Impacting Cities & Communities thru Prayer
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WASHINGTON, DC (ANS) -- President Barack Obama took the opportunity of set the record straight at the 2011 National Prayer Breakfast held on Thursday, February 3, 2011, about his personal faith.
President Obama speaking at the 2011 National Prayer Breakfast
He surprised the crowd of about 4,000 faith-leaders at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in the Hilton Washington International Ballroom, by speaking about his Christian faith in a most personal way.
In his most unusual speech, Obama called that faith “a sustaining force” in his life and he acknowledged persistent questions about his religion and offered what many believe were his most detailed comments about his spiritual beliefs and practices.
In his speech, the President said, “A call rooted in faith is what led me, just a few years out of college, to sign up as a community organizer for a group of churches on the south side of Chicago. And it was through that experience, working with pastors and laypeople, trying to heal the wounds of hurting neighborhoods that I came to know Jesus Christ for myself and embrace him as my Lord and Savior.”
The Obamas at a previous National Prayer Breakfast
Obama went on to say, “My Christian faith, then, has been a sustaining force for me over these last few years, all the more so when Michelle and I hear our faith questioned from time to time. We are reminded that ultimately what matters is not what other people say about us, but whether we’re being true to our conscience and true to our God. ‘Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you, as well.’”
Obama then revealed that “When I wake in the morning, I wait on the Lord, and I ask him to give me the strength to do right by our country and its people. And when I go to bed at night, I wait on the Lord, and I ask him to forgive me my sins and look after my family and the American people and make me an instrument of his will.”
Obama went on to say, “Fortunately, I’m not alone in my prayers. Pastor friends like Joel Hunter and T.D. Jakes come over to the Oval Office every once in a while to pray with me and pray for the nation. The chapel at Camp David has provided consistent respite and fellowship. The director of our Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership’s office, Joshua DuBois – a young minister himself -- he starts my morning off with meditations from Scripture.”
Then, on the subject of personal prayer, Obama said, “While I petition God for a whole range of things, there are a few common themes that do recur. The first category of prayer comes out of the urgency of the Old Testament prophets and the Gospel itself. I pray for my ability to help those who are struggling. Christian tradition teaches that one day the world will be turned right side up and everything will return as it should be. But until that day, we're called to work on behalf of a God that chose justice and mercy and compassion to the most vulnerable.”
He also said, “I pray that God will show me and all of us the limits of our understanding, and open our ears and our hearts to our brothers and sisters with different points of view; that such reminders of our shared hopes and our shared dreams and our shared limitations as children of God will reveal the way forward that we can travel together.”
Father Played No Role In His Faith Journey
With the controversy that has swirled around him since he became the 44th President of the United States [and the first African-American to hold that office], which has mainly concerned rumors that he was a Muslim, he explained his relationship with the Lord and the role his father, who was said to be Muslim, did not play a role in his decision to follow Jesus Christ.
“My father, who I barely knew -- I only met once for a month in my entire life -- was said to be a non-believer throughout his life,” said the President.
The young Obama with his mother
“My mother,” Obama continued, “whose parents were Baptist and Methodist, grew up with a certain skepticism about organized religion, and she usually only took me to church on Easter and Christmas -- sometimes. And yet my mother was also one of the most spiritual people that I ever knew. She was somebody who was instinctively guided by the Golden Rule and who nagged me constantly about the homespun values of her Kansas upbringing, values like honesty and hard work and kindness and fair play.
“And it’s because of her that I came to understand the equal worth of all men and all women, and the imperatives of an ethical life and the necessity to act on your beliefs. And it’s because of her example and guidance that despite the absence of a formal religious upbringing my earliest inspirations for a life of service ended up being the faith leaders of the civil rights movement.”
Twists and Turns
President Obama talked about how his “faith journey,” has had its “twists and turns.”
He stated, “It hasn’t always been a straight line. I have thanked God for the joys of parenthood and Michelle’s willingness to put up with me. In the wake of failures and disappointments I've questioned what God had in store for me and been reminded that God’s plans for us may not always match our own short-sighted desires.
Abe Lincoln’s Words
“And let me tell you, these past two years, they have deepened my faith. The presidency has a funny way of making a person feel the need to pray. Abe Lincoln said, as many of you know, once said, ‘I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.’”
Obama noted that the godmother of his two daughters, Kaye Wilson, had formed prayer groups all around the country as he campaigned for the White House bid. He acknowledged his own prayer life, waiting before the Lord in the morning and evening. The president recognized the need for humility, and jokingly said his wife Michelle was the catalyst to that answered prayer. As “debates have become so bitter,” Obama noted that “none of us has all the answers.”
The president went on to say, “The challenge I find then is to balance this uncertainty, this humility, with the need to fight for deeply held convictions, to be open to other points of view but firm in our core principles. And I pray for this wisdom every day.”
He also stated, “When Michelle and I hear our faith questioned from time to time, we are reminded that ultimately what matters is not what other people say about us, but whether we’re being true to our conscience and true to our God.”
Obama had been largely private about his beliefs and religious practices, following controversies during the campaign about his Chicago minister. He and his wife have attended church services in Washington only a handful of times in the past two years. When at Camp David, they attend the private Evergreen Chapel.
The Giffords during happier times
NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona Democrat who was seriously injured during last month’s shooting rampage in Tucson, also spoke at the breakfast and gave the closing prayer and which he remarked about her steady improvement and he urged the national to keep her in its thoughts and prayers because “it's helping.”
He said, “Every day, she gets a little bit better. The neurosurgeons and neurologists tell me that that's a great sign. The slope of that curve is very important.”
Giffords, was injured on Saturday, January 8, 2011, when a gunman opened fire during a constituent event in Tucson. Six people, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, were killed, and 13 others were wounded. Giffords, whose condition was upgraded from serious to good last week, is undergoing long-term rehabilitation at a hospital in Houston, where Kelly lives and works.
“I was telling Gabby just the other night, two nights ago, that, you know, maybe this event, this terrible event, maybe it was fate,” he said. “I hadn't been a big believer in fate until recently. I thought the world just spins, and the clock just ticks, and things happen for no particular reason.”
Kelly told the crowd, which included a representative from the ASSIST News Service, that he has come to believe, however, that things happen for a reason, “that maybe something good can come from all of this. Maybe it's our responsibility, maybe it's your responsibility, to see that something does.”
Hospital officials say Kelly has been a constant presence at Giffords' bedside.
Three Trips to Space
On Thursday, he made reference to his three trips to space and the humbling feeling of looking out on “the Earth as God created it in the context of God's vast universe.” He described a realization that struck him one day as he gazed on a makeshift memorial that had sprung up in front of the Tucson trauma center where Giffords was initially taken for treatment.
“That reminded me that you don’t need a church, a temple or a mosque to pray,” he said. “You don't even need a building or walls or even an altar. You pray where you are. You pray when God is there in your heart. And prayer isn't just asking. It's also listening for answers and expressing gratitude, which I've done a lot lately.”
He closed with a prayer that Giffords’ rabbi spoke in her hospital room the day of the shooting.
“In the name of God, our God of Israel, may Michael, God's angel messenger of compassion, guard over your right side. May Gabriel, God's angel messenger of strength and courage, be on your left. And before you, guiding your path, Uriel, God's angel of light. And behind, supporting you, stands Raphael, God's angel of healing. And over your head surrounding you is the presence of the divine.”
Note: The National Prayer Breakfast is a yearly event held in Washington, D.C., on the first Thursday of February each year. The founder of this event was Abraham Vereide and is actually a series of meetings, luncheons, and dinners that have taken place since 1953 and has been held at least since the 1980s at the Washington Hilton on Connecticut Avenue N.W.
|Dan Wooding, 70, is an award winning British journalist now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for 47 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS) and was, for ten years, a commentator, on the UPI Radio Network in Washington, DC. He now hosts the weekly “Front Page Radio” show on KWVE in Southern California which is also carried on the Calvary Radio Network throughout the United States. The program is also aired in Great Britain on Calvary Chapel Radio UK. Besides this, Wooding is a host for His Channel Live, which is carried via the Internet to some 200 countries. You can follow Dan on Facebook under his name there or at ASSIST News Service. He is the author of some 44 books. Two of the latest include his autobiography, “From Tabloid to Truth”, which is published by Theatron Books. To order a copy, press this link.Wooding, who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, has also recently released his first novel “Red Dagger” which is available here