WASHINGTON — When the Rev. Dennis Fountain gives the opening prayer to the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, he’ll be seeking God’s wisdom for a body that includes 19 Jews, two Muslims, one Buddhist and one Hindu.

“It’s definitely a humbling honor,” said Fountain, 31, pastor of Moses Lake Baptist Church in Moses Lake, Washington. “God’s a good God and has done a lot in my life, especially saving me. I accepted Christ as my savior years ago and it has changed my life.”

Like other guest chaplains, Fountain was encouraged to leave out any references to Jesus, whom Christians worship as divine, when he goes before Congress.

“Almost 10 percent are not Christians, and that’s why I ask guest chaplains to be sensitive to that,” said the Rev. Patrick Conroy, a Jesuit priest and Washington state native who has served as House chaplain since 2011. “I don’t believe the chaplain has the right to exercise his religion. He’s in service to Congress.”

While congressional prayers date to Colonial times, they’re always touchy. In a 5-4 decision last May, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of government bodies to begin meetings with prayers, even if they favor one religion.

The ruling did little to quell the controversy.

Backers of prayer at government meetings say it’s wise for elected officials to ask for help from God in public, and they note that the prayers are open to all faiths. Critics say it would be best to just ban them.

“The job of our legislators is to legislate, not focus on prayer,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association in Washington, D.C. “The business at hand is where they need to be focusing.”

Fountain said members of Congress were under daily pressure and needed help.

“I wouldn’t want their job for anything. They have a lot to face, and they definitely need our prayers,” he said. “Every Congress that we’ve had has needed God’s help. You know, the Bible just says that when we humble ourselves and call upon him, that he will heal the land. That’s something that needs to be done, just putting God first and letting him lead us.”

After mulling over the matter, Fountain said this week that he’d decided to invoke the name of Jesus in his prayer and no one should feel excluded by his decision.

“I think that praying in Jesus’ name is all-inclusive, because Jesus died for everyone,” he said.

Under rules of the U.S. House, any member can invite a guest chaplain to conduct the opening prayer.

Conroy, who usually gives the prayer, said that no more than two guest chaplains were allowed per week. Members who want to invite guests write letters to Conroy, who makes arrangements.

“I don’t have any veto and I don’t have any editorial rights. That’s not my position,” Conroy said.

Conroy said guest chaplains send him their prayers in writing since they’d become part of the congressional record. While there’s no time limit, he advises them to keep the prayers short, on a single page, with no more than 150 words. He recalled a day when he went a little long and Republican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio pulled him aside to say it had been a long week and members didn’t need a long prayer.

“I got the message that certainly Speaker Boehner’s preference is the shorter the better,” Conroy said. “So that’s what we recommend.… And I’m not one of those people who thinks you need a lot of words. God’s the one who knows what everybody needs anyway.”

Fountain got his invitation from Washington state Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse, who said he had learned he could invite a guest chaplain when he attended an orientation for newly elected members in November. He chose Fountain after the pastor contacted his office, seeking a meeting to coincide with a trip he had planned to Washington, D.C.

“Being a freshman, this is my first chance to do this,” Newhouse said. “It seemed to me like just a great opportunity for someone from the state of Washington to be able to help us with something we do every day.… I didn’t look at it as a political kind of statement or anything. It’s open to anybody, any religion.”

Speckhardt said governmental bodies should be unbiased in presenting religious issues and that it would be better if atheists or humanists could participate.

“If they did that, there really would be a better sense that they were trying to open the door to all,” he said. “They’ve never done that, and there’s no hint that that’s coming soon.”

Conroy said atheists and humanists were excluded for one simple reason: They didn’t want to pray.

“They want to come in and give a message to Congress,” he said. “That’s against House rules. They have to address a higher power.”

Similarly, Conroy said, that’s why he advises guest chaplains not to give any religious lessons, which would come off as lectures.

“They can’t preach, they can’t teach; they must pray,” he said.

Conroy said he often heard from non-Christian members of Congress when they felt excluded: “They don’t go up to the guest chaplain and say, ‘Thanks a lot for leaving me out.’ They tell me.”

Other guest chaplains have said prayers linked to their faiths.