Rick Perry leads national prayer rally in Houston

Texas Governor Rick Perry led a national prayer rally in Houston on Saturday, an event attended by an estimated 30,000 people and broadcast live in 1,000 churches around the country.

“Lord, you are the source of every good thing,” Perry said, according to The New York Times. “You are our only hope, and we stand before you today in awe of your power and in gratitude for your blessings, and humility for our sins. Father, our heart breaks for America. We see discord at home. We see fear in the marketplace. We see anger in the halls of government, and as a nation we have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses us, and for that we cry out for your forgiveness."

The rally, titled The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis, was Perry's idea but was financed by the American Family Association, a group that opposes abortion and gay rights, the Associated Press reports. Perry spoke for about 12 minutes, and he read from several Bible passages.

"We pray for our nation's leaders, Lord, for parents, for pastors, for the generals, for governors, that you would inspire them in these difficult times," Perry said near the end of his remarks. "Father, we pray for our president, that you would impart your wisdom upon him, that you would protect his family."

Critics of the rally charged that it inappropriately mixed religion and politics, but the Associated Press reports that Perry "has said the event is not political but rather aimed at rallying the nation to a Christian unity during difficult times." Nine days ago, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against Perry brought by a group of atheists who charged that his participation in the rally violated the First Amendment’s requirement of separation of church and state, according to the Times. Several dozen people, including atheists and gay rights activists, protested outside the event on Saturday. 

Perry had invited all the nation's governors, as well as members of Congress and President Barack Obama, to the event. Only Kansas Governor Sam Brownback attended in person. He spoke shortly after Perry. Florida Governor Rick Perry made a statement via a video recording.

According to the Associated Press, Perry is soon expected to announce his plans about a potential presidential run. He plans to be in South Carolina next Saturday, when several of the already-declared Republican candidates for president will be in Iowa for that state's presidential straw poll.