A special note from Larry:
For those of you who have been following the last three weeks' lessons about the National Prayer Breakfast from the printed notes or from the notes on the website, you must think that you are reading a lot of repetition. Each of these lesson notes has contained more information then I have been able to cover in class, so the intended end of each lesson has ended up being repeated as the beginning of the next lesson, and so on. Again last week I only got about halfway through Lesson No. 3 by the end of class, so again this lesson for will include the latter half of the notes from Lesson 3. I apologize for not being able to judge what we're going to get through in each class session but the interest on the part of the class has been strong, and the discussion has been quite constructive.
There were a couple of questions that the class brought up last week that I now have answers to.
Today's Lesson: Continuing where we left off last week...
Now let's get on with the description of the events which make up the total event which we call the National Prayer Breakfast.
Last week I started to describe the series of events that take place before and after the Thursday morning National Prayer Breakfast. I discussed the Women's Gathering held Wednesday afternoon and the Congressional Dinner held Wednesday night.
This morning let me pick up the description of the series of events which starts Thursday morning. The National Prayer Breakfast is held on the first Thursday morning of February every year. Every guest is required to be in their seat by 7:30am. This includes clearing security at the door. No one is allowed in if their preprinted named invitation is not shown. No ticket with your individual name -- no admittance. The stage is set with a long head table of about 20 people. All are there seated, except the President and First Lady.
At 8:00am, they play "Hail to the Chief" and the President and First lady enter the stage to take their seat at the head table.
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 Myers.
The emcee for the Breakfast this year, Congressman Ray LaHood from Illinois, then made introductions and opening comments.
Then the President was introduced. The President then addressed the audience. The President's message is usually about the place that his faith plays in his life, or how prayer comes into play in his private and political life. The message is often somewhat personal. It is clearly heartfelt.
Remember last week I read a portion of President Reagan's presentation from 1985, when he told the story of the Asian monk who ended the Coliseum tradition of 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 the others, to give you both the content of some of those testimonials and to reinforce my claim that God is still in control, even in Washington D.C.
At the National Prayer Breakfast itself, there is usually a second high-profile governmental official that makes a presentation, often actually deeper and more meaningful that the President's. There are always guest musicians to present several spiritual pieces of music. This year, since the emcee was the Representative from the state of Illinois, Rep. Ray LaHood, he had invited a church choir from Peoria Illinois.
This year the second, and keynote 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.
Then we had a Scripture reading by George Tenet, director of the CIA, followed by remarks about the House Prayer Group by Congressman James Inhofe from Oklahoma and remarks about the Senate Prayer Group by Senator Bill Nelson from Florida. Then Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert made some remarks in support of the congressional prayer groups.
Before the end of the Breakfast event, the President and First Lady are excused, so they can safely leave the premises with adequate security.
The Breakfast was closed with a prayer by Congressman John Dingell from Michigan. The Prayer Breakfast itself was closed by a tear evoking rendition of Amazing Grace, but then I can't sing or hear that song without choking up. Remind me next week, if I forget, to mention this song in my story about No-no.
Midmorning, after the Prayer Breakfast, regional groups meet to hear inspirational stories in what they call Leadership Seminars. This year we met with guests from Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and New Mexico. We were labeled the "South Central Region". (This is the same regional grouping that we had met with for the Congressional Dinner the night before.)
This meeting was lead 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 from a young lady that participated in the 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.
For lunch, the large group meets again in the Ballroom for the Leadership Luncheon, with prayer, inspirational presentations, music and praise. 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. We sensed that the intended speaker and musicians had bailed out at the last minute and although it was an enjoyable time of fellowship, it did not live up to our previous Family Dinner nights.
With the end of the Family Dinner, the official festivities are over, but there are again international receptions and social times after the Family Dinner.
The series of meetings are all a series of prayer, praise, fellowship and messages focused on Jesus of Nazareth. Let me repeat the comments that I made last week for emphasis. If your Jesus switch had not been turned on, it is likely to be flipped on, which is part of what I want to tell you about in some of the testimonials we heard. If your switch is already turned on, a day and a half of these kind of meetings and fellowship will flip your switch into 220. Some pretty amazing switches that have been flipped at the National Prayer Breakfast.
Now let me go back and relate to you some of the high points from the various meetings.
Remember that on Wednesday night, the attendees from the six states of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and New Mexico met together in a smaller meeting room for dinner and fellowship. During that Congressional Dinner we heard from a pastor from Honduras who spoke no English and who spoke to us in Spanish which was then translated for our benefit. He had been a pastor in a relatively successful church in one of the cities in Honduras. However he felt a call to spread the message of Jesus out to the indigenous Indians of Honduras and proceeded to do so. Many of them came to accept Jesus and they and their families started to attend the church which he pastored. The problem was that the native Indians came to church and started to participate. The Indians were very poor and not very well-educated and as you might expect did not dress as well as the regular church members. After a relatively short period of time the elders of the church approached the pastor, praising him for his work with the Indians but suggesting that it might be better if the Indians did not come to their church as it was somewhat uncomfortable for the regular members. The elders did suggest that perhaps they should start a church in the Indian village so that the Indians could have a place to attend without disrupting the established church.
I assume you can see what's coming. The pastor who was living reasonably well, provided with a parsonage and getting a salary from the church felt that the elders were not acting as followers of Jesus. He explained to the elders that the church should welcome all believers whether Spanish or Indian, educated or uneducated and poor or not. The elders of course did not agree. They gave him two choices. He could send the Indians away or be fired. It was his judgment that spreading the word of Jesus to the Indians and serving them was a higher calling than to be a salaried pastor with benefits in their church, so he resigned. But then he was left with no way to support himself and his family, no church and he suddenly became one of the disadvantaged, like the Indians he chose to serve. He moved to the Indian village, established the church and managed to survive only on what God provided and grew that church to a point that they established several other churches in nearby Indian villages. He had been sponsored by the prayer breakfast to come tell his story. I'm guessing that the fellowship had assisted in his support and mission to the Indians. He and his wife, who was also there, were clearly of modest means and were overwhelmed with the spiritual support they received at the National Prayer Breakfast.
...I will give you a synopsis of the presentations that stood out most to Pat and me from the three events held on Thursday which were