Tue | Sep 19, 2017

What’s the point of prayer breakfasts?

Published:Friday | January 22, 2016 | 1:00 AM
We hope Olivia Grange's wagging finger towards the goodly deacon, the Reverend Ronald Thwaites, isn't a sign of gentle rebuke for bad behaviour at the annual National Leadership Prayer Breakfast at The Jamaica Pegasus on Thursday.

Big up Jesus and all, but I have issues with the national prayer breakfast. My personal prayer is that one year they would just box all the food intended for those in attendance, take to the streets, and feed the hungry.

As far as I can see, it's one of the many occasions on the social calendar where Jamaican personalities put on their pretty 'dan dan', schmooze, pose for the cameras, and eat, drink and be merry. Oh - and pray.

What a powerful testament it would be if one year the gathering prayed for something specific in earnest and we saw it manifest itself. What an awesome thing it would be to see prayer reduce crime or stabilise the dollar or roll back the highway toll! But alas, we still haven't seen measurable results that can be brought to the public to silence the naysayers of the breakfast!

If after 36 stagings, your relevance is still being questioned, it's time to do some introspection.

A charity has consistently been identified annually to receive proceeds from the event. Though a wonderful addition, and I'm sure the charities are

thankful, I ask two questions:

1) How much did it cost to stage the breakfast?

2) How much money will the charity actually receive?

 

MEAGRE FRACTIONS

 

I bet my firstborn (who won't come in 2016 for fear of ZIKV complications) that the execution costs far outweigh what is handed over to the institution in need. Why not just cut the charity a big cheque, smile for a pretty photo op, and pray fervently from the confines of a church pew?

I will cast my net wider to other charity events. It's not uncommon to hear of sponsors doling out wads of cash for lavish galas and cocktails and concerts all in the name of charity. However, the events bring in meagre fractions of the execution costs.

I'm not being cynical, I'm being real. Way too often, with the best of intentions, do people gather over food and talk the problems of Jamaica to death - or attempt to pray them away. They spend huge sums doing so, and the results are yet to be seen.

So many NGOs, you look at their books. Administrative costs are ridiculously exorbitant, yet the money that actually goes to those who need it is a drop in the bucket. It just doesn't make sense and will never bring about the meaningful change we so desperately need.

The primary objective of the breakfast, as I understand it, is to unite Jamaica's leaders. Can you imagine the powerful statement it would send if for one breakfast, the leaders never ate, but instead stood side by side and set up a soup kitchen and fed the homeless? No fancy room decor and centrepieces to pay for. No PA system and entertainment and special lighting. Just pay for the food.

Too often the plight of the poor is academic. Our leaders leave from their air-conditioned SUVs to their air-conditioned offices and never look in the face of a man who has no breakfast to eat. The prayer breakfast I would support would force our leaders to look at that man. To feed that man. And to understand just how much they have failed him - and the power they have to better his life.

I'm over praying for our politicians to play nice with each other. I look forward to the national prayer breakfast that prays for:

- Rain.

- A new prison.

- Political accountability.

- Healing for Tivoli.

- An end to scamming.

- For Hellshire beach to come back.

- No ZIKV.

- Jobs, jobs, jobs.

Until those prayers are answered, Jamaica will remain very hungry. Amen.

- Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and findpatria@yahoo.com, or tweet @findpatria.