This week I had the honor and privilege to attend the National Prayer Breakfast. Each year, the first week of February is dedicated to an international day of prayer in Washington D.C. Delegations from all over the world come together and commit to praying (in the name of Jesus) for our world. Congressmen (both Democrat and Republican) come together and model what it’s like to disagree across a wide array of ideology, and focus on the person, teachings, values, and principles of Jesus. The President gives an address, and Prime Ministers and Legislative leaders from 130 countries all come together….to pray.
What’s interesting about this event each year is that there are all faiths represented, and Jesus is the center of every conversation. How cool is that? Never in my wildest imagination would I have ever dreamed to see what I saw.
Most of the week, I spent time hanging out with delegations from the Middle East. I wish you could have been a fly on the wall to witness the variety of people. It is absolutely astonishing. Yesterday alone, I sat with an Imam from Saudi Arabia, I hugged an Ayatollah from Iran, and even spoke briefly with a Jewish Knesset member while having breakfast with a Lebanese Dr. looking for answers to the problems in the Middle East. While we all enjoyed a breakfast together, we talked about our world, our differences, and our commonalities and ALL were interested in how to broker peace by invoking the Prince of Peace in our lives. It’s truly one of the most mind-blowing experiences of a lifetime.
As we try to navigate the world, we hear so much news about the dangers of communing with each label mentioned. We don’t usually take time to really understand and know “the other,” mostly because we live in a world with so many unconscious bias’ toward someone who doesn’t think like we do. We don’t usually have the courage to step forward and declare this ‘Jesus’ space for fear of offending someone or coming across as strangely freakish about our faith. But for a week, the highest level leaders of the world come together and try to form a coalition, of sorts, to address the problems we all face as humans.
Wednesday morning, I attended a ‘special’ meeting where I heard the Mayor of Amman, Jordan talk about the pain his countrymen were experiencing due to the recent violent death of the Jordanian pilot. Wrapped in a blanket of sadness, a Jewish Knesset member did their best to comfort her friend standing on stage together. Next, I witnessed a Lebanese diplomat tell the attendees how “following Jesus” has been a key to making his life make sense in the world, while the Iranian Ayatollah gave points on the similarities and differences Jesus is represented in the Quran and the Bible.
And finally, I witnessed a Palestinian Christian stand side by side with an Israeli Jewish Settler both of whom were calling on peace and prayer for the Holy Land. “Government isn’t working. Philosophy isn’t working. Economy isn’t working. We must look for another way void of violence to solve the biggest problems in the Holy Land.” And then they prayed.
I don’t know if you could have conjured up any more opposite World views in the same room if you tried. And while I watched and participated in praying for/with all these people, I was moved to see how Jesus (when lifted up) has the ability to give people a space to participate in whatever God is doing in their own lives. It was a stark reminder of John 12:32, “And I (Jesus), when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
The world is a super big place with all kinds of thoughts and ideas. But for one moment in time, I witnessed the possibility of people who are willing to pray together, eat together, and long for the world to push the violence to the margins; and all come together around the life, teachings, and special divinity of Jesus. What a week it was to witness a Jew, a Christian, and a Muslim work for peace through prayer.