September 5. That’s when we, in the UK, will find out who the new Prime Minister will be. If not earlier. As Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss fight it out for the leadership, the Reverend Les Isaac is praying for a leader with integrity and humility.
“I believe the nation is looking for a leader they can trust,” he says.
“They are looking for someone with the ability and conviction to fulfil what they say. There are so many people who are disillusioned with politics at the moment because they have been disappointed.
“We need politicians to mean what they say and do it. It is about integrity.”
The call for integrity at the prayer breakfast was a pointed reminder after the “partygate” scandal.
Only last month, Isaac, founder of Street Pastors – an interdenominational street ministry using volunteers from local churches – spoke at the National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast at Westminster. Inspired by the love of Jesus, “how can I help?” was a question that weaved through his talk, as he encouraged us all to act for the common good.
The prayers were along similar lines. Many prayed that Parliament would be where the plight of the marginalised was recognised. A place where truth and justice were upheld.
By that afternoon, Sajid Javid, who was at that Prayer Breakfast, walked into Boris Johnson’s office to say he had lost confidence in him as Prime Minister and could no longer act as his Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. He then handed him his resignation letter.
Rishi Sunak would follow him shortly after, sparking a wave of resignations that toppled Johnson from his position as leader of the Tory party.
In an interview with the BBC, Javid, who grew up Muslim but professes no faith, stated Isaac’s talk at the Prayer Breakfast motivated him to act.
“We’ve been called to tell that truth for everyone, not for ourselves or our denominations, but the common good.” – Rev. Les Isaac, Street Pastors
As the leadership battle comes to a head, Les Isaac reflects that God was at work that day – as he is every ordinary day.
“I’ve been reminding myself and others since that day that it’s God who entrusted us with his word. We’re called to tell the truth that gives people strength; that gives people hope,” says Isaac.
“The prayers that day and the talk I gave all pointed to that fact. We’ve been called to tell that truth for everyone, not for ourselves or our denominations, but the common good – for the benefit of all.
“And I think that spoke to the hearts and minds of individuals who were at the prayer breakfast that morning.”
The call for integrity at the prayer breakfast was a pointed reminder after the “partygate” scandal erupted towards the end of last year.
The news broke on November 30, 2021 that during stringent COVID-19 restrictions, Downing Street staff gathered for a Christmas party. Boris Johnson said all rules were followed, and Downing Street denied the party happened.
In late January 2022, the police investigated not one but 12 gatherings. They issued 126 fines to 83 individuals whom the police found had committed offences under the COVID-19 regulations. Fines included one to Johnson, his wife, and Rishi Sunak. They apologised and paid the penalties. But not without severe backlash from the community.
Many were disappointed. Others were angry. Understandably so. We were only allowed out for extremely restricted purposes during this time. People couldn’t even gather at funerals to farewell family members who had died of COVID.
The country and news cycle have now moved on. But I don’t think everyone here has forgotten.
“People are looking for someone with integrity. Someone who will mean what they say and do it.” – Les Isaac
When I ask Les Isaac what he was looking for in a leader, his answer is heartfelt.
“People are looking for someone with integrity. Someone who will mean what they say and do it. Someone with a heart for the poor.
“We are going through so much right now. The cost of living is soaring. Life is getting more difficult. Many of us are looking for someone who can give the nation hope that things will get better.
“Leadership is about trust. You follow someone you trust. People need to have the confidence that where you will lead them will be for the benefit of everyone.
“It needs to be genuine and authentic. Character and personality need to be followed by deeds. We need people who will consistently walk their talk.”
“This is a model we can all try to emulate and aspire to because we can trust Jesus’ leadership.”
The world had seen someone like that before. And we crucified him.
Jesus sweated blood at what was before him, but he let it happen just as it was foretold. Not for his benefit, but for the sake of his people on earth and for all time.
“Now that was transformational leadership,” says Les Isaac.
“As Jesus came before him, Pilate could see he was an innocent man. ‘I see no charge against him,’ he said!
“Jesus had power and authority but came with humility and grace. He was consistently serving others. I believe this is a model we can all try to emulate and aspire to because we can trust Jesus’ leadership.
“As we look to Jesus we can be confronted with all our failings as human leaders. But it’s at this point we need to go deeper into him.”
Go deeper indeed. For in him is forgiveness of sins. And what’s more, Jesus doesn’t leave us in our sin. He gives us the Holy Spirit to change us.
Perhaps we Christians are all incredible works in progress somewhere on the path to sanctification. And what’s even better is that we’re promised to get there one day. Philippians 1:6 tells us that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
One day, we too will defeat sin, not because we’re superheroes, but because the Christ we follow has already done so.
In the meantime, while we wait for his return, we will continue to pray for men and women with integrity to step up to be leaders – of their families, schools, churches and Parliament.
Agnes Wilson is a Christian wife and mother working in communications. She and her family lived in Sydney before moving to London.