Hollywood power couple Roma Downey and Mark Burnett recently appeared at the 2016 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, where they opened up about using their talents for the glory of God and encouraged Christians nationwide to love one another with a Christ-like love.
In sharing their inspiring testimony, the couple, who are behind a number of successful faith-based ventures including "A.D." and "The Bible" series, addressed a crowd of several thousand, including President Barack Obama and congressional leaders.
Downey first discussed growing up in war-torn Northern Ireland before immigrating to the United States as a teenager. Eventually, she found fame after starring in the TV show "Touched By an Angel."
"Like so many immigrants before us, this country has provided us with the opportunities to make our dreams reality," she said. "I got to deliver a message of God's love to millions of people on national television. As a believer myself it was such an honor to share...that there is a God who loves us and wants to be a part of our lives...We'd always pray a simple prayer on set, 'Less of me, God, more of you.'"
Burnett, who is from London, England, revealed that he, too, traveled to the United States in his early 20's following his service in the British Army. After working as a nanny in California for several years, he eventually worked his way to the top of MGM Television.
"A story like this is only possible in America," he said.
Downey emphasized that she and her husband have been "so blessed" with their careers in the United States, and Burnett concurred: "Our faith has in fact, led us to almost entirely build our TV careers and film careers on family-friendly franchises."
He noted many that many of his shows, including "Shark Tank," "The Voice," "Survivor", and others, received sky-high ratings, providing him with leverage -- "That's what matters in Hollywood," he said.
"We took that leverage and said we wanted to make a brand new series called 'The Bible' on prime-time TV," he said. "Of course, our friends told us we'd destroy our great careers because...no one would watch the Bible on prime-time TV. But...the Bible became the most talked about television show in America...and 100 million of you watched it."
Added Downey, "Far more important than the ratings were the stories of families sitting together in their living rooms watching the Bible, the stories of how God's love for us unfolded through the ages moved them and engaged them, because faith is and was alive and well in America."
She continued, "The series helped ignite a much larger conversation about God and faith in this country, and we were also humbled that people were inspired to see us, a Hollywood couple of producers, daring to speak out of our love of Jesus, daring to talk about our faith in God, and our sincere belief in the power of prayer. I can honestly say that I have never made a decision in my life big or small that I didn't pray about first."
Downey revealed that one time, Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren told her, "The scariest words a person can pray is, 'Lord use me,' because he might do just that."
"All we did was ask Him to use us," Downey said.
Added Burnett, "And use us, He did, trust me."
He noted that while it was difficult to bridge all the theological gaps between all the denominations, he and Downey prayed their way through the creation of "The Bible" series and attempted to glorify God through all of their efforts.
"We've become America's noisiest Christians," he joked.
"The making of 'The Bible' series was covered in prayer every step of the way," agreed Downey, recalling specific ways in which prayers were answered throughout the creation of the series.
"We know that being in media comes with responsibility," she said, quoting Luke 12:48. "We are so pleased that our step of faith has reinvigorated faith and family programming in this country, and has hopefully inspired a whole new generation of artists to invest their talent in content that inspires and unifies...We believe it is far more effective to light a candle than to curse the darkness. That's what we try to do; we keep lighting candles in this dark, hostile and hurting world."
The couple emphasized the importance of building bridges between different people and religious groups as a reflection of Christ's command to "love one another."
Downey concluded: "On this day of the National Prayer Breakfast, we pray that with God's help, our world can heal some of the wounds that hurt us and the confusion that divides us. But it begins with us. Perhaps a good place to start is to see the image of God in the eyes of everyone you meet."
In August, Downey and Burnett will produce a remake of the Biblical epic "Ben Hur".