Letter from America

March 2002

Rev Fred Connell has recently returned from a visit to the USA

I received an invitation with the ‘improbable’ words:

Members of the Congress of the United States of America request the pleasure of your company at the 50th Annual National Prayer Breakfast with the President of the United States, The Vice President and other national leaders in the Executive, Judicial and Legislative Branches of our Government Thursday, February 7, 2002 at eight o’clock Washington, D.C.

The Congressional Leaders of the United States of America have for fifty years met, in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, with their President for prayer and fellowship over breakfast and that invitation has now been extended to world leaders. This year 174 nations were represented, with men and women of different faiths, of widely differing political backgrounds and circumstances, but each acknowledging (or desiring to know how and why others do!) the sovereign power of Jesus of Nazareth which brings reconciliation and peace. That peace which the world cannot bring to the peoples and nations of the world!

There are issues facing us in the world whether we are followers of Jesus of Nazareth, or are those of other faith or of no faith. In the light of 11 September 2001, and the ongoing world crisis, we are facing our own mortality, a threat to the values we have known, and an undermining of the security …and witnessing the disastrous impact upon the… nations of the world. We may be an island, but we are impacted by the events of the world however far away we may feel we live. The qualities and character of the nation’s leaders directly affect the nature and direction of a nation or a community. Hearing the challenges that many nation leaders face, I am clear that if God, through the Holy Spirit, and in the name of Jesus Christ, is not guiding the thoughts and actions of the nations leader, then chaos and injustice reign. By the testimony of many leaders at this national Prayer Breakfast, it is clear that transformation, in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, is taking place in the most unlikely places! The President of Yugoslavia shared on the moves of God in the Balkans. I have heard the President of Benin, a former Marxist hated by the democratic world nations, expound on the Love of Jesus of Nazareth and how God is transforming the people in Benin (starting with him!), in a way that defies human endeavour alone.

Attending the National Prayer Breakfast is a privilege in itself, but a number of aspects challenged me. I believe that they will challenge us in Nottingham, individually and corporately:

  • The leader of the most powerful nation of the world is a disciple of Jesus Christ and is striving to live by faith
  • Over 65% of the Congress meet every Thursday morning for breakfast, fellowship, shared testimony, bible reading and prayer
  • The example of Congressmen and Senators has encouraged leaders in other fields - law, business, medicine, education, military, sport, to meet in a similar pattern
  • Those people meeting do so regardless of background, party politics, age, race or religion - holding fast to the absolute that Jesus of Nazareth is Sovereign in their lives and is able to do immeasurably more than mere humans can in their own power alone
  • The group hold each other accountable before God and each other

All those meeting (often from differing political backgrounds) also pray in twos or threes, to encourage a true sense of accountability, transparency and effectiveness first as Men and Women of God, but also as Leaders of Families, Leaders of States, Members of Government acknowledging that they are vulnerable to human frailty and sin. They submit to one another before God - not easily done for a group of powerful politicians!

There is a desire to seek God’s Will for their lives and the life of the nation, and to respond to God’s call to fulfil that Vision.

World Leaders will sometimes have a problem in reconciling differences; also they will sometimes find themselves in conflict with their neighbouring country leaders. Political engineering may work in reconciling parties in the short term, but it does not last. Reconciliation in the name of Jesus does bring Peace and Restoration and the evidence is startling. Sworn enemies have met in safe places, in confidence and have become reconciled!

Senator Steve Largent (Oklahoma) recounted that when the planes hit New York and the Pentagon on 11 September, all personnel were ordered out of Congress and to disperse. The streets were empty except for patrolling soldiers. The silence of the city was shattering. What did the leaders do? They came together in their prayer room, to pray for the nation, their families, the nations of the world and for those terrorists! What an example to us.

As we approach Easter, acknowledging the Grace of God, may we seek to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus of Nazareth, through the Power of His Holy Spirit. May we acknowledge the redeeming work of Jesus of Nazareth, in our own lives, the lives of our families and the life of our city and our nation. May our prayers be that the peoples of the world will know how to live a life in hope, truth and light, as we are together drawn to the Cross, of Christ Jesus Dying, Risen and Alive Today and For Eternity! Be encouraged by the Testimony of others, what God is doing! God Bless You!

Frederick Connell

© St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 3rd March 2002