You wouldn't expect to find thousands of people celebrating bipartisanship and stripping back Party labels in the middle of Washington, DC — but that's exactly what happened last week during the National Prayer Breakfast.
It's more than just a morning of prayer and an endless supply of coffee and bagels. It's a three day long gathering of individuals from across the country and the globe, all meeting to celebrate a common faith in God and spend time uplifting our nation's leaders up in prayer.
In the span of 24 hours, I met people from Australia, the Congo and North Dakota. North Dakota may not be international, but where else might I meet folks from one of the least populated states in the country? And yes, they were as nice as you might expect North Dakotans to be. The halls of the Hilton echoed with words from Swahili to German and every single person was delighted to meet you and ask how you happened to get a coveted ticket to the event.
A contingent of delegates from each of the 50 states has the opportunity to attend the Prayer Breakfast each year. Tickets are limited and are invitation-only, so it was an honor to receive an invite as part of the Indiana delegation this year. I was seated in near the back of the large banquet hall at the Washington Hilton squarely in front of President Trump — although a bit too far to make eye contact.
A vast table on the stage included Prayer Breakfast leaders Republican Senator James Lankford and Democrat Senator Chris Coons, who both spoke on the importance of coming together as political opposites but spiritual allies. The civility was refreshing and captured beautifully in a photograph of both Senators praying over President Trump near the end of the breakfast.
Feb 7, 2019 at 10:26am PST
Trump's speech gave him the opportunity to highlight issues many hold dear, including religious liberty. He specifically spoke about faith-based foster care agencies that are facing criticism and legal trouble for simply abiding by their deeply held religious beliefs. With around 440,000 children in foster care in the United States, shutting down these organizations would have a massive impact on helping them find homes.
In addition to Trump's speech, we also heard from the President of Ghana, the former CEO of Keller Williams Realty Mo Anderson, Pilot Tami Jo Schultz (who heroically landed a flight last year after a blown engine) and respected pastor Dick Foth, among others. Christian music legend Chris Tomlin led worship music in multiple sessions and for once, in Washington, DC, it felt like we were all in this thing together.
At at time when partisan bickering and divisive rhetoric is at an all-time high, the National Prayer Breakfast was a beautiful respite. It reminded attendees that many Americans, including some of our nation's highest leaders, do believe that we answer to something and someone bigger than ourselves. It was a reminder that most of us have good intentions but perhaps different pathways to freedom, flourishing and faith.
As the 2020 President cycle begins to heat up, I hope we can remember the lessons of civility, respect and kindness represented by the 2019 National Prayer Breakfast.