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Senate Chaplain Barry Black Quotes Jesus to CBN News After Iranian Prayer Controversy

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U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black is responding to questions and critiques after he offered a prayer this week for those mourning the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

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“Lord, we pray for the Iranian people who mourn the death of their president,” Black said during an invocation on the Senate floor Monday.

Raisi, the 63-year-old Iranian leader known for extensive human rights abuses, died Sunday in a helicopter crash along with others.

Critics immediately responded to Black’s invocation with frustration and outrage, with some arguing Raisi “shouldn’t be mourned or prayed for.”

Black told CBN News Thursday he wrestled with the decision but felt compelled by compassion to seek God on behalf of those mourning. The chaplain appealed to Jesus’ own words on the cross to justify his controversial move.

“That same Christ, when crucified, the first words from His lips were words that said, ‘Forgive them. They know not what they do,'” Black said. “He was praying for His executioners.”

He continued, “He not only admonished that we pray even for enemies, but He demonstrated it as He was being crucified for those who nailed Him to the cross.”

Black also appealed to other portions of Scripture to explain his decision. He highlighted the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 12:15, which reads, “Be happy with those who are happy and weep with those who weep.”

Despite the complex geopolitical facts surrounding Iran and the ever-emotional situation in the Middle East after Hamas’ Oct. terror attack on Israel, Black said his prayer was an attempt to obediently follow Christ’s commands.

“I am basically doing what my boss, Jesus, has commissioned me to do,” he said, detailing some of the other ways in which Jesus served those who opposed Him. “[Christ] is the model. He prayed in the upper room when one of His own was about to betray Him. He was about to be betrayed, and then He washed His betrayer’s feet.”

Ultimately, Black said the prayer was a struggle for him — one he “did wrestle with.” But he felt moved to offer kindness and compassion to the Iranian people.

“I just felt that, as a Christian preacher, I was filled with compassion for the Iranian people I saw on TV,” Black said. “There were people that were crying out to their God, that this accident, they didn’t have clarity about.”

The chaplain’s decision to pray for the Iranian people comes amid controversy over the U.S. State Department’s official statement on Raisi’s death, which also extended such sympathies.

“The United States expresses its official condolences for the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian, and other members of their delegation in a helicopter crash in northwest Iran,” an official statement read. “As Iran selects a new president, we reaffirm our support for the Iranian people and their struggle for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

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About The Author

Billy Hallowell writes for CBN's He has been working in journalism and media for more than a decade. His writings have appeared in CBN News, Faithwire, Deseret News, TheBlaze, Human Events, Mediaite, PureFlix, and Fox News, among other outlets. He is the author of several books, including Playing with Fire: A Modern Investigation Into Demons, Exorcism, and Ghosts Hallowell has a B.A. in journalism and broadcasting from the College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, New York and an M.S. in social research from Hunter College in Manhattan, New York.