Riley Green III delivers Congressional prayer

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 19, 2003

Riley Green III had a dream, and a rather unusual dream.

His dream was to open the United State Congress in prayer.

"I thought it would be the greatest privilege.," Green said.

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The road to reality for Green's dream began in 1985 when he met Robert Aderholt.

"Robert was going overseas on a summer mission trip, as I was, Green said. "Robert and I maintained a relationship over the years."

Aderholt was later elected to the United State House of Representatives and is now serving his fourth term.

The two friends had a chance meeting in Birmingham a couple of year ago when former State Rep. Steve Flowers invited Green to attend a meeting of the Christian Coalition of Alabama.

"I accepted his invitation and that evening I was able to spend a good bit of time with Robert," Green said. "I asked him about helping me realize the desire I had of opening the House in prayer."

Aderholt gave Green the details of what he needed to do. A couple of months later, Green received a call from the House Chaplain's Office asking him to come and deliver the opening prayer on May 7, 2003. He was very excited because his dream was about to come true.

Green's wife, Yvonne; his sons, Whitten, Mark and Will and his mother, Carline Green of Troy, were able to go with him for this historical event.

The entire week was a wonderful experience.

The Greens toured the White House and one of the highlights of the tour was getting to meet Barney, the President George W. Bush's Scottish terrier. The boys loved it, Green said.

They left the White House for the Capitol where they met the clerk of the House, Jon Trendoln, and were given a tour of the House Chapel where members of Congress go for prayer and Bible study. They also toured the Speaker's Lobby and reception room of the Speaker's Office.

"The Chaplain of the House, the Rev. Daniel P. Coughlin, instructed me on the procedures of delivering the prayer," Green said. "One gentleman made sure I knew that, from where I was delivering the prayer, presidents, kings and queens, and other foreign dignitaries had spoken. That was to help calm my nerves."

Green was told that the purpose of the opening prayer for the House is to pray on behalf of, and for, the members of Congress as they seek to know and do God's will for America and in the work of the House of Representatives.

"God is Sovereign Lord of our Nation and the prayer should affirm our heritage as a nation 'under God' and the calling of the House to lead our Nation in His righteousness and justice," Green said. "We accept the separation of church and state but affirm the historic American tradition that there is no separation between God and state."

Green said the Chaplain's Office told him the prayer must be free from personal political views, from sectarian controversies and from any intimations pertaining to foreign policy. It must also be free from references to the national day observances of any other nation.

Green's family sat in the House Gallery as he delivered the prayer:

"Heavenly Father, I humbly come before You in this scared Chamber, acknowledging You as the Sovereign Lord of the United States of America.

"I pray for the members of the House of Representatives, that they would seek You first, that each member would seek to lead this Nation in Your righteousness.

"Lord, be with each member. Give them wisdom as they make decisions and laws that govern our Nation.

"I pray that You would help each member in these complex times to see Your hand in all events. Help each member to know your love and feel your presence in their lives. Help each member to find rest in Your sovereignty.

"O Lord, I pray for the men and women in our Armed Forces. Protect them and their families. I humbly ask this prayer in Jesus' name; and, Lord, thank You for Your continued blessings on American. Amen."

For Green, delivering the prayer was a dream come true.

"I'm so glad my boys, my wife and my mother were able to experience this with me," he said. "When I was a little boy, I spoke in the pulpit of First Methodist Church in Troy on what you should be in life – a force or a farce.

"A person of force is not a passive person, but active," Green said. "A person characterized as a force in life has power to influence and affect a positive outcome in circumstances. A farce is a person who can be characterized as foolish and prone to play. I encouraged everyone to be a force in life and that is what I want to be about today."

By opening Congress in prayer, Green fulfilled a longtime dream and also played a role as a force in the life of this nation.

Green is the director of administration of the Alabama Baptist Children's Home and Family Ministries in Birmingham.