Last week we finished the description of the events of the National Prayer Breakfast and I described what occurred in each of the six different events from Wednesday afternoon through Thursday night.
This week -- Messages and Testimonials:
Today, I want to share the messages and testimonials that we heard, the ones that made a big impact on me, those that flipped my switch to high voltage.
Can Prayer Move a Mountain?
Before I do that, I want to share with you a testimony concerning Doug Coe. This is a story that has been told by Doug and others involved. It is a part of Doug's testimony about his faith.
Doug Coe's friend, Bob Hunter, a new Christian, asked, "Do you really believe what the Bible says about moving mountains when we pray?" Doug thought about it and answered, "Sure!"
Bob was incredulous. "Do you mean to say that if I prayed for a mountain to move, it would move?" Doug responded, "Let me put it this way. I not only believe it, I'll make you a $500 bet.
Bob, what do you know about Africa?"
"What do you think about when you think of Africa?"
"I think about monkeys swinging from trees."
"Then here's the bet: You pray for 45 days 'God help Africa.' You can't miss a single day, and that's all you have to pray. At the end of 45 days, you judge whether any mountain moved. If you think one has, pay me $500. If you think not, just tell me and I'll pay you $500 -- no questions asked." Bob, liking the odds, accepted, and daily began to pray "God help Africa."
A few days later he was sitting next to an elderly lady at dinner and discovered that she lived in Uganda and ran an orphanage there. He asked many questions about Uganda and Africa. When she asked why he was so interested, he was a little embarrassed, but told of the bet with Doug. She invited him to return with her in a few days to visit the orphanage, and he went. He was so touched, that when he got home he and some friends sent toys and clothing.
A week later he received a call from the lady at the orphanage. "The children want to give you a special presentation if you will visit again. Can you come?" He went.
Following the heartwarming ceremony, a phone call came for Bob from the President of Uganda to thank him personally, on behalf of Uganda, for his gifts to the orphans, and the president then asked him to visit that afternoon. When he arrived, the President was rushing off to some appointments, but invited him along.
During their travels, Bob saw a stockyard full of men, instead of cattle. The
president explained that these were political prisoners. Bob said, "...Mr. President,
it's not right to have men living in such horrible conditions. You must let them
"They have tried to subvert my authority," he said. "I cannot let them go; it would be foolish to do this."
Bob persevered. To free the prisoners was the only right thing to do. One week after returning to the U.S., Bob was called to meet with the undersecretary of the state for African affairs. The U.S. government had tried, unsuccessfully for years, to get these prisoners released, but the President of Uganda "...told us he was doing it because of what you said. What did you say?"
The story is not over! The president of Uganda called Bob to help him choose a new Cabinet for his country. Bob protested "I don't know anything about your country or the people who could best serve in your cabinet. I am just a businessman. I'm not qualified. How can I possibly help you choose a Cabinet?"
But he went and gave what help he could. Now they are close friends; and when the President of Uganda visits the USA, he stays in the home of his friend, Bob, in the Washington, DC area.
Bob sent Doug a check for $500.
When Doug retold this story to about twenty members of the Young President Organization (YPO - an international association of business people who, by age forty, become CEO's or owners of companies of a certain size), they asked if they could make a similar bet with him.
"Well,... sure!" The ground rules were: they had to pray every day, did not have to tell him what they were praying for, and at the end of 45 days it would be entirely up to them to decide if a mountain had been moved.
After 45 days, Doug received twelve checks for $500. Later he received a 13th check, with this explanation: "Doug, my mountain did not move. But the discipline of praying every day for 45 days has changed my life, so I feel that I owe you this $500."
Doug then asks: What mountains, what things which could never change, are in your life? What is it around you that desperately needs the movement of mountains to change? Is your heart broken by something that desperately needs God to intervene in mountain-moving fashion? Why not pray daily and see if God will move it for you?
Of course the verse on which he bases this faith is Mark 9:23.
Jesus said to him, "If you can believe, all things are possible to
him who believes." --Mark 9:23
Remember that on Wednesday night, the attendees from the six South Central States 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, but spoke to us in Spanish through an interpreter. 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 suggested 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, who was 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 Hispanic 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 had chosen 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. The inspirational message here was that when someone is truly a follower of Jesus of Nazareth and stays on that road, in spite of the obvious risk, God will provide. In fact, God will reward. If only we could exhibit his faith and willingness to follow Jesus, imagine what God could accomplish through us.
The other story that we heard that evening was from a man who lived in Houston and who was a personal friend of Captain Rick Husband, the commander of the shuttle Columbia. Remember that we were in Washington only four days after the Columbia disaster. It was on everyone's mind and prayers for the family of the crew of the Columbia were mentioned time and time again. But this gentleman who spoke knew Rick and his family personally and told us about Captain Husband's strong faith and personal relationship with Jesus.
The story that he told us just a few days after the death of Captain. Husband was subsequently related in a number of e-mails that many of us saw, but the story we heard was firsthand and several days before the story was widely known. Although as an astronaut Rick spent long hours in study and training, he considered the Christian training of his young children to be the most important to task in his life. From the time that his two children and were old enough to understand, he had an evening ritual of spending time with the children and usually reading to them some verses of the Bible and talking with them about the verses. This was the bedtime ritual that he used, to teach his children. Rick's children are about 5 and 10 years old, according to the friend relating the story.
Because Rick knew that he would be gone for 17 days and would not be able to have these short Bible study sessions with the children, before he left he video recorded 34 short Bible lessons so that each evening his wife could play the video tape for each of them and each of them could have their personal time studying the Bible with their dad, even though he was in space. So every night while Rick was in space, they had their study time right up to the last day. And on that last day and when Rick never returned, they still had 34 video tapes of their dad telling them about Jesus.
What a way to go.
The next morning was the title event, The National Prayer Breakfast, headlined by President Bush, and Laura, and keynoted by Condoleezza Rice.
This morning let me tell you about what the President had to say, and more importantly, his base of faith.
After complimenting Congressman LaHood for the introduction, which did not mention him but praised Laura, the President thanked the members of his cabinet who were participating in the National Prayer Breakfast, including George Tenet, Director Of the C.I.A. and General Myers, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He pointed out that it was very fitting that in tough times like this, they would be sharing Scripture and prayer with us. He thanked all the visitors from around the globe and commented, "It reminds me that the Almighty God is a God to everybody, every person".
He made the statement that "it is fitting that we have a National Prayer Breakfast, because this is a nation of Prayer." He told us that the most common comment he hears as he meets people around the country is "Mr. President, I pray for you and your family, and so does my family." He said he turns to them without hesitation and says, "That is the greatest gift you can give to anybody, to pray on their behalf." He said "I especially feel that way because I believe in prayer. I pray. I pray for strength, I pray for guidance, I pray for forgiveness, and I pray to offer my thanks for a kind and generous Almighty God."
He said, "Our nation is dedicated to the equal and undeniable worth of every person. We don't own the ideals of freedom and human dignity, and sometimes we haven't always lived up to them. But we do stand for those ideals, and we will defend them. We believe, as Franklin Roosevelt said, that men and women born to freedom in the image of God will not forever suffer the oppressor's sword.
"We can also be confident in the ways of Providence, even when they are far from our understanding. Events aren't moved by blind change and chance. Behind all of life and all of history, there's a dedication and purpose, set by the hand of a just and faithful God. And that hope will never be shaken.
"In this hour of our country's history, we stand in the need of prayer. We pray for the families that have known recent loss. We pray for the men and women who serve around the world to defend our freedom. We pray for their families. We pray for wisdom to know and do what is right. And we pray for God's peace in the affairs of men."
I don't know if you have ever studied the road that President Bush traveled to his faith in Jesus, but it is interesting. Someone said that the most meaningful "come to Jesus" stories are from professional sinners who have come to accept Jesus. President Bush is described as only a semi-pro. He is described as a hearty partier, just a semi-pro.
He was born and raised in a family that was described as "punctilious churchgoers." They were Episcopalians and uncomfortable with public demonstrations of faith. The Episcopalians were known as "God's frozen people."
In 1948 the family moved to Midland Texas and joined the Presbyterian Church. Barbara Bush had been raised as a Presbyterian. George Senior taught Bible Study at the church. "Georgie" was a dutiful son and churchgoer. When Georgie went back east to school, he shed the Christian influence of his upbringing.
When the current President Bush married Laura in Houston in 1977, he joined her Methodist church. Men will do anything to get what they want. By 1985, after the birth of his twin daughters and as he approached 40, he needed to fix the relationship with the women in his life. He has said that "nothing was broken," but he wanted it to be better. He concluded that alcohol was in the way to making it better.
A friend of his invited him to join with him in a nondenominational Bible study group, Community Bible Study. Through the spiritual growth he gained in this study, George and his friend, both, after their 40th birthday, quit drinking in the summer of 1986. One of his friends from those days, says "it was goodbye Jack Daniels, hello Jesus."
As he grew in his political career, he also grew in his faith and commitment. As he became more conservative in his politics, he grew more conservative in his faith as well. As I referred to last week, faith helps President Bush pick a course and not look back. He believes that "You do your best and accept that everything is in God's hands." "If you are confident that there is a God who rules the world, you do your best and leave it to him from there."
The atmosphere in the White is infused with prayerfulness. There has always been prayer there, but now it is everywhere. President Bush is surrounded by people of deep faith.
Bush is not big on deep theological or political arguments. Asked if war against Iraq would be a just war, as laid out by Augustine in the 4th century and amplified by Aquinas, Luther and others, Bush satisfied himself that it is. But he did not reach that conclusion by pouring through texts or presiding over a group debate. He concluded that Saddam is evil, and everything flowed from that. The term evildoers which he started using after 9/11 comes from the Old Testament, in the Psalms and other places.
We have a President with whom I can relate. This is not a question of intellect, it is a question of faith in God, and I am convinced that he has it.
...I will report to you the rest of the highlights of what we heard at the rest of the meetings.