1250 Christian leaders came together this morning to pray for the city of Sydney, as well as other parts of Australia and the world, at the 2021 Sydney Prayer Breakfast.
The annual breakfast – organised by City Bible Forum and held at ICC Convention Centre Sydney – draws together Christians working in many different sectors in Sydney, including business and education leaders, and representatives of Christian organisations.
“Lord, we pray that we may be salt and light in our business community.” – Shemara Fernando
Last year the event had to be held online due to the Covid-19 epidemic. This year, still facing the continuing challenges of COVID and natural disasters, many of the prayers focussed on asking God for wisdom and grace.
After an introduction to the event by chairman of Sydney Prayer Breakfast, Neville Cox OAM, several leaders offered prayers for the different sectors they work in. Tace Stevens, a Noongar and Spinifex Woman, prayed for the Indigenous community; Dr John Best, a specialist sports and exercise medicine
physician, prayed for the medical community; Sally Irwin, founder and CEO of The Freedom Hub, prayed for the marginalised; and Hon. Damien Tudehope MP, Member of the NSW Legislative Council and the Minister for Finance and Small Business, prayed for civic and church leaders.
“We ask for wisdom and insight for leaders making difficult and complex decisions in this COVID environment,” said Shemara Fernando, assistant director of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, in praying for the business community and professionals.
Fernando also prayed “for comfort for those facing loss and financial burdens, for perseverance in this time of rapid change and seemingly relentless uncertainty”.
She continued: “Help us to live out our faith with authenticity and responsiveness to the real needs of people in our workplaces, businesses and communities, always with the lens of the gospel, always with the hope that Jesus offers. And finally, Lord, we pray that we may be salt and light in our business community.”
The mental health struggles facing many young people today were acknowledged by Dr Paul Burgis, Principal of Presbyterian Ladies’ College, Sydney. He prayed for youth and education – including those in public, independent and Catholic schools, as well as homeschooling.
“We know that there are young people in our schools who are hurting because of broken homes, of promises left unkept, that some experience great harm at the hands of those that are there to love them the most. Some are on the verge of suicide,” prayed Burgis.
“We know that some young people struggle to know who they are or how to fit in or what their identity is …
“Help us please in schools to have impact in these areas, to live lives that honour Jesus and to reflect your love to each person. Give us listening ears and the capacity to see things through the eyes of a child. We thank you for your grace. Make us wise. We pray these things in Jesus’ name.”
Guests prayed in groups at their tables for those suffering from recent flooding, and for the gospel to reach those affected by COVID, especially in India and other parts of South Asia. Among other things, they also prayed for the godliness of business community leaders, and that God would uphold our country’s leaders.
“I think that great leadership is about helping others to find the answers.” – David Thodey
Keynote speaker at the breakfast was David Thodey AO, chairman of the CSIRO, Australia’s national scientific research agency, as well EFTPOS solution company Tyro and accounting software company Xero.
Thodey shared five key lessons about being a Christian leader that he learned during his many years on boards and as a senior executive, including as CEO of Telstra (2009-2015) and CEO of IBM Australia/New Zealand.
One of these lessons was around having an “attitude of service”.
“I think it’s often tempting in leadership to think you must solve all the problems that you’re presented with or that you need to have all the answers,” said Thodey.
“Honestly, I’ve found the opposite. I think that great leadership is about helping others to find the answers and actually about enabling others to find the solutions and helping them to work through the problems.
“I think of when Jesus said, ‘I did not come to be served, but to serve.’ That is so true of the leadership journey, and I think that’s given me great freedom as I have pursued my career.”
In concluding his message, Thodey said: “In my career, God has been incredibly faithful. There have been times in my life, in my career, when I haven’t known the answers to issues, where I’ve faced really complex, difficult decisions and things have not always gone the way that I expected them to go. But it’s been during those times that my relationship with Jesus Christ has been an enormous strength to me, which I’ve been able to draw on through reflection and prayer.”
In praying for Thodey, Wendy Simpson OAM, executive chairman of Westray Engineering and a Sydney Prayer Breakfast committee member, committed his work to the Lord and added that “his best years are yet to come”.
Registrations are now open for the 2022 Sydney Prayer Breakfast, to be held on May 31. For more information, go to the City Bible Forum website.