Washington, D.C. — Barack Obama attended the 61st annual National Prayer Breakfast yesterday, speaking to those gathered about a number of matters regarding faith and country.
Co-chair Senators Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Mark Pryor of Arkansas welcomed those present at the event — a meeting that is not organized by the White House, but is customarily attended by the president. Obama began his speech by stating that he enjoys the prayer breakfast because it presents a time when the nation unites “not as Democrats or Republicans, but as brothers and sisters, and as children of God.”
“We do so because we’re a nation ever humbled by our history, and we’re ever attentive to our imperfections — particularly the imperfections of our president,” he said. “We come together because we’re a people of faith. We know that faith is something that must be cultivated. Faith is not a possession. Faith is a process.”
Obama then remarked that he was impacted by a Scripture that was read during the breakfast.
“I was struck by the passage that was read earlier from the Book of Hebrews: ‘Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and He rewards those who diligently seek Him,'” he commented. “He rewards those who diligently seek Him — not just for one moment or one day, but for every moment and every day.”
He stated that while the nation is comprised of those of many religions, he believes all men have faith in their country.
“As Christians, we place our faith in the nail-scarred hands of Jesus Christ. But so many other Americans also know the close embrace of faith — Muslims and Jews, Hindus and Sikhs,” Obama said. “And all Americans — whether religious or secular — have a deep and abiding faith in this nation.”
He also spoke of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, as he had sworn upon the Lincoln and King Bibles at his inauguration last month.
“As I prepared to take the sacred oath, I thought about these two men, and I thought of how, in times of joy and pain and uncertainty, they turned to their Bibles to seek the wisdom of God’s word — and thought of how, for as long as we’ve been a nation, so many of our leaders, our presidents and our preachers, our legislators and our jurists, have done the same,” Obama explained. “Each one faced their own challenges, each one finding in Scripture their own lessons from the Lord.”
Obama then remarked that he wished the lessons shared during the annual prayer breakfast would last throughout the year.
“I do worry sometimes that as soon as we leave the prayer breakfast, everything we’ve been talking about the whole time at the prayer breakfast seems to be forgotten — on the same day of the prayer breakfast,” he stated, evoking laughter. “I mean, you’d like to think that the shelf life wasn’t so short. But I go back to the Oval Office and I start watching the cable news networks and it’s like we didn’t pray.”
He stated that while men may know parts of God’s plan, the whole of it may never be known.
“[A]ll we can do is live our lives in a Godly way and assume that those we deal with every day, including those in an opposing party, they’re groping their way, doing their best, going through the same struggles we’re going through,” Obama said, quoting from 1 Corinthians 13:12.
“God has told us how He wishes for us to spend our days. His Commandments are there to be followed,” he continued. “Jesus is there to guide us; the Holy Spirit to help us. Love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Love your neighbor as yourself. See in everyone, even in those with whom you disagree most vehemently, the face of God. For we are all His children.”
He closed by advising that he often turns to the Bible for guidance in his personal and political life.
“As president, sometimes I have to search for the words to console the inconsolable. Sometimes I search Scripture to determine how best to balance life as a president and as a husband and as a father. I often search for Scripture to figure out how I can be a better man as well as a better president,” Obama outlined. “And I believe that we are united in these struggles. But I also believe that we are united in the knowledge of a redeeming Savior, whose grace is sufficient for the multitude of our sins, and whose love is never failing.”
“And so this morning, let us summon the common resolve that comes from our faith. Let us pray to God that we may be worthy of the many blessings He has bestowed upon our nation. Let us retain that humility not just during this hour but for every hour,” he concluded. “And let me suggest that those of us with the most power and influence need to be the most humble. And let us promise Him and to each other, every day as the sun rises over America that it will rise over a people who are striving to make this a more perfect union.”
Obama did not speak on policy matters during the speech, including issues such as homosexuality and abortion.