But you never have enough

A Community of Love  Haggai 1-2

Prayer for the Day:
Ever Present Lord, You call us in so many ways to work to create your kingdom on earth today. Too often we get wrapped up in thinking about our own needs: what we will eat, drink, and wear when we should be helping out our brothers and sisters. (Take some time and pray for your neighbors that you know and don’t know). Help us not to forget the least of these brothers and sisters of the word. Amen.

Question for reflection:

Take a hard look at yourself for a few minutes. What have you done to help yourself get ahead in life? What have you done to help to build the kingdom of heaven in this world, today?

~ Carol Fike, National Young Adult Conference Coordinator

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Lent devotional written by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford. (Available from Brethren Press) Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Cheryl’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

Navigating the Corridors of Power

by Paul Mundey, Pastor, Frederick Church of the Brethren

‘Potomac fever’ is intoxicating, very much alive in Washington, D.C.   Frankly, I enjoy it, since my notion of a great time is surfing three channels of C-Span!  And so, when an opportunity to attend the National Prayer Breakfast (NPB) materialized about 10 years ago, I grabbed it; I’ve been attending, yearly, ever since.

Ironically, the initial invitation to attend such a rarified event came  from Rickey Bolden, a Brethren Church pastor, ‘starting up’ an outreach (‘859’), to poverty stricken youth in Washington, D.C.  Wanting my support, and the support of the Frederick Church of the Brethren, Rickey invited me to meet others from the International Foundation, the parent group for ‘859’ — and – the National Prayer Breakfast.  Seems the National Prayer Breakfast is the International Foundation’s ‘annual conference’ – gathering thousands yearly, to support their 300+ social service/justice ministries around the world.

But not without controversy. Commonly referred to as ‘The Family,’ the International Foundation has been the subject of at least two books calling into question its motives, ethics and credibility. The validity of those critiques is a subject for another essay but whatever its shortcomings, the International Foundation has attempted much good, in a most unique fashion. For starters, it is a largely a lay movement, striving to cut-through ecclesiastical bureaucracy, returning to the simple message of Jesus. Secondly, it intentionally seeks out the rich and powerful, calling them to serve the poor and power-less. Thirdly, it speaks truth to power, attempting to disturb the established equilibrium of influential people.

Now in all candor, ‘The Family’ appears to be a largely ‘Republican,’ conservative movement.  But there are notable exceptions such as the counter-cultural voice of Tony Hall, a former democratic representative from Ohio, challenging the rich and powerful to give more to world hunger initiatives.  Or the prophetic voice of Barbara Skinner Williams, challenging ‘Potomac fever’ folk to relate to the inner-city and the poor.

The ‘challenge’ of ‘The Family’ is most visible each year at the National Prayer Breakfast itself — as the organizers of the breakfast, intentionally ‘mix-up’ the seating around each table.  Every other event in the main ballroom of the Washington Hilton (the location of the NPB) is carefully orchestrated to match the established protocol and ‘pecking order’ of Washington, D.C. The National Prayer Breakfast punctures the ‘pecking order’ intentionally seating inner city youth (yes, they’re at the NPB) beside congressmen; ‘poor in wealth’ internationals (a major emphasis of the NPB is global outreach) beside ambassadors.

And so, ‘all and all,’ the National Prayer Breakfast is a powerful event, filled with powerful people, challenged to use their power, for the betterment of the power-less.  Sure the NPB looks contrary to that intent, but my decade-long experience of attending the NPB confirms that intent.  Whether it was Bono, NPB’s 2006 speaker, challenging the powerful to support tithing 10% of the federal budget to the poor – or Eric Metaxas NPB’s 2012 speaker, challenging the powerful to leave ‘dead religion’ and pursue courageous faith-acts, such as those of Bonhoeffer and Wilberforce – there’s prophetic intent at the National Prayer Breakfast.   Yes, many who attend are never convinced; they continue their lives of consumption and privilege.  But many who attend go beyond ‘Potomac fever’ toward a new passion and purpose — rooted in Jesus.

Enough for All

For decades in Washington, DC, there has been an event called the National Prayer Breakfast – where clergy, government officials, celebrities, and many other people of faith come together to share in a time of fellowship and prayer for the work that they do. However, there was a sense this year that there was an important population that may not be represented at the National Prayer Breakfast, and that it was important to join in praying with them and in their voice as well.

It was out of this spirit, building off of the Occupy movement, that the Peoples Prayer Breakfast was launched – praying that we would recognize and work so that there is enough for all. Sweet Honey In the Rock’s Dr. Ysaye Barnwell sang, ““I woke up this morning with my mind set on justice…”, and it was this message that united all the people in that room – from members of the Occupy movement, to DC area clergy, to staff of denominational offices, to members of Congress, to folks struggling with hunger, homelessness, and poverty. In so many ways, this breakfast was an extension of the work we have been doing together – from prayer vigils on the lawn of the United Methodist Building, to action alerts supporting a just and moral budget process, to the work we do in our churches – supporting soup kitchens and homeless shelters, to my arrest this summer, kneeling to pray in the Capitol Rotunda.

“We thought prayer shouldn’t be used for access to power or to move forward people’s agendas,” said Brian Merritt, an organizer of the alternative breakfast who is pastor of the city’s Palisades Community Church. “Prayer connects us to something greater than ourselves, but also moves us in action for those around us. It challenges us to confront others’ needs … Prayer is something people agonize over, people cry over. But it’s not always something that makes those who have power feel comfortable.”

The goal of the Peoples Prayer Breakfast was not to offset, or disqualify, the voices of prayer coming from the National Prayer Breakfast. But to remember that when we are praying for our nation, for our priorities, for the work that we do together, that there are more voices that must be lifted up. The call was simply that we must ensure there is “enough for all.” The room was decorated with artwork and placards calling for basic dignities for all, reminding us of the things that “everybody needs” — a warm bed, a decent education, clean water, a roof over one’s head.

These are prayers that are not the exclusive domain of the Peoples Prayer Breakfast – it would be my prayer that it is also what is being lifted up at the National Prayer Breakfast. And it is amazing to think what we might do when we are all praying together.

Are you the One?

Prayer for the Day

Revealing God, we are a skeptical people. Throughout our lives we have been taught that what we see, touch, and hear are the most real. We barely believe until something is proven to our eyes or hands. We cannot help but ask with John if you are the one from whom we have been waiting. Move in our minds and hearts that we might see through the shadows of our certainty to notice even the smallest transformations around us. Then, may we proclaim that you are indeed the one! Amen.


What are you waiting for? What conditions do you place on knowing for sure?

-Joshua Brockway; Director, Spiritual Life and Discipleship

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Advent devotional written by David W. Miller. (Available from Brethren Press) Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, David’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

The Naked Anabaptist

Book cover of The Naked Anabaptist

The Naked Anabaptist by Stuart Murray is a straightforward introduction to the Anabaptist tradition. Why are so many people today intrigued by Anabaptism? What are the core convictions of the Anabaptist tradition? Who were the original Anabaptists?

Share your comments here or come hear Stuart Murray in person at an upcoming workshop: www.brethren.org/stuartmurray