National Prayer Breakfast
The National Prayer Breakfast is a yearly event held in Washington, D.C., on the first Thursday of February each year. The founder of this event was Abraham Vereide. The event—which is actually a series of meetings, luncheons, and dinners—has taken place since 1953 and has been held at least since the 1980s at the Washington Hilton on Connecticut Avenue NW.
The breakfast, held in the Hilton's International Ballroom, is attended by some 3,500 guests, including international invitees from over 100 countries. The National Prayer Breakfast is hosted by members of the United States Congress and is organized on their behalf by The Fellowship Foundation, a conservative Christian organization more widely known as "The Family". Initially called the Presidential Prayer Breakfast, the name was changed in 1970 to the National Prayer Breakfast.
It is designed to be a forum for the political, social, and business elite to assemble and build relationships. Since the inception of the National Prayer Breakfast, several U.S. states and cities and other countries have established their own annual prayer breakfast events.
Every U.S. president since Dwight D. Eisenhower has participated in the annual event.
Each year several guest speakers visit the various events connected with the National Prayer Breakfast. However, the main event, the Thursday morning breakfast, typically has two special guest speakers: the President of the United States and a guest whose identity is kept confidential until that morning. Every U.S. president since Dwight D. Eisenhower has participated in the breakfast. Past keynote speakers include:
- 1973 Senator Mark Hatfield (R-OR)
- 1977 (25th Annual NPB) U.S. House Majority Leader James Wright (D-TX)
- 1987 Elizabeth Dole, United States Secretary of Transportation
- 1994 (42nd Annual NPB) Mother Teresa of Calcutta
- 2005 (53rd Annual NPB) Ambassador Tony P. Hall, U.S. Representative to the U.N. Agencies for Food and Agriculture
- 2006 (54th Annual NPB) Bono, Irish singer/songwriter and humanitarian
- 2007 (55th Annual NPB) Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute
- 2008 (56th Annual NPB) Ward Brehm, a Minnesotan who chairs the U.S.-African Development Foundation
- 2009 (57th Annual NPB) Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the UK
- 2010 (58th Annual NPB) José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Prime Minister of Spain
- 2011 (59th Annual NPB) Randall Wallace, Academy Award-Winning Motion Picture Producer/Writer/Director
- 2012 (60th Annual NPB) Eric Metaxas, author
- 2013 (61st Annual NPB) Dr. Ben Carson, author, neurosurgeon and the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital
Many of the past addresses by U.S. Presidents to the National Prayer Breakfast are available online.
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While Members of the U.S. Congress, of the U.S. Cabinet, and of the diplomatic corps in Washington are typically invited to participate in the National Prayer Breakfast, the other more than 3,000 guests come from a variety of walks of life. Six heads of state attended the 2008 breakfast, along with Members of the European Parliament; United Nations diplomats; European, Asian, African and Latin American politicians; missionaries working in various countries; U.S. and foreign business leaders; and students. Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister of Pakistan, participated on more than one occasion, and a video interview of her speaking about the National Prayer Breakfast, its meaning and its impact on her faith, was featured at the 2008 closing dinner. In 2006, King Abdullah II of Jordan addressed the Thursday lunch. Ricardo Maduro, president of Honduras, addressed the same lunch in 2005. Pakistan's Sindh Province Governor Dr Ishrat-ul-Ebad Khan was invited to the breakfast in 2010. In February 2010, Mrs. Grace Pinto, a leading educationist (Ryan International and Ryan Global Schools) from India, also attended the NPB.
Musical guests have included Andrea Bocelli, Amy Grant, Randy Travis, Mercy Me, Jim Nabors, Alison Krauss, Larry Gatlin, Wintley Phipps, Michael W. Smith, Point of Grace, CeCe Winans and Jackie Evancho.
Rev. Jim Wallis, founder and president of the Christian social change group Sojourners and a regular attendee of the National Prayer Breakfast, said of the event "it's sort of a time to — where people want to acknowledge the importance of prayer and faith. And that can be kind of a civil religion, civic faith kind of common denominator thing. Or it can be much too sectarian where some people feel left out of it. I remember my favorite ones are when Bono spoke at the prayer breakfast and talked about every faith tradition calls us to stand with those who are left out, left behind. I remember Senator Mark Hatfield spoke years ago when I was in seminary and he called the war in Vietnam a national sin and shame in front of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. I saw their faces and they weren't happy with that. So when it can raise up issues that we ought to be accountable to, whether we are religious or not, I think that's when it's probably at its best."
In 2010, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington asked President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders to refrain from attending the National Prayer Breakfast. Executive Director Melanie Sloan criticized the organizing group, The Fellowship, for being what she described as intolerant and secretive.
The United Kingdom National Prayer Breakfast
The National Prayer Breakfast in the UK is organised by a cross party group of MPs and Peers, working with the support of Christians in Parliament and is not associated with the US NPB. The event normally takes place over two days around the beginning of July, inside the Houses of Parliament. The main breakfast is normally held in Westminster Hall.
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- National Prayer Breakfast history and info, WA leadership.
- Keynote speakers, WA leadership.