We Are All in This Together — Reflections on the National Prayer Breakfast

Ethiopia: Innocent Prayers of a Young Child, By Steve Evans, Flickr

Ethiopia: Innocent Prayers of a Young Child, By Steve Evans, Flickr

This past week I had the pleasure of attending the 63rd National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC. The National Prayer Breakfast has a long history representing the important role that faith plays in American life. Engaging the breadth of the United States, delegates were present from all 50 states.

Global Presence

But the National Prayer Breakfast is not limited to delegates from the United States. Representatives were present from 130 nations. This group of nearly 5,000 gathered together with members of Congress and President Barack Obama to do something quite unique in public life in our day—to reflect together on the person of Jesus of Nazareth and His teaching and also to ask God’s blessing and favor in the affairs of our world.

Diverse Sectors

In addition to representation from around the globe, the composition of the group also drew upon a diversity of sectors. Flourishing societies are built upon a foundation of multiple sectors working together in productive and meaningful ways. Key sectors in the United States are government, the market economy, and private/voluntary organizations.

A healthy and balancing relationship among government, market economy, and private sectors is vital for our future vitality and health as a society, and I’m reminded afresh that we are all in this together. The National Prayer Breakfast provides a place to come together from these multiple sectors to reflect on how Jesus and His teaching shape the manner in which we engage our work in each of these areas of society. Additionally, the National Prayer Breakfast represents a unique context in which people build relationships and pursue pathways for serving the people of our nation and world as we ask for God’s favor in this vital journey together.

The Experience

The experience of the National Prayer Breakfast is unlike any I’ve had previously. We heard from a wide range of speakers including President Obama, world-champion boxer Manny Pacquiao, NASCAR legend Darrell Waltrip, former Mayor and Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young, and many others. We heard written remarks shared from voices as diverse as Pope Francis and King Abdullah of Jordon. And I had the opportunity to share personal interactions with a unique and wide range of individuals such as Manny Pacquiao’s friend and pastor, actor Stephen Baldwin, a best-selling author, and an elected official from my home state.

Perhaps the most meaningful personal interaction was with Doug Coe, the man who sought out President Eisenhower over 60 years ago to paint a vision for leaders around the world praying together around a focus on the person of Jesus and His teachings. Doug’s vision, persistence, and trust in Jesus has led to 63 national prayer breakfast gatherings and pointing thousands of lives around the world to gather in the name of Jesus even though coming from a wide range of religious, political, and national backgrounds.

From Global to Local

Although it was amazing to hear from and interact with such a unique group of people in this global gathering, the key takeaway for me was sharing this experience with individuals from my home state and home city. The experience was deeply meaningful and was a call to pursue, foster, and engage in deeper relationship with my neighbors around the person of Jesus Christ. This provides great hope for our region as we engage very real challenges and pray, work, and collaborate together toward the aim of serving and blessing the world in Jesus’ name.

A Joyful Heart is Good Medicine … it also increases productivity!

Joy, by Alice Popkorn, Flickr

Photo Credit: Joy, by Alice Popkorn, Flickr

“A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

– Proverbs 17:22

In a recent edition of Harvard Business Review, the title of a sidebar mini-article caught my attention … “Start Your Next Meeting with a Joke.”

In the highlighted research, teams with at least one person in a good mood were more than twice as likely to solve a puzzle as teams whose members were all in neutral moods. The article explains, “people in good moods are more likely to share knowledge and seek information from others, which cues the rest of the group to follow suit.”

As noted above, Proverbs 17:22 reads:

“A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

Not only is a joyful heart good medicine at the individual level, joy is also contagious. And, according to researcher Kyle Emich, this positive spirit also leads to greater productivity in teams. In other words, joy is not only pleasant, it is also productive.

What are you bringing to your team today? Are you bringing a negative or neutral mood, or are you bringing joy and positivity?

You Are Not Alone — Interdependence and Dependence in Leadership

Steering Wheel from a Vessel, Wilderness Kev, Flickr

Photo Credit: Steering Wheel from a Vessel, by Wilderness Kev, Flickr

How do you begin your day as a leader? I recently heard a friend share his leadership challenge of “waking up with the steering wheel in his hands.” Perhaps you can identify with this metaphor.

As leaders, it is all too easy to mentally and emotionally dive into our daily to-do list the moment we wake up. This level of all-in leadership engagement often continues throughout the workday and beyond. While understandable, such engagement can adversely effect us on multiple levels — our personal well-being, our interpersonal availability, and our team/organizational productivity.

In light of this challenge, we need to be intentional in finding time for pause, perspective, and refreshment in our day-to-day leadership responsibilities. I plan to write on several pathways for this intentionality in future posts, but I begin with this point — Remember You are Not Alone

Awareness of Our Finitude

Leaders are often wired toward independence … toward going it alone in the task of leadership. Thankfully, the practical nature of human limitation reminds us that we cannot do it all on our own. Leaders are reminded daily that there are only 24 hours with which to work. Leaders are reminded daily that our bodies need food to eat and the rest of sleep. Our finitude reminds us that going it alone is neither practical nor beneficial within the context of leadership.

You Are Not Able to Do it Alone”

Moses faced such limitations multiple times in his life and leadership. At one point, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro stepped in and challenged Moses’ independent approach to leading: “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone” (Exodus 18:17-18).

Thousands of years later, leaders are still battling this reality Moses faced. So how can we work against this tendency? A quick answer to this is we need to remember that we are not alone.

Interdependence and Dependence

First, as with Moses, we have other people within our communities with whom we are able to partner in meeting the goals that matter to our organizations. As with Moses, we need to learn healthy interdependency in our leadership. We rise to greet the day with a community of people who are likely much more willing to partner with us than we think. We rise to family, friends, and associates with whom we may link arms and work toward the goals that matter most to our organizations.

For some communities, cultivating this interdependency means that leaders need to equip and empower volunteers. For other communities, this means equipping and empowering staff and coworkers with whom we serve on a common mission. As with Moses, we need to resist our tendency to go it alone. We must look for authentic partners with whom we may work and serve.

Second, as with Moses, we may rise to greet the day with a heavenly father who is ready to lead and guide us. As with Moses, we may learn our healthy dependency on God in life and leadership. Although leaders have a tendency to “wake up with the steering wheel in their hands,” leaders who are mindful of God’s presence recognize that they are not alone even when no one else is around.

On this point of remembering God’s presence, I appreciate a prayer of St. Patrick. Here are some excerpts from this prayer:

I arise today through the strength of heaven….

I arise today through
God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me….

Christ shield me today against wounding.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me….

I arise today
through the mighty strength of the Lord of creation”

Though sometimes drawn toward independence, leaders need to remind themselves early in the day that they are not alone.

  • I arise and awake to a God who is ready to “pilot me,” “uphold me,” and “guide me” through the demands of my day.
  • I arise to a day where there are opportunities to partner with others in work that matters.
  • I arise, and I remember that I am not alone in my leadership journey.