Signs of Hope at National Prayer Breakfast 2016
Jeff and I had the privilege of spending last week in Washington DC at the National Prayer Breakfast. It was the first time for both of us and I had no idea what to expect, which turned out to be perfect. From Holy-Spirit prompted prayer sessions in a crowded hotel lobby to dinner with some Hollywood and DC insiders to networking sessions lasting past midnight, it was an intense three days. After some decompressing time at home in my "normal" life, I've been able to reflect on some themes from our time in DC.
I'll share a few themes, but let me first give a bit of background for those who have never attended the NPB. It's not just breakfast. Official events begin Wednesday with a gathering of women and a welcome dinner. The day of the prayer breakfast also includes seminars, lunch, and a closing dinner. In between, people gather in hallways, the hotel lobby, and nearby coffee shops for meetings and general networking. There are also "unofficial" dinner parties; Jeff and I attended one the guest list of which could make me feel very bad about myself and my piddly accomplishments if I were inclined to comparison.
OK, the themes:
Hope. Overall, I think it's important to point out that we saw so many signs of a hope-filled future. In the midst of an election cycle where anger and polarization seem to dominate, it seems we all need a message of hope. And what I encountered in DC was terrifically encouraging. Please hold your disbelief for a moment and read the next section on God's Sovereignty. I can have hope for the future because God really is in charge and good people (or rather people in the process of sanctification) can be found everywhere for those who have eyes to see. That's encouraging.
God's Sovereignty and Faithfulness is REAL. We intellectually know God is in charge of all things, but sometimes we (maybe I should "I") struggle to believe that's true, especially when I read the news. But I heard too many stories of God's people being thrust into positions of dizzying influence to let myself believe the lie that these are simply coincidences. As Romans reminds us,
“There is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” And in Proverbs we hear, “No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against me.”
I met people from all areas of influence - Hollywood producers, a movie star (Jeff shook hands with Morgan Freeman), prominent members of the news media (including a woman known as "The Democrat on Fox News"), DC lobbyists, the head of the NIH, and even a few politicians - whose stories are testaments to this truth. God has not left politics. He has not left science. He has not abandoned us to untruths, half-truths, or the whims of selfish rulers. God is in charge. Period.
Our Hearts Long for Fellowship. In the midst of all the personal agendas being pursued, I also witnessed some beautiful fellowship. As I sat at dinner with a Catholic Cardinal, a producer from MSNBC, Jordan Smith, winner of the Voice (watch his rendition of Great is Thy Faithfulness), and a bunch of other cool people, I wondered what in the world I was seeing. Seriously, why do all these people get together? They have nearly nothing in common but have dinner every year after the prayer breakfast. And then I realized that these guys all long, like I do, to be around others who also love Jesus. Most of them are sincerely following Jesus and seeking to bring Him glory through their work, but don't often have the opportunity to enjoy the company of people who understand and welcome their faith. It was encouraging to hear their individual stories and hearts for the Father, even if I may disagree with some of their public views on issues. I also realized I'm really really fortunate to have regular fellowship with other believers.
Prayer Matters. I witnessed a few intense moments of prayer interspersed with all the other activity. These were the kinds of prayers where God's people bring their hearts before Him and let Him guide their praise and requests. Without overstating things, we saw a near revival break out in a small group in the middle of the Washington Hilton lobby. In this, I observed that the Spirit wants to work in our midst and all we need to do is yield our hearts/minds to Him in prayer. He will show up and He will move. Prayer Matters. For more on this point, check out the cool work being done by The Verbena Foundation.
I'm a total Goober and That's OK. After dinner on Thursday, it was late and my brain had turned to mush from a day of talking to people. I'm standing around waiting to thank our hosts and end up in a conversation with Os Guinness. Yes, the Os Guinness. Rather than asking a question or simply letting him know how much I appreciate his thoughtful writing, I turned into a starstruck idiot like that time on Friends when Monica meets Jean Claude Van Damme. The man has written 30 books and was the primary drafter of "The Global Charter of Conscience," published at the European Union Parliament in Brussels in June 2012. And my only comment is to mumble something incoherent about how I'm kind of like him because I like to write blogs. Seriously?! Sheesh! That's ok: Jesus loves me and my mom thinks I'm special even if Mr. Guinness may not hold me in high esteem.
That's all the themes I care to share for now. If any of you were at this year's prayer breakfast, I'd love to hear your thoughts too.