Since 1953, hundreds of religious leaders, politicians, and dignitaries from around the world have gathered in Washington D.C. for the National Prayer Breakfast. Established during the President Dwight D. Eisenhower administration, this multi-faith event is an opportunity for politicians to unite around their shared values and move toward healing some of the deep divisions in the United States.
This year’s prayer breakfast was no exception: More than 3,500 guests from 150 countries and all 50 states came together to hear remarks from President Donald Trump, a rousing message from International Justice Mission President Gary Haugen, worship from CCM artist Chris Tomlin, and more.
In case you missed it, here are five notable events that took place during this year’s National Prayer Breakfast.
1 – Chris Tomlin led a room full of politicians in worship.
Grammy Award-winning CCM artist Chris Tomlin led worship at the annual breakfast and sang several of his chart-topping hits, including “Whom Shall I Fear” and “God of Angel Armies.”
Following a powerful message from Gary Haugen, the CEO and founder of the International Justice Mission, which highlighted the horrors of modern-day slavery, Tomlin sang “Amazing Grace,” a hymn originally penned by John Newton, former slave ship master.
“It’s amazing that this song was written from a once slave trader and is probably the most beloved song in all the world,” Tomlin said. “John Newton said God saved him in a dramatic way, and he wanted to spend the rest of his life preaching the good news and the freedom of God.”
2 – A Christian doctor who fought Ebola and ISIS issued a powerful call for unity.
Dr. Lance Plyler of the Samaritan’s Purse evangelical Christian organization argued that, regardless of skin color, language, religion or country of residence, “We are all equal in the eyes of God” and “all neighbors.”
He reflected on the horrors he witnessed as a doctor fighting the Ebola crisis in West Africa, adding: “Who is our neighbor? I propose that the people of West Africa are our neighbors.”
Plyler went on to highlight the plight of those terrorized by Islamic extremism in the Middle East: “We worked incessantly, day and night, to save the victims of ISIS. I remember so many people horribly traumatized by this war,” he said, recalling how he had to amputate the legs of one 4-year-old girl.
“The people of Iraq are our neighbors,” he declared.
“Helping our neighbor is a vital expression of ambassadors of Jesus … it’s imperative that we help our neighbor,” he said. “As a follower of Jesus, as a physician and a humanitarian, I appeal to you, I implore you, to continue to permit us to travel the world to our fallen neighbors, to the people in need to provide medical care.”
3 – The bishop who preached on Jesus’ sacrificial love at the royal wedding reminded politicians of Jesus’ greatest commandment.
Michael Curry, presiding bishop and primate of The Episcopal Church, read from 1st Corinthians 13 and pointed out that the Bible offers two commandments: Love God and love one another.
“That way of love can set us all free, and it can lift us up,” he said. “If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe the old slaves of the antebellum South. They used to say, ‘If you cannot preach like Peter, if you cannot pray like Paul, You can tell the love of Jesus and say, He died for all. There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole; There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.”
Curry also presided over the wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle in May 2018. During the ceremony, he delivered a rousing sermon about the power of love.
“Love is the only way,” he said at the time. “There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over sentimentalize it. There’s power, power in love. If you don’t believe me, think about a time when you first fell in love. The whole world seemed to center around you and your beloved. Well, there’s power, power in love, not just in its romantic forms, but any form, any shape of love.”
4 – International Justice Mission President highlighted “Shine a Light on Slavery Day.”
Gary Haugen, International Justice Mission CEO and keynote speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast, wore a red X pin to shine a light on modern-day slavery.
He revealed that Thursday marks the seventh annual “Shine a Light on Slavery Day,” where hundreds of thousands of people use their voice to draw attention to the millions enslaved around the world.
Haugen pointed to the END IT Movement started by students at Passion Conference seven years ago and declared that while modern slavery is “as vast and as brutal as it has ever been,” one thing is new: “we now know how to stop it for good.”
“With proper funding each year, we could see this ancient sin end for good,” he said. “If we all do our part, all of us, to raise our voices and to raise the resources, millions of God’s children can note the freedom for which they are made.”
5 – Unity amid division: Senators from opposing parties prayed over President Trump.
The breakfast was chaired by Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del. Following remarks by Donald Trump, the two men surrounded the President and prayed over him.
“Father, thank you for the way that you do provide for us, we pray that you would pour your overwhelming blessing and wisdom on the President, on the Vice President, on his cabinet, and his team,” prayed Sen. Lankford. “We pray that you would energize him, that you would give him wise counsel, and in quiet moments as he has a gap to be able to think, we pray that you would guide him in the way to go as he leads our nation.
“Give him the insight that he needs, give him joy in the task, and use him for your Kingdom’s sake, and for our nation and world’s sake,” he continued.
“This morning we especially pray for President Trump, and we ask that your wisdom, blessing, and peace would be on his family as they serve us, and that today you would touch his heart,” prayed Sen. Coons.