The Unifying Power of Prayer [From a Faith Perspective—Bucks County Courier Times]

Recently, my wife and I attended a leadership prayer breakfast in northeastern Pennsylvania. I’ve been attending this one for a long time, as a friend of mine is the organizer. The event has been taking place for 24 years.
At 6 a.m. on the first Tuesday in October, the room is packed. It is the place to be. Hundreds of people gather together for this annual event. They are civic leaders and business leaders. They are teachers and healthcare providers. They are white-collar professionals and blue-collar stalwarts. They are young and they are old. They are white and they are people of color. They are men and they are women. But those are the easy distinctions to make. There is more to this crowd worth noting.
The people who attend this breakfast every year are not a monolithic group. Some are Democrats and some are Republicans. Some are liberals and some conservatives. Some are devout people of faith, while others are merely “civically” religious. There is no doubt some are proselytizers and some in attendance are skeptical — even cynical — of religion and faith.
Some are looking to the past fondly and wanting to return to a more wholesome time, while others are looking to the future waiting to break free from tradition and desirous of progress.
They do not share common politics or policy positions. They do not share common religious persuasion. So why do they come? The reasons are as diverse as they are — on the surface.
Some come to see and others to be seen. Some come because they’ve been invited, others because they’ve invited someone. Some come because they always have. Some come because they’re curious. Some come to win votes, while others come to meet the ones they may vote for. Some come for spiritual encouragement. Some come out of obligation or generosity, bearing spiritual indifference, simply tolerating the program. But I suspect that, underneath all of these things, they come to be together. They come because this simple event unites them for two hours every year in something common.
Despite the fact that the very thing they’ve come to do may be uncomfortable for some of them, that their motives for attending may not be the purest, that they may actually find the reading of Scripture and public prayer personally offensive, they come.
In this day and age, when so much division and derision is so publicly displayed, such an event is instructive. Some from more cosmopolitan areas, who are more urbane in their perspective, may look down their noses at such a gathering in the mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania — at such a display of Americana. But to do so would be to miss an important lesson. There is something unifying and humbling about a group of diverse people coming together to hear prayers, to listen to the reading of the Ten Commandments, to recite together the Lord’s Prayer. There is something powerful about people setting aside their political and religious persuasions to put the welfare of their families, their community, and their country ahead of their many differences.
For two hours on the first Tuesday of October each year, there is no wrangling, no animosity, no disdain. There is only the quiet and humble bowing of heads.
This is a distinctly Christian event. It is a privately funded event open to the public. There is no apology for saying the name of Jesus, no hesitation about the reading of the Bible, no caveats or qualifications about praying for leaders at every level. Everyone who attends knows that. And still they come. Thank God.
This article was originally published in the Bucks County Courier Times on October 14, 2018.


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