It was a privilege to lead nearly 700 people in worship and prayer at the National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast at Westminster on Tuesday morning. There were 190 parliamentarians present - more than we had ever had before at the National Prayer Breakfast.
There was a real significance as this room full of people with such important roles sang the words of "We Seek Your Kingdom":
"Peace, truth and justice reigning everywhere
"with us be present in our public square
"fill all who lead with your integrity
"transform, revive and heal society."
The words of another song, "Praise My Soul the King of Heaven", also felt like they had real import at the time as we sang of how "the angels in the heights adore him". Before we sang the song, I told those present that it felt very significant to be singing those words in a room with wooden angels carved into the ceiling looking down on us. They were an important reminder by the architects of where ultimate authority lies.
There were so many profound and holy moments like this during the prayer breakfast, where the sense of God's presence was irresistible and we came together to remember where ultimate authority lies. In fact, many of the parliamentarians I spoke to that morning reflected that it was the first time in quite some time that they had been able to reflect and be still because they had been so busy.
The gathering clearly had an impact on Sajid Javid, someone from a Muslim background, because he referenced the prayer breakfast at the start of his resignation speech and quoted the black pentecostal pastor, Les Isaac, who spoke on the morning about the responsibility that comes with leadership and serving the interests of others above your own. Javid recalled these words and the impact of the prayer breakfast all while knowing that his words would be the most reported words in the news that day.
It would be so easy just to focus on the failings of one person but the events of this week reflect the collapse of integrity in leadership more widely. Covid season especially has awakened us to the importance of integrity and how important it is to have a track record in telling the truth. The importance of integrity in leadership is something that Christians in Politics has been talking about for many years now, but we're seeing the collapse of this on both sides of the Atlantic.
In some ways, this has made my job easier because people now really appreciate the importance of who leads us. It's not that the Church has a monopoly on ethics in leadership - we've had a pretty bad track record at times. But with humility, we aspire to good leadership and the ethics that are a part of that. We have to challenge the violation of ethics that we have seen in the political leadership of this land - and also those who went along with it for many years.
It would be easy to make Boris Johnson the pantomime villain but the sad fact is that we're talking about a culture. At a time when we are desperate to see more ethics in our leadership, sadly it's a whole culture that has let us down as opposed to just one person.
Regardless of what has happened, we need to pray for Boris Johson because on a human level, this is undoubtedly an unpleasant experience. But more importantly, the words we prayed on Tuesday morning for good leadership are the words we need to keep on praying. We are living in incredible times but this is not a time for crying or weeping. It is a time for prayer more than ever now, and to keep going in our prayers.