Why we need the National Prayer Breakfast

            It’s easy to be cynical about Washington. I was born in this city and even I occasionally throw up … Continued

            It’s easy to be cynical about Washington. I was born in this city and even I occasionally throw up my hands in frustration when observing Republicans and Democrats at war with each other over the silliest and sometimes most important things in order to gain political advantage. Too often they appear more interested in themselves than the rest of the country.

            The purpose of the National Prayer Breakfast, which will be held for the 60th time on Thursday, is to attempt to bridge political and even religious differences through what is called “the spirit of Jesus of Nazareth” in order that leaders consider a Higher Authority to Whom they are ultimately accountable and answerable.

            Since President Eisenhower attended the first breakfast in 1953, every president, Republican and Democrat, has come. It is truly one of the few  nonpartisan events taking place in Washington.

            While the president is prayed for, along with the Congress and state and local leaders, what transpires behind the scenes is often of greater importance. Many attendees come from nations that have never known free elections, followed by an orderly transition of power. They know nothing of a two-, or multi-party system. In too many of their countries, when one side wins an election, or a war, the winning side jails or kills members of the opposition. For them, to see Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, praying together and praying for this country is a revolutionary experience it is hoped they will take home and replicate  in their own countries. Many have done precisely that.

            Lay people and Members of Congress have quietly and often at their own expense, traveled around the world to establish prayer breakfasts in legislatures and other governmental bodies with the National Prayer Breakfast as their model. Disputes have been settled, tribal wars ended, peace brought between gangs, hunger assuaged, wells drilled providing clean water to people who never had any, and many other positive goals achieved.       

            Diplomatic back channels have long been a useful tool of American foreign policy. One might call this effort a “spiritual back channel.”

            “Christianity” per se is not preached. Because many religions and cultures respect Jesus, though they may not regard Him as God’s Son, those who carry His message on behalf of a core group of people in Washington do so by using His words about forgiveness, love and reconciliation. Sometimes those listening to this message ask to go further, but they are not pressured to do so. The “tactic,” if there is one, is to present not an American religion, but a message from a greater power Who can actually change lives and heal nations.

            In the invitation to this year’s breakfast, there are four quotes about faith from former U.S. presidents: Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan. The one from Coolidge is particularly striking: “The foundations of our society and our government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible that it would be difficult to support them if faith in these teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country.”

            One can debate whether the National Prayer Breakfast engages in a type of “civil religion,” but there is much good that emerges from it. For at least a short time, politicians — from the President of the United States on down — acknowledge they are not as powerful as the Almighty.

            On receiving a Bible from a group called the Loyal Colored People of Baltimore, Sept. 7, 1864, Abraham Lincoln said, “All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it, we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.”

It is for the purpose of commending that Book and that Jesus to more than 3,000 leaders from around the country and world that the National Prayer Breakfast exists and is an essential part of our national life.

Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist and Fox news contributor.


  • Sara121

    Why can’t they just have breakfast?

    Shouldn’t the sight of our national leaders of both parties getting together for a nice leisurely nonpartisan meal be just as inspiring to these third world leaders? In fact, I would argue that it would be more so. The author writes: “Many attendees come from nations that have never known free elections, followed by an orderly transition of power. They know nothing of a two-, or multi-party system. In too many of their countries, when one side wins an election, or a war, the winning side jails or kills members of the opposition.” In many of these cases, the division among factions in these countries IS religion. So I say that to see US leaders of different political persuasions getting together, treating each other with respect, without the need to inject religion would be much more inspiring (and inclusive of those of us who don’t pray).

  • xexon

    Religion has no place where the laws of the land are being written.

    You people at Fox News have blurred the line where church and state meet and I call you out for it.

    I know what you’re up to. So do a lot of people.


  • XVIIHailSkins

    Would have loved for you to post the quote from Jefferson, considering he was the atheist founder of our country and the author of its most important document (not the declaration of independence, the Virginia statute for religious freedom). While you might find it comforting that our leaders have this opportunity to put aside their differences and reaffirm that christianity is the state sponsored religion, I find it decidedly troubling that they will waste their morning appealing to superstition and irrationality when they could be bickering about things that affect us in the real world. I can’t imagine how Western Europe must laugh at us when they hear of insipid demonstrations such as these.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    “Ignorance is preferable to error, and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing than he who believes what is wrong.”

  • usapdx

    Religion of any kind does not belong in our government period.

  • Jerry_R

    “Why can’t they just have breakfast?”

    Sara – it is because christians/the religious do not know how to be good and good to other people without god and their ancient books.

  • solsticebelle

    It is outrageous that my tax dollars support RELIGION! If you think a national prayer breakfast is so great, YOU pay for it!

  • solsticebelle

    I also find it troubling. Deeply troubling.

  • thoth1

    alas, a bunch of hypocritical, religion swilling pharisees!

  • eraskauskas

    Cal Thomas is correct. Republicans and Democrats get into controversies over the silliest things, like the minimum wage, for example. Prayer for justice and charity is more effective than the feel good blather of many politicians which is their solace for a lack of authentic spirituality..

  • Guerra1

    “The spirit of Jesus of Nazareth.” What a crook. If Jesus walked this Earth today, they wouldn’t let him past the barricades that protect these arrogant people as they preen about their morality. After it’s all over and they feel good about themselves, it’s back to them tinkling on the world.

  • ThomasBaum

    The fact that these “outmoded and erroneous beliefs” bother so many people, seems to me, something to think about.

  • ccnl1

    Fellowship Foundation –Sponsors of the National Prayer Breakfast
    (Maybe we don’t need a prayer breakfast considering the following)

    “Mission Statement-

    To develop and maintain an informal association of people banded together, to go out as “ambassadors of reconciliation”, modeling the principles of Jesus, based on loving God and loving others. To work with the leaders of other nations, and as their hearts are touched, the poor, the oppressed, the widows, and the youth of their country will be impacted in a positive manner. Youth groups will be developed under the thoughts of Jesus, including loving others as you want to be loved.

    Total revenue reported on their IRS Form 990 for 2008 was $16,265,873.

    Their highest paid employees are four associates who average about $120,000/yr each including benefits.

    The Coe family appears to be heavily involved with this non-profit with two members being associates as noted above and with five other family members working for the group averaging about $12,000/yr.

    Strangest grant made in 2008 was to the Golf Ministry of Argentina for $11,000.

    On the 2006 IRS Forms, they list the Wilberforce Foundation as a related exempt organization located at the C Street Center. Wilburforce’s treasurer is David Coe. One of the VP’s is his brother Tim Coe. Both brothers are also associates at the Fellowship Foundation . David’s salary from Wilburforce is $125,000/yr including benefits. Tim Coe’s salary is $116,000. These are the same salaries listed on the Fellowship Foundation’s 2008 IRS 990 Form. One assumes that the brothers are getting salaries from both organizations i.e. $250,000 and $232,000/yr to include benefits. Marty Sherman also works for both organizations and one assumes gets the double salary of approximately $250,000.

    The Fellowship Foundation sponsors the National Prayer breakfast every year. On the 2008 Form 990, the breakfast cost $1,097,465 but was offset by ticket sales and donations of $1,173,584.

    The Family Coe invo

  • ccnl1

    JC’s family and friends had it right 2000 years ago ( Mark 3: 21 “And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.”)

    Said passage is one of the few judged to be authentic by most contemporary NT scholars. e.g. See Professor Ludemann’s conclusion in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 24 and p. 694.

    Actually, Jesus was a bit “touched”. After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today’s world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

    Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J’s gospel being mostly fiction.

    Obviously, today’s followers of Paul et al’s “magic-man” are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and “magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

    So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher/magic man would do or say?

  • ccnl1

    What Obama can do to at least lift part of the Immoral Majority leader label?

    He says abortions should be “safe, legal and rare” (something he borrowed from B. Clinton ) but says nothing about the basic tenet of proper human conduct i.e. Thou Shalt Not Kill. And where is BO’s sense of indignation that abortions are not rare and that these acts of horror demean the Golden Rule considering that he says he is a Christian. And where is his sense of indignation that women who use the Pill do not use it properly resulting in an failure rate of 8.7% as per the Guttmacher Institute statistics. Using these and other Guttmacher Institute data, this failure of women to use the Pill properly results in ~1,000,000 unplanned pregnancies every year. And the annual abortion rate in the USA is?? ~1,000,000 as per the CDC.

    And do males use condoms properly? No, as said failure rate for this birth “control” method is 17.4%!! Again using Guttmacher data, said failure rate results in another ~1,000,000 unplanned pregnancies every year.

    The Guttmacher Institute (same reference) notes also that the perfect use of the pill should result in a 0.3% failure rate (35,000 unplanned pregnancies) and for the male condom, a 2% failure rate (138,000 unplanned pregnancies).

    Bottom line: BO is still not aware of the basics of birth control and still remains the leader of the Immoral Majority and will remain so until he becomes a true Christian and one who respects and protects human life in all its forms and who at least emphasizes the proper use of birth control methods!!!

    The “Immoral Majority” you ask?

    The fastest growing (and largest?) USA voting bloc: In 2008, the 70+ million “Roe vs. Wade mothers and fathers” of aborted womb-babies” whose ranks grow by two million per year i.e. 78+ million “IM” voters in 2012.

    2008 Presidential popular vote results:

    69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for “pro-life” JM.

  • jmetzger2

    Silly Christians! Ha-ha!

  • XVIIHailSkins

    1. Obama could not be further from a ‘true christian,’ out of all the ways he misrepresents himself, he’s doing the most transparent and lazy job of faking his christianity I have seen even among our last four presidents (all atheists), and I have to commend his impatience.
    2. If the ‘immoral majority’ refers to any slice of our population other than the 80% of deluded American christians that have been opposing the foundational secular principles of our country since its inception then you simply can’t be talking about the United States.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    Thought about it. They bother people because they’re totalitarian, fascist, racist, sexist, apocalyptic, and they suggest that humans would have no conception of morality without the mandate of big brother.

  • ThomasBaum

    Not all think as you do.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    You mean the 80% of Americans that think god answers their prayers? I’m aware.

  • northernharrier

    “The purpose of the National Prayer Breakfast, which will be held for the 60th time on Thursday, is to attempt to bridge political and even religious differences through what is called “the spirit of Jesus of Nazareth” in order that leaders consider a Higher Authority to Whom they are ultimately accountable and answerable.”

    Mr. Thomas: please read the constitution of the United States. It clearly states that this “purpose” of the National Prayer Breakfast is unconstitutional. It flies in the face of the most basic rights guaranteed by our constitution, which is the supreme law of the land. If you do not understand the importance of the separation of religion and the state to insuring our most basic religious rights in this country, then you do not understand our country. You also show that you don’t respect religious views different from your own. If you did, you’d understand that this type of event is clearly biased in terms of the religious beliefs it promotes and supports, versus other beliefs, such as Bhuddism, humanism, etc.

  • northernharrier

    The people who pressured the military to disinvite the speaker did so not because he is Christian, contrary to your false suggestion. They pressured the military to remove him as speaker because he has a history of making bigoted remarks in speeches at military-sponsored events- in violation of the law and military policy. The military decided to dis-invite him because they knew the facts, and the facts clearly show he has made bigoted remarks that are against official policies.

  • ccnl1

    Judgements are part of surviving as witnessed by the judgements to stop at red lights and to follow or not follow the rules and regulations of government and evolved human conduct.

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

Read More Articles

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.