early days—if anyone deserves an apology, it is the Native American people of this country,” Gipson said.
Calling the Choctaw Band of Indians “the original Mississippi people,” Gipson apologized for “the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on native peoples by the citizens of the United States in times past.”
“And we express our regret for the ramifications of former wrongs and the commitment today to build on the positive relationships that we have to move forward today for a brighter future where all people of this land can reconcile as brothers and sisters,” Gipson said.
Gipson’s apology for centuries of genocide against Native American peoples came a week after Gov. Tate Reeves declared during a Fox News town hall that “there is not systemic racism in America.”
Before today’s prayer event, though, Chief Ben joined Gov. Reeves at his Capitol office where he signed House Bill 277, allowing tribal identification cards to be used as a legal means of personal identification, and House Bill 1230, making businesses on tribal lands eligible for some Mississippi Development Authority programs.
After Gipson offered a prayer, Ben spoke.
“I’m so grateful to be a leader of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. … But let’s face it, we’re neighbors. We’re one in the great state of Mississippi,” he said.
‘Turn Their Hearts To You’
After his remarks, Chief Ben offered a prayer in the Choctaw language.
Secretary of State Watson spoke next, noting that he “grew up as an Assembly of God preacher’s kid in Gautier.”
“Chief, I wasn’t sure if that was the Holy Spirit or the Choctaw language,” Watson joked, referring to the fact that members of the Assembly of God denomination often speak in tongues during services. “I figured out it was the Choctaw language.”
Then, Watson discussed his views on the end times—a topic that conservative politicians grew increasingly interested in during the Cold War. In the 1980s, then-President Ronald Reagan explained that he called the Soviet Union an “evil empire” because he believed Russia would help trigger Armageddon.
“Never, in the time between the prophecies up until now, has there been a time in which so many of the prophecies are coming together,” Reagan told People magazine in 1983. “There have been times in the past when people thought the end of the world was coming, and so forth, but never anything like this.”
Today, Watson expressed similar ideas.
“You look around you, see what’s happening in this country, in this world, you can’t deny what’s going on. So at this point in time, it is so very important that we have men and women of Christian character in office,” Watson said.
Watson also prayed that the country’s Catholic president, Joe Biden, and its Baptist vice president, Kamala Harris, would also become such leaders.
“I thank you, God, for our president and our vice president, that you would bless them today, that you would give them wisdom and strength and peace, God that you would turn their hearts to you, to lead this country forward,” Watson prayed.