Navigating Troubled Waters

The theme of the 59th Annual National Prayer Breakfast was "Bridge Over Troubled Waters." The event was held in our nation's capital, Ottawa, at the Shaw Centre, just steps down the street from the iconic parliamentary buildings. 

This year's event attracted over 800 people to the Leadership Dinner on the Monday night and over 1300 people to the Tuesday morning breakfast.  Both figures are considered to be new standards of excellence for this event. 

The National Prayer Breakfast is hosted by the Parliamentary Prayer group  - it's a non-partisan group that meet together every Wednesday morning at 7:00am for prayer, bible study and mutual encouragement. It's not publicized or politicized. It is open to all parliamentarians, and has representation across political party lines. This also becomes one of the keys to the captivating culture of these events. There is a unity of purpose that exists that is hard to duplicate in another setting where politicians of different stripes are gathered. This is one of the reasons that I continue to attend. The other reason is to hear, see and feel what God is speaking to and through the highest officers of our land. This informs my prayer for them and for God to fulfill what has been spoken in His name. The current chair for the committee, MP Richard Bragdon, provided energetic and enthusiastic leadership, which added to the inspiration in the event. 

A privilege to share this experience and equipping with members of the EMCC National Team
(Nicole Jones-Qandah - Director of World Partners, John Cressman - President, Jeff Knott - Regional Minister)

In a room filled with politicians (Members of Parliament and Senators), ambassadors from many countries, business and non profit organizational leaders, as well as pastors and ministry leaders, this gathering, in number and in enthusiasm gives indication of a growing hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God to be made known across our country. From the powerful rendition of singing "O Canada" to the electrifying address by keynote speaker, Anu George Canjanathoppil (CEO of IJM Canada), this event gave life to it's theme verses found in Isaiah 43:1-3

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior"

One of the threads woven throughout the events were the undeniable reality that Canada, and our world are facing and dealing with trouble. Yet, in that trouble God is present and He has a way; He is willing to enter our circumstances and lead us according to that way, and all He is asking for is our "yes" to follow Jesus, whom He has sent as a bridge from our troubles to His way. 

A few other highlights from my perspective: 

The Prayer for Canada (MP's Rosemarie Falk and Ted Falk): In which we collectively, on behalf of our nation, prayed a prayer of confession for speaking out against those in authority, our government and our Prime Minister; and declaring a desire to work together to see the will of God accomplished. 

Music (Richard Paul and Natalie Grant (with Bernie Herms): powerful, inspiring and uplifting in the simplicity of delivery and conviction of delivery. 

Prayer by Chief Cindy Woodhouse Nepinak (AFN): she honoured her elders, brought her mom and dad up on the platform and her mom lead the room in the Lord's prayer in her native tongue, the Anishinaabe language. It's a prayer that longs for God's will to be done on earth, and ends with the reminder of exercising forgiveness to one another, knowing that God offers us forgiveness as we do. 

Invocation by Hon. Greg Fergus, MP, Speaker of the House - began the breakfast with that in a world of division that forgiveness would be the path through which healing could be found in our relationships and in the administration of the peace and grace of God. 

Greetings from Rt. Hon. Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau: he has been present for this event in each of the twelve years that he has led his party. This year he spoke about the fact that peace is possible, but that no one builds a bridge alone, that we need each other. He also shared about how faith and prayer have been instilled in him since childhood. And then he read Matthew 5:1-12 (The Beatitudes). The leader of our land, calling for the Kingdom God to bring peace, comfort and mercy!

Greetings from Hon. Pierre Pollievre, Leader of the Opposition: he pointed us to Jesus, the one who comes through the storm, and calms the wind (the source of the storm) and the waves (the effect of the storm) through his presence and his word. (Mark 4:35-41)

Keynote Address from Anu George Canjanathoppil (CEO of IJM Canada): with her charm and humour, she drew the large audience close, and then with humility and courageous purpose, shared the way in which God has powerfully redeemed her life from the abuse she suffered. In the years since, she has led thousands from modern day slavery and now leads the Canadian team, raising awareness and advancing the work of IJM in the 20+ countries within which they work. These two quotes still ring out: "There is nothing more damning than indifference in the face of injustice." and "All God needs is your "yes"" - together in a world that has accepted injustice, violence and oppression as normal, there is a growing renewed opportunity to step and step out for the abnormal, peculiar, weird mission of God (1 Cor. 1:25-29). 

Later on Tuesday morning, it was a privilege to be part of a first contact meeting between IJM Canada and Ambassadors from 5 Central American Countries. Hosted by His Excellency, Ambassador Ricardo Cisneros, we were joined by His Excellency Carlos A. Morales, Ambassador of Colombia, Her Excellency Guisela Godinez Sazo, Ambassador of Guatemala, Alejandro A. Bejarano, First Secretary of the Embassy of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, and Minister Counsellor Aldo Rosales from the Embassy of Honduras.Together we recognized that there is a common concern over the violence against women and children, and the need to work together, adding strength by bringing our voices together, to advocate for changes in how these issues are addressed in their home countries and in this country.  May the Lord advance these causes in keeping with (Isaiah 58) for His glory and for their safety and freedom.

Tuesday afternoon, it was a privilege to attend, with our EMCC National Team representatives,  a panel discussion hosted by Cardus. They discussed finding related to their recent research on the status of belief among Christians in Canada, entitled, "The Problem in the Pews." The full study can be found at this link. 

Key takeaways from this correlated well from the recognition of deep societal issues from the events of the previous two days as well as the hard to miss realities in our local communities: 

- We need to learn to speak doctrinally in everyday language by telling stories that amplify the truth of Scripture. 

- In our teaching we need to stay anchored in the biblical narrative, focused on Jesus Christ, the reconciling work of the gospel that has pertinent action steps that those who hear can use to connect with those to whom they are sent. 

- Suffering is part of the way of life; it was a necessary part of the way of Jesus. Therefore we must be willing to draw near to those who suffer and help them carry the weight of their suffering, with love. 

There is so much contained within and between the lines. I'd welcome the chance to discuss further with you. For now, let's pray for our nation, our leaders and for one another as we look to Jesus: the bridge over the troubled waters of life.