Two Very Different National Prayer Breakfasts

By Wes Granberg-Michaelson 02-03-201

Sen. Mark Hatfield

Ever since President Dwight Eisenhower's administration, each president has attended the annual National Prayer Breakfast, drawing about 3,500 invited guests including members of Congress and government officials. There are readings, prayers, a main speaker, and remarks by the president. In 1973, as the nation was exiting the agony of the Vietnam War, and President Richard Nixon was just re-elected by a landslide — before Watergate unfolded — Sen. Mark O. Hatfield was invited to give some remarks. I served on his staff at the time. We consulted about what to say with Jim Wallis, a new friend in Chicago, publishing a small, upstart magazine called The Post-American. After a lot of thought and prayer, Mark Hatfield rose to the podium, with President Nixon on his right and Billy Graham on his left, and delivered these words:

My brothers and sisters:

As we gather at this prayer breakfast let us beware of the real danger of misplaced allegiance, if not outright idolatry, to the extent we fail to distinguish between the god of an American civil religion and the God who reveals Himself in the Holy Scriptures and in Jesus Christ.

If we as leaders appeal to the god of civil religion, our faith is in a small and exclusive deity, a loyal spiritual Advisor to power and prestige, a Defender of only the American nation, the object of a national folk religion devoid of moral content. But if we pray to the Biblical God of justice and righteousness, we fall under God’s judgment for calling upon His name, but failing to obey His commands.

Our Lord Jesus Christ confronts false petitioners who disobey the Word of God: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not the things I say?” (Luke 6:46). . .



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