Hundreds of devout Spokane residents sat elbow to elbow before work Friday morning and prayed.
They prayed for politicians, for families and for themselves. But mostly, they prayed for the city.
“There is enormous power when people of faith join together and offer their prayers,” said Spokane Sheriff John Goldman.
The largest-ever Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast was over just in time for most of the business people to make their 9 o’clock meetings.
It was the 35th year for the event, which began as an exclusive men-only affair. Leadership Northwest, a small Christian nonprofit ministry, took over sponsorship of the breakfast this year from the Christian Businessman’s Association.
Executive Director Rich Lang said he purposely sent out invitations to a broader audience this year. As a result the popular event became a must-attend occasion in the eyes of many, drawing in more women and minorities, as well as a cross-section of religious denominations.
Jack McMillan, co-director of Nordstrom Co., was among the dignitaries and businessmen sitting at the head table.
He told the crowd of 750 that he routinely meets with six of his peers for prayer and support. He said that he and his friends often meet with the state’s most powerful people and when they do they inevitably talk about their beliefs.
“There’s probably a lot of people in this room who think that (Gov.) Gary Locke doesn’t know Christ,” McMillan said. “I’m here to tell you he does.”
Keynote speaker Bill Armstrong, retired U.S. senator from Colorado, told the crowd his story of being born again while he was serving in Congress.
A dentist from Alabama stopped by his office one day on Capitol Hill to tell him about Jesus Christ, Armstrong said. In the middle of their talk, Armstrong was summoned to the floor to vote. Rather than brush the man off, he arranged for the two to meet for coffee.
“Right there in the middle of Joseph Martin dining room, I said yes to Jesus Christ,” he said. “I had to go home and tell my wife that I’d had a life-changing experience in a public dining room with a man I’d never met before.”
While his comment elicited roars of laughter, many people in the room nodded their heads to acknowledge a similar experience.
The goal of the prayer breakfast is to focus the politicians and business people on the problems facing the Spokane community, Lang said.
To that end, First Presbyterian Church and Whitworth College held brainstorming sessions after the breakfast to discuss new ways people can address problems of the city.
Several dozen people who attended those meetings came away with new ideas of connecting the resources of the churches to the needs of the community.
During his closing prayer, Whitworth College President Bill Robinson summed up the mood: “Let’s finish praying and get to work.”