President Reagan invoked the power of prayer in a message to tens of thousands of Christians who gathered Friday for a rally aimed at showing that religion is thriving in America despite recent sex-and-money scandals.
"I am convinced that prayer has made it possible for me to continue in this office," Reagan said in a videotaped address to the dawn-to-dusk "Washington for Jesus in '88," which attracted an estimated 150,000 people to the nation's capital for prayers and singing.Organizers said they hoped the gathering, which attracted large numbers of evangelicals, would show all Americans how ardent and unified Christians still are, despite the well-publicized downfall of TV evangelists Jimmy Swaggart and Jim and Tammy Bakker.
"The world thought the scandals of the last year brought the church to its knees," James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida said. "The church will arise from its knees, cleaner and purer and stronger."
"Those who think the influence of the church is waning should look at the Gallup polls," Kennedy told a cheering crowd. "Twenty years ago, 45 million Americans claimed to be born again. This year, 96 million Americans claimed to be born again."
The rally was held on the eighth anniversary of a similar gathering on the Mall, outside the Smithsonian museums. The first gathering attracted an estimated 200,000 people. Organizers of Friday's rally estimated 350,000 were in attendance, although at 3 p.m. EDT, a U.S. Park Police spokesman, who would not give his name, estimated the crowd at 150,000.
Organizers said the rally was non-political and that none of the political candidates had been invited to speak. The only exception was Reagan.
"Today, American society must face serious problems, from within and without, which threaten to steal our liberties and destroy our freedoms," Reagan told the gathering. "Abortion, child abuse, pornography and drug addiction eat away at our most precious national resource our children."