Last week I proposed that:
For those of you who were here last week, we talked about the fact that officially, it is sponsored in the name of the Senate prayer group and the House prayer group, who emcee the meetings and are the visible leaders.
The invitation actually says:
...but in reality, there is a large group of people, invisible and unrecognized, who are simple followers of Jesus of Nazareth. They have chosen as a part of their spiritual mission to organize and manage the National Prayer Breakfast, and also a college student leadership conference in the same vein, as well as year-round and worldwide missions to help the poor and underprivileged. The only term used to refer to all these invisible people is the "fellowship", with a small f.
Then we reviewed some of their stated vision and purpose statements, all of which boil down to being devoted followers of Jesus, without reference to religion or denomination; in fact specifically avoiding reference to those terms, which divide.
To complete our understanding of their style, from my perspective and in my inadequate words,
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.
The invitation list is prepared and completed early in the year because every invitee must go through security check before the invitation is mailed out. Security in the invitee list and then at the Prayer Breakfast event itself, it is pretty high. With the President, a majority of the cabinet, members of the Supreme Court and a large portion of the Congress assembled, as well as very prominent international heads of state and members of congress, it is a great target for terrorism.
The day after the actual Prayer Breakfast, when the President was there, there were two agents with sniper rifles, one stationed on each side of the stage where the head table was set. They could not be seen because they were behind a black curtain, but they had a position from which they could take out anyone in the room if necessary. There was security everywhere.
We did not know about it at the time, but a man in the middle of the room got up and started toward the President to give him a note. He was instantly tackled by agents and removed from the room. We later learned that security had been alerted that he might attempt to get in, but somehow he got through the screening at the door. When he got up and walked a few steps toward the stage, he was tackled. There did not appear to be any intent to harm the President. We were told that he wanted to hand him a note about the war or something.
Today's Report: The Character of the Meetings:
So what is the National Prayer Breakfast? I have explained the vision and purpose. I have explained how encouraging it is to find that we have leaders with high spiritual and moral values, and willing to voice them. But what really happens?
The National Prayer Breakfast is a "Jesus Meeting" -- fellowship, singing, prayer and messages in the name of Jesus. Virtually everyone that I talk with about the National Prayer Breakfast is shocked about how blatantly this meeting is a Jesus meeting. We have been so beat down by political correctness, that we assume that it is almost illegal to praise Jesus, to pray to him, and to hold him up as the ultimate example for man's behavior. But that is what goes on.
Not just a Breakfast:
I talk about the National Prayer Breakfast as if it were one event. The reality is that it is a series of events, including a breakfast meeting, which is the title event. The actual breakfast is held on the morning of the first Thursday of February every year.
Let me describe the series of events around and including that breakfast.
The event started and continues to be held in Washington D.C. At least for several years, the event and the related meetings have been held at the Washington Hilton & Towers, a large convention hotel north of the White House, large enough to house the more than 5000 guests. It has a ballroom that can seat and serve 3500 people and an overflow ballroom, with closed circuit TV showing the activities in the main ballroom, which seats and serves another 1500 for a total capacity of 5000.
This is the hotel at which President Reagan was shot back in 1981. President Reagan had just completed a speech in the hotel ballroom, after which he was leaving the hotel at about 2:30pm on March 30, 1981. At the time, the Presidential limousine was waiting at the lower lobby exit for him. As he approached the car, John Hinkley, Jr. shot him and seriously wounded James Brady, who was Assistant to the President and White House Press Secretary. As a result of that event, the hotel constructed a security tunnel, kind of like a car wash tunnel, near that lower lobby, so that high security dignitaries can arrive and depart out of the sight of bystanders and enter the hotel via a secure passageway.
The entire schedule is anchored around the Thursday morning breakfast.
Like the night before, the breakfast is opened with sincere prayer, often by a very high governmental official. This year the opening prayer was offered by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard B. Myers.
Remember last week I read a portion of President Reagan's presentation from 1985. Remember he told the story of the Asian monk who ended the Coliseum entertainment of the gladiators fighting to their death for entertainment. And he ended it by pleading, "In the name of Christ, stop."
Next week I will relate some of the stories and messages that we heard at this session and at others.
This year the address was by
Condoleezza Rice, the Assistant to the President for National
Security, often referred to as the National Security Advisor. She was followed by a
prayer for our leaders by Senator Nancy Pelosi, Minority leader of the House, until
recently and briefly, the Majority Leader of the House.
Midmorning, after the Prayer Breakfast, regional groups met to hear inspirational stories in what they call Leadership Seminars. This year we met with guests from Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas and New Mexico. We were labeled the "South Central region". This is the same regional grouping that we met with for the Congressional Dinner the night before.
This meeting is led by someone, who presumably is one of the fellowship, who encourages fellowship in the name of Jesus and introduces several speakers to gives us their testimony or some encouraging story about their mission work or about other missions of the fellowship. This year we heard about the Student Leadership forum and heard from a young lady that had participated in that forum and were told how important that mission is. We also heard from a man named No-No, whose story I will tell you about next week. Of course, the regional meeting starts and ends with sincere prayer.
I keep mentioning sincere prayer. That is because, in my humble opinion, most public prayers are for show, not sincere prayers. At the National Prayer Breakfast, you hear the heart of the person praying. It is not a sermon, it is not a political speech, it is not a PR prayer.
Shortly after noon, the large group meets again in the Ballroom for the Leadership luncheon, with prayer, inspirational presentations, music and praise. This one was less formal and with a primary speaker, who this year was Francis Collins, the head of the Human Genome Project. A Ph.D and an M.D. and a world-renowned scientist; but most of all a follower of Jesus of Nazareth. His presentation and that of Condoleezza Rice were the highlights of the various meetings.
Thursday night there is another big gathering in the main ballroom, called the Family Dinner. Less formal, but with prayer, praise, inspiration and fellowship around the name of Jesus. This is a night with nationally known musical entertainment, singing spiritual music. At some of these Family Dinners there have also been Christian comedians, but this year no comedians.
With the end of the Family Dinner, the official festivities are over, but there are again international gatherings and social times.
The series of meetings are all a series of prayer, praise, fellowship and messages focused on Jesus of Nazareth. Even if your switch is already turned on, a day and a half of this kind of meetings and fellowship will flip your switch into 220. If it wasn't flipped before, it is likely to be flipped, which is part of what I want to tell you about next week, some switches that have been flipped at the National Prayer Breakfast.