Like most Americans, I am frustrated by the government. Polarization and gridlock of congress; attack ads and uncivil discourse; inability to stop the economic meltdown. What a mess! I feel like Nathanael did when he heard about Jesus for the first time: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” I have to ask, “Can anything good come out of Washington, DC?”
Well, there is at least one good thing coming out of Washington, DC that we should rejoice over, and that is the National Prayer Breakfast.
I was thrilled to have my Peace Catalyst colleagues Michael Ly and David Vidmar join me at the 60th annual National Prayer Breakfast (NPB) last week in Washington DC. The purpose of the NPB is to help leaders take seriously Jesus’s commands to love God and neighbor. To call leaders to unity around the person of Jesus, and to get people from all religious traditions and political persuasions to gather in Jesus’s name and pray for one another.
This is not a really a “Christian” event nor a “political” event per se. It is certainly more than just a breakfast, since many small groups meet over a number of days. The NPB is a Jesus-centered gathering, led primarily by U.S. politicians, attracting people from all walks of life. When people asked us what Peace Catalyst does, we said it puts on lots of small events like the NPB.
Here are some highlights:
- The Secretary General of Saudi Arabia’s Interfaith Initiative met with us to talk about potential peacemaking events in the future. I assured him that Peace Catalyst could bring a number of open-minded evangelicals to meet with the Saudis.
- An Israeli, an Iranian, an Arab, and myself sat together to talk about peace and war! You could feel the electricity in the air as we were sitting only two feet from each other. This was one intense small group. But out of this grew new friendships and new potential for peace.
- I met a new friend, Yussef, a judge from Egypt who is currently studying in the U.S. We enjoyed a meal together, discussed many issues, and had a special time of prayer for his great country.
- I met with two Sheikhs from Iraq – one Sunni and one Shia. The younger Sunni Sheikh wants to become the Martin Luther King of Iraq! And we want to help him.
- I had the privilege of answering questions about the Bible with a Muslim friend over tea.
- I had a heart-to-heart talk about extremism and the history of Pakistan (especially in relationship with Afghanistan) with a Pakistani ambassador.
The National Prayer Breakfast is a networker’s heaven. Through contacts we made, PCI is now exploring peacemaking opportunities in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Sudan, Pakistan, Palestine, and Egypt.
The National Prayer Breakfast started with President Dwight Eisenhower and has grown to become an international event — with heads of state, ambassadors, politicians, businessmen, and religious leaders from around the world attending — over 3,000 guests from over 100 nations. There are only two events that U.S. Presidents have not missed in the last 50 yrs… the State of the Union and the National Prayer Breakfast!
There is no other event in the world like this. Because it is led by political leaders from the U.S. and held in Washington DC, people of all stripes are motivated to attend, and because it focuses on the Great Commandments and Jesus, there is a strong foundation for peacemaking. The event gives people from all over the world an opportunity to learn more about Jesus in a way that is attractive and non-threatening. What a privilege and a joy to participate in this for the seventh time, serving on the team for the Middle East Delegation. This is something worth knowing about and praying for!