We are currently experiencing technical issues with some of our video content. If you are unable to access a video, please email [email protected] for help.

The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

Never miss a thing!


How a Prayer Meeting Made History

It was less than three years ago that Boris Johnson returned to Downing Street after leading the Conservative Party to its biggest election win since 1987 – an overall majority of 80 seats.

Last week, he resigned. Where did it all go wrong?

BBC News offered five reasons for Mr Johnson’s downfall: the Chris Pincher affair; Partygate; the cost of living and tax rises; the Owen Paterson affair; and a lack of focus and ideas.

Strangely, one word was missing from the analysis: character. The Prime Minister’s charisma, although a mystery to some, has been frequently remarked on. He can be funny, warm, charming, and self-deprecating, but he’s also displayed a lack of integrity, honesty, and accountability.

Boris Johnson’s resignation came after an unprecedented wave of departures from his government. In explaining his own decision to resign as Health Secretary, Sajid Javid referenced the National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast. ‘I was listening to [Reverend Les Isaac] talking about the importance of integrity in public life,’ he told the BBC’s Sunday Morning show, ‘and, just focusing on that, I made up my mind. I went straight back to my office and drafted the resignation letter and went to see the Prime Minister later in the day.’

The prayer breakfast was a powerful occasion. I was grateful to be there. But I wonder if some of us who prayed for integrity in public life also need to repent of any tendency we have had to value charisma over character in the list of qualities we seek in leaders – across all spheres of life.

Stefan Stern and Jon Stokes argue that ‘the more uncertain the world is the more likely it is we seek charismatic leaders. They can have an overwhelming appeal. We want leaders who reduce uncertainty and provide simple answers. Charisma draws us in, entertains us, flatters us, and instils that elusive feelgood factor.’

But 1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us that character, not charisma, is the critical measure of leadership: ‘People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’ In Hebrew, the heart not only represents life, but also the tone and quality of the character, as when a pure heart is ascribed to anyone.

If the legacy of the prayer breakfast is that people rediscover the importance of good character in leadership – whether at work, as a parent, in church life, or in our politics – history will indeed have been made, and everyone will benefit.

Paul Woolley


Image Source/ 10 Downing Street


  1. The article was very inspiring

    By James Obeng  -  15 Jul 2022
  2. Maybe yes… maybe spin. Whatever, Johnson’s career has been built on lies and deceits and it’s a shame it has taken so many so long to see this.

    I’m sure we will be told that the new leader will be full of integrity and character. I pray we will have eyes to see and wisdom to discern

    By MARK WITHERS  -  15 Jul 2022
  3. This is so true. Sadly the church has also gone down this route and is littered with those who have led large churches while leading immoral lives. Thankfully, as in the case of David, there is forgiveness when there is true repentance.

    By John Barton  -  15 Jul 2022
  4. An inspiring read. I find the points made by Stern/Stokes very interesting. Perhaps, in some way, we long to be charismatic ourselves, to have that kind of effect on people, so unwittingly give value to others like that.
    I Sam 16:7 is a verse I seem to come back to again and again.
    Wonderful to hear about the prayer breakfast! Thank you.

    By Deborah Jenkins  -  18 Jul 2022

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *