2003 National Prayer Breakfast
Lesson #2, Sunday 2/23/03 -- Larry Stroup
Sponsors and Guidelines of the National Prayer Breakfast

Review:

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 morning.
(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:

Then he related this story: See if it hits you as hard as it hits me. The people who organize the National Prayer Breakfast believe that change occurs in individual's lives, not by the masses, but by interaction between individuals.   The change is the result of one person relating to another, just like Reagan's story of the single Asian monk.

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:

Let's start with: Who sponsors the National Prayer Breakfast?

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:

The message of the group is: The Biblical basis for this position is: This leads to the use of the term, the man, Jesus of Nazareth; or just Jesus of Nazareth.   Throughout the National Prayer Breakfast conference, all names of denominations or religions or faiths are avoided.   Jesus was not big on names that differentiated people.   Today, the names of faiths and religions and denominations separate people and tend to take the focus off Jesus.

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,

One of the handouts included the following objectives:

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:

  1. Encourage a worldwide fellowship of responsible people who, in the Spirit of Jesus, find a deeper meaning in life that penetrates families, communities, and societies throughout the world.
  2. Work together to encourage awareness of Jesus' teachings through discussion, prayer and fellowship.   In this endeavor we seek cooperation with any person or group who comes to us by exemplifying the attitude expressed in Scripture:
  3. Encourage people around the world toward a more effective leadership in all areas of their personal lives.   This is accomplished through small group meetings around a meal where people discover mutual responsibility in fellowship.   These gatherings inspire people at every level of society to be committed to God and His will, so that they might be led by His Spirit.
  4. Commit ourselves daily, through the power of God, to building bridges of understanding between all peoples of the world.
They believe that Jesus transcends all! They see the strategy of Jesus thus: What we need is not intellectual theorizing or even preaching, but a demonstration.   One of the most powerful ways of turning people's loyalty to Christ is by loving others with the great love of God.   We cannot revive faith by argument, but we might catch the imagination of puzzled men and women by an exhibition of a fellowship so intensely alive that every thoughtful person would be forced to respect it.   If there should emerge in our day such a fellowship, wholly without artificiality and free from the dead hand of the past, it would be an exciting event of momentous importance.   A society of genuine loving friends, set free from the self-seeking struggle for personal prestige and from all unreality, would be something unutterably priceless and powerful.   A wise person would travel any distance to join it.

Global Influence:

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:

People are invited from virtually every country in the world; people who are of virtually every faith and religion in the world, including atheists; people of every race and color.

The strategy includes:

  1. If human beings, regardless of their spirituality or lack of it, see Jesus in action through the people who are living out the "follower of Jesus of Nazareth" life style of prayer, praise to God, love of one another, love for every one of God's creation, God is likely to work in the lives of the unbeliever;
  2. Through the fellowship and exhibited love for one another, some will stumble into Jesus, in spite of themselves;
  3. If governmental leaders from other countries see the results of spiritual leadership in the U.S. Congress, they may be encouraged to go back home and start small prayer groups in their legislative bodies which will grow and develop more opportunity for people to stumble into Jesus and more opportunity for peace and understanding around the world.
  4. If people in leadership roles around the world, regularly meet to pray together, their decisions and actions will be more likely to be in the best interest of God's creation.
Today there are small groups meeting within the legislative bodies of most countries around the world.   Many of the foreign attendees are in similar small groups back in their home countries.

The Leadership:

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.

Funding:

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.

Invitations:

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.

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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.