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A first-hand look at the National Prayer Breakfast

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By Charlana Kelly

You may not be aware, but on the first Thursday in February, diplomats, ambassadors, members of Parliament, Ministers of Defense, and other high-ranking officials gather each year in Washington, D.C., for the annual National Prayer Breakfast (NPB).

The origin of the breakfast dates back to the informal prayer meetings held by senators and representatives in 1942 at the height of World War II when General Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Texas native, commanded the Normandy invasion. After taking office as the President in 1953, Eisenhower was invited by his good friend and fellow Kansan, Senator Frank Carlson, to attend one of the weekly prayer breakfasts.

Besides being a great diplomat, Eisenhower was also a devout Christian who understood the importance of believers coming together in Jesus Christ’s name and following His example. The President knew that if there were any hope of finding common ground, people would have to set aside their differences. Inspired by the prayer breakfasts, Eisenhower came up with the idea to broaden the invitation and ask world leaders to come to Washington and participate in a prayer breakfast to forge deeper relationships and unity around prayer in the name of Jesus.

In 1953 President Eisenhower presided over the first official national prayer event. Evangelist Billy Graham shared Scripture and prayer, and Eisenhower himself addressed the audience, proclaiming that “all free government is firmly founded in a deeply felt religious faith.”

The National Prayer Breakfast became an annual event, attracting political and religious leaders worldwide to gather, pray, reflect on faith, and have an opportunity to be seen as the servants of Christ rather than just the heads of state.

This year, I was honored to attend the “invitation only” NPB gathering in Washington. Throughout the event, I repeatedly witnessed first-hand how worldwide leaders in government, business, tech, and the military who love Jesus understand the need to gather for fellowship and prayer. Attendees heard from President Biden, President Zelensky, past and present U.S. Representatives, and Senators. Speakers also included the King and Queen of Jordan, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of Benazir Bhutto, who was the first woman to rise to the office of Prime Minister in Pakistan, along with other Christian leaders who shared Scripture and personal prayers.

Attending the NPB was a game-changer for me. I realized there is so much more going on in the highest offices of our land and beyond than our “media” portrays. I also realized that just like Paul to Timothy, there are many praying in small groups for national leaders. And I want you to know that things are not always as they appear. God is in control, and His people are everywhere doing precisely what He has instructed them to do - pray and share Christ.

Leaders worldwide, both in the church and out, have recognized the need to pray in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who gave people a blueprint to learn from and live by to become God’s representatives and ambassadors on the earth. Prayer is the key that opens the door.

There are Christians with power and influence positioned in every arena who said that their most significant concern today is advancing the Gospel of Jesus Christ in an increasingly hostile culture, bringing peace to chaos, and extending God’s love to those who choose vitriol over virtue. After hearing a Naval Academy Cadet pray the most powerful, heartfelt prayer that moved many to tears, I left with overwhelming hope for the next generation.

Martin Luther once said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” A prayerless church is a powerless church. In a day when people are becoming more polarized, prayer binds us together, processes the plans of God, and brings unity that releases the blessing of God, whether for a family, a community, a church, a state, a Nation, or the world.

Friends, we can be the light of Jesus Christ that we are charged to be in a progressively darker world. I heard a remarkable statement I’ll never forget, “Don’t curse the darkness. Light a candle.” It’s light that leads people out of the darkness. It’s light that brings wisdom and revelation by opening the eyes of those who are spiritually blind.

We must pray and pray for the good and blessing of ALL. We must not lose heart but continue to be exactly what Christ was to everyone He encountered; gentle, kind, and humble. Following His example will open the doorway of introduction to Christ, and that’s exactly why we are here. Pray that all come to the saving knowledge of Jesus, lead as He led, and love as He loved.

Knowing what I know now, I consider the annual National Prayer Breakfast to be a treasure, confirming both the heart of our nation and the heart of those national leaders who are first committed to Jesus Christ.

Editor’s note: Charlana Kelly is the Secretary/Treasurer of the Crockett Ministerial Alliance and a minister at Good Shepherd Fellowship Church. You can listen to Charlana’s nationally heard radio program “Unshakable with Charlana Kelly” on KIVY 92.7 FM at 9:45 am each Sunday, where she inspires Christians to live unshakable lives in uncertain times.

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