Last week I suggested that you should take heart, God is still in control, and he is working out his plan, even in Washington D.C.
I made the point that we should not be surprised that there are people of deep faith in Washington; our country was discovered and founded on faith in God and Jesus. But we have been led to believe that all of that has been lost. It has not all been lost. We looked a several statements by our leaders that show us that faith is still there, it is just politically incorrect to talk about it.
There was one more piece of evidence in that vein that I want to share this
(You did not listen fast enough last week to get it in!)
Ronald Reagan quote
I want to read to you what Ronald Reagan said in 1985, at his presentation to the National Prayer Breakfast that year. Talking about the Senate and the House prayer groups, he said:
They wouldn't publicize the meetings, nor would they use them for any kind of political gain. The meetings would be off the record. No one would repeat what was said. And, above all, the members could talk about any personal problem on which they needed guidance, any sadness for which they needed players.
Some wonderful things have come out of this fellowship, a number of public figures have changed as human beings, changed in ways I'd like to talk about, but it might reveal too much about the membership. Fellowships have begun to spring up through the Capitol. They exist now in all three branches of the government, and they have spread throughout the capitals of the world to parliaments and congresses far away.
Since we met last year, members of the fellowship throughout the world have begun meeting with each other. Members of our Congress have met with leaders and officials from other countries, approaching them and speaking to them, not on a political level, but a spiritual level.
And many weary weeks later, he arrived in the capital city of the Roman Empire at the time of a great festival that was going on in Rome. And the little monk followed the crowd that was surging down the streets into the Coliseum. He saw the gladiators come forth, stand before the Emperor and say, "We who are about to die salute you."
And, then, he realized these men were going to fight to the death for the entertainment of the crowd. And he cried out, "In the name of Christ. stop!" And as the games began, he fought his way down through the crowd, climbed over the wall and dropped to the floor of the arena.
And when the crowd saw this tiny figure making his way out to the gladiators, saying, "In the name of Christ, stop!" they thought it was part of the entertainment, and they began laughing. And as he was pleading with the gladiators to stop, one of them plunged a sword into his body, and he fell to the sand of the arena, and as he was dying, his last words were, "In the name of Christ, stop."
Then a strange thing began to happen. The gladiator stood looking at the tiny figure lying there in the sand. A hush fell over the Coliseum. Way up in the upper tiers, a man stood and made his way to the exit. Others began to follow. In dead silence, everyone left the Coliseum. And that was the last battle to the death between gladiators in the Roman Coliseum. Never again in the great stadium did men kill each other for the entertainment of the crowd. And all because of one tiny voice that could hardly be heard above the tumult. One voice that spoke the truth in God's name.
Sponsors and Guidelines of the NPB
So now let's talk about what the National Prayer Breakfast really is; how is it pulled off; who does it; and why.
The takeaway that I want you to go home with today is:
Officially, it is sponsored by the House and Senate prayer groups. They are the emcees, the invitations are in their name, they are the "front men and women."
But in reality, there is a loosely organized group of sincere believers, followers of Jesus, people whose only title is a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, who staff and arrange and organize the meeting. It is informally referred to as the Fellowship. But, from what I have been able to discover, there is no formal organization of the Fellowship, just people willing to carry out their faith in this way.
One of the few names that I have heard several times, is Doug Coe. When speakers are talking about foreign missions that they are active in, the name Doug Coe often comes up. The testimony of one of the speakers this year, that I will tell you about next week, involves Doug Coe. I have also heard that Doug Coe was involved in the creation of Prison Fellowship with Chuck Colson, but I do not know exactly how. I have never seen or met Doug Coe, that I know of. Whoever he is, he keeps a very low and humble profile. I have never heard him speak. I searched the WEB for him and found some references to him, but no biographical data, no personal information. Clearly he thinks the glory is to go to Jesus, not to Doug Coe. That is a good sign.
The vision of the Fellowship includes the following statement:
1 Corinthians 2:2:
For I determined to focus on nothing while I was with you, except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Virtually every person on earth has respect for Jesus. They may not accept him as God, but they respect him. He is non threatening, but respected. He is considered a great prophet by Islam. Although the traditional Jews do not see him as the Messiah, they see his teachings as Godly and based on their Torah. Anyone who knows anything about the teachings of Jesus see his teachings as good and beneficial.
So the strategy of the National Prayer Breakfast is to bring people from all over the world together in the name of something they can agree on, something that unites, does not divide. Jesus spent most of his life with people who did not yet understand that he was God, including, I think, to some degree, his Disciples.
The purpose of the fellowship is to encourage all participants to follow Jesus' example:
When asked what He thought was the highest purpose for life, Jesus of Nazareth replied,
Loving God and loving each other is only possible through radical changes in our hearts. We believe these objectives help people reach for those changes:
In addition to the National Prayer Breakfast, the Fellowship actively plants and supports small prayer groups in governments all around the world, with the goal to have prayer groups in every country on the globe.
This year, there were representatives from 154 countries at the Breakfast; three foreign heads of state and many members of national congresses or parliaments.
They also have a ministry to plant this spirit in college student leadership, so that the movement will not be lost as this generation passes on. It is called the Student Leadership Forum and it holds an annual meeting in Washington D.C. to bring student leaders from campuses around the country and world to encourage them and grow the movement.
In addition there are missions around the world to help the poor and underprivileged, the same people who Jesus most focused on. Although the National Prayer Breakfast is held only once per year, their work is going on around the world around the calendar.
In the welcoming letter from Congressman Ray LaHood of Illinois, he says:
The strategy includes:
One of the striking attributes of those who lead and guide the Fellowship is their invisibility. I have no idea who they are. I have heard a few people, who I assume would be included in that role, but I have heard them because they were acting as the emcee or coordinator for one of the smaller group meetings during the day and a half conference. They are self-introduced only as Sam Jones from Austin, no title, no exhibition of rank. I have been able to surmise that there are a number of area coordinators around the country who place names on the invitation list and who meet to critique the meeting each year. The only way I know this is that a friend and associate is the one who asks me if I want to attend and I know that she attended a coordinators critique meeting on the day after this year's conference.
For invitees who are able to pay, there is a registration fee. The fee is two times the cost per person of the meetings and meals, so that each paying participant is also paying a registration for someone who is not able to pay, or foreign visitors who are subsidized to attend. So far as I know, there is no funding of any kind from the U.S. government. Except for subsidized guests, everyone pays their own travel and hotel.
I am sure that there are individuals who donate funds to back the National Prayer Breakfast. I have no way of knowing that except that -- for what is done, it has to require a lot more money than what is raised by the registration. That is just my conclusion. There are no sponsoring organizations or companies.
Several of you have asked me how one gets invited. I have never been told how that decision is made. I can only relate my experience. The friend and associate who has asked me if I would like to attend has asked me on occasion who I think she should add to the invitation list. The request has been in the form of "Who would benefit in their spiritual walk by attending?" or "Who could make a difference in the community or state as a result of attending?"
I only know of five people from New Mexico who attended this year. Two years ago there were eight in our group. The invitation list is very limited because of the large international attendance, and New Mexico is a tiny part of the U.S. population. Two years ago there were six or eight other people from New Mexico, some from Albuquerque and some from Clovis as I recall, but they were not invited as New Mexico representatives. They were invited by friends or associates from other states.
__________Next week I will describe the events of the one and a half day conference around and including the National Prayer Breakfast, and the highlights of what we heard.