The National Prayer Breakfast: 10 Highlights

Last week I had the privilege of attending the National Prayer Breakfast, which of course is a lot more than just a breakfast. There are so many highlights that I’d like to share that I’m going to list my top ten; otherwise this post would take up too much of my time and yours.

  1. The breakfast was opened with the Lord’s Prayer in Cherokee, and those humbling words of submission have never sounded more beautiful.
  2. The sincerity of Tony Blair’s faith paired with his polished British wit made him a VERY hard act to follow. Read his address here.
  3. Every week many Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and House put aside their political differences and pray together on Wednesday and Thursday mornings, respectively. It is not reported in the news. It is not meant to be public. But if you have the opportunity to hear the faithful members talk about how much these weekly prayer breakfasts mean to them, you cannot help but be encouraged. I loved seeing Democratic and Republican members interact and talk about their prayer breakfasts. They may not agree on everything, but they love each other as brothers and sisters. John 13:35 says that disciples of Jesus will be known by their love for one another. Some members of Congress are living this out better than many church communities.
  4. If you ever, ever have the opportunity to hear Casting Crowns live, seize it. Listen to a sample of their music here.
  5. There were something like 4000 people in attendance for the event, representing all fifty states and over 170 countries. I thought it was pretty cool to sit in the same room with the President of the United States and the First Lady, but even cooler to think, that in a sense, the world was gathered for prayer and breakfast.
  6. The National Prayer Breakfast has been a tradition since Eisenhower was President, which makes last week’s event the 57th of its kind. The President of the United States has attended each year, but I would guess never to a warmer reception than President Obama received Thursday.
  7. The National Prayer Breakfast is not a Christian event, but it is a Jesus Fest. Jesus was proclaimed over and over at all of the meals and events. I heard people from Fiji to Finland to Egypt to Pittsburgh praise the name of Jesus and His message.
  8. On Wednesday afternoon I was down at the Washington Hilton and had some time to kill before dinner, and since my life is divinely orchestrated, I happened upon a little gathering for Prison Fellowship Ministries. I heard Chuck Colson speak about prisoners in Sudan embracing the gospel message. I heard about the growth of Prison Fellowship in the Middle East, and about PFM’s Centurions Program, a distance learning, in-depth program which aims to help believers authentically live out biblical truth. Learn more about PFM by clicking here.
  9. William P. Young, author of The Shack, was also at the Prayer Breakfast. I heard him speak about how the first million copies of The Shack were mailed out through his buddy’s garage, and how he spent less than three hundred dollars on marketing. He also touched on some of the criticisms of his book. I have a hard time relating to people who can become enraged over a work of fiction. It’s not that I believe that Mr. Young nailed every single detail, it’s that I don’t think it matters. If people are spurred to think, to talk, to wrestle with some of the very deep theological principles that are addressed in The Shack, then what is the problem? But I love talking about it; and blogged about it last summer. (Click here to read it).
  10. On Thursday night the event ended. After dinner, speakers, and more Casting Crowns, the Kendrick brothers gave away hundreds of copies of their DVD Fireproof and their book The Love Dare. And then one of the brothers closed in prayer. He asked everyone who was willing and able to kneel, and two thousand people got down on their knees.
May the list above spur you and I to thank God for all of our blessings, and to regularly ask God for wisdom for ourselves and for our leaders.

What God Wants

One of my favorite things in the world is to sit and listen to my boys, Will and Nate, entertain themselves. Each finds the other to be an unparalleled comedian. Sometimes Sam is included in the revelry, and I’m sure hoping that one day he’ll be a full member. But for now, most of their jokes are intended only for each other, and boy oh boy, do they get worked up into a laughing frenzy. Nate, in particular, sounds almost intoxicated by the hilarity of it all.

Sometimes I wish the whole of life was like that, yet I know that Jesus told us in plain and simple terms that we’d have trouble in this life. (John 16:33). Amazingly, His words are often ignored. Thousands upon thousands of people have been led astray by the prosperity gospel–the claim that God always wants you healthy and wealthy, that God always wants you in a Nate-like hilarious state-of-mind. Certainly, if that were true, Christians would be the healthiest, wealthiest people in town, and the envy of all their neighbors. People would probably start turning to Christ by the droves.
But how would God be glorified in that? People would be using God as a means to an end. It would be all about them and what they could get from Him. But that’s not the way God works. The reality is that even though God often chooses to bless those who follow Him, even the most devout Christians experience extreme hardships and heartaches. It must grieve God greatly to see people embrace the prosperity gospel when it mars the whole purpose of Jesus’ sacrifice. And why exactly didn’t the prosperity gospel work for Jesus anyway?
My pastor, Lon Solomon, was speaking about this recently and he said, “sometimes God wants you sick.” Now, that’s a pretty hard-lined position, much different than what we often hear, that God allows pain in our lives, but does not will it. So I’ve been thinking about this, and talking with some friends about it. And in some respects I’m not sure, in our humanness, we can fully get our heads around it. God loves us, right? How could He want us sick?
However, in another respect it makes perfect sense to me. As C.S. Lewis puts it in Mere Christianity, “Christ says, ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You…No half-measures are any good.'” But tidbits and half-measures are pretty much our nature, don’t you think? We have to work at it if we really aim to give ALL to Christ.
Now look back at your own spiritual journey and ask yourself this question: Where did I most learn to trust God with my life? Was it when you were in green pastures walking beside still waters? I doubt it. It was in the valley of the shadow of death, right?
So if God wants us to trust Him, to cling to Him, to rest in the assurance of His love, and we best learn to do that in the valley, then why can’t the valley be what God wants for us?
If sin had never entered the world, we wouldn’t have any valleys. But sin did enter this world, and Christ told us we’d have troubles. So why not pray that we will learn all that there is to learn in our valleys, and then take heart and praise Jesus that He has overcome the world!