Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Praying Leaders

              Last week my wife and I were graciously invited by our friend, Susan Vander Schaaf (like: scoff), to attend the San Joaquin County Leadership Prayer Breakfast. Leaders from various parts of our county were in attendance for a full-blown breakfast in the basketball gym of the University of the Pacific (UOP) in Stockton. There were county supervisors, mayors, city council members, church leaders; there were the presidents and CEOs of businesses and leaders of our community covering a wide spectrum, all gathered for one purpose – to seek the heart of God in prayer.

A short history was written on the back of our program which explained the background for this gathering of community leaders. It reads, “In 1953, the International Christian Leadership Group first sponsored the First Annual Presidential Prayer Breakfast, or National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. Every year this event brings men and women together to seek Divine guidance for our leadership and to reaffirm our faith. Communities throughout the nation have followed this tradition by establishing their own Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast or Leadership Prayer Breakfast. Over twenty years ago, Stockton began its own Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast. In 1995, the name of the event was changed to “The San Joaquin County Leadership Prayer Breakfast” to more properly reflect the extent of its outreach.”

I can assure you that this prayer breakfast was not for the faint of heart! It started at 6:45 with a sumptuous meal served buffet style. In this environment there was an energy that was virtually palpable, only with a growing sense of expectation. Animated conversations were taking place at the multitude of tables set up all over the gym floor. A stage was set up for the emcee and various other dignitaries. Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen was our Master of Ceremonies. We opened in prayer, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of the National Anthem. What a wonderful start!

Next followed various community members offering prayer specifically for business, agricultural and civic leaders; for military leaders, troops, law enforcement, fire service and their families; for clergy and staff; and for schools, families, and the impoverished. But there was one corporate responsorial prayer offered that, to me (and a lot of others), was the highlight of our time together. We were lead in this prayer by Dr. Stacy McAfee, Associate Vice President for External Relations at UOP. I spoke with her after the breakfast and told her how much I appreciated this prayer. The opening part of the prayer began like this: “Heavenly Father, we are human, and struggle at times to obey your commandments when it is easy to ignore them. As community leaders we humble ourselves today and ask first for your forgiveness for our transgressions as we forgive those who transgress against us. Humble our hearts as we pray for our nation’s Leaders, Families, Neighbors and ourselves with fervor and sincerity. Lord, we thank you for wisdom, understanding, and for your Holy Word. Bless us with courage, strength, and boldness to be agents of change you have called and ordained us to be.” The assembled responded with, “Lord, hear our prayer.”

The keynote speaker for our breakfast was Hercules! Well, not really, but the man who played the character of Hercules in the hit TV show, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, ran for seven seasons. I was very interested in hearing what Kevin Sorbo had to share. I don’t think I ever watched one of the Hercules programs, but I certainly recognized his face. And Isaura and I did watch the movie he was in, God’s Not Dead! where he plays a very convincing college professor who is an avowed atheist. It was wonderfully done and I highly recommend it. In chatting with him during the book signing, he said he believes the best of the movies about faith that he’s done is What If. We’ll be watching it soon, you can be sure of that!

Besides being a highly successful actor, he is also a director, producer, and author. I had heard some time back that Kevin had become gravely ill, never realizing just how close to death he came until I listened that morning to his story. I could not begin to do it justice in the space I have, but you can read it in his recently released book, True Strength: My journey from Hercules to mere mortal and how nearly dying saved my life.

Listening to Kevin share his story, particularly how his near death experience following numerous strokes brought him to faith in Jesus, I was struck by how down-to-earth he was in sharing his struggles. He is humble about the entire ordeal but isn’t hesitant to share it with you.

So pick up a copy of his book, and watch the two movies I mentioned. You’ll be blessed!

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