WASHINGTON (BP)–Welcome to the White House. One of the best things about my job is sometimes I get introduced by my wife, who I love dearly.
Today we continue a tradition that is as old as our nation, itself — setting aside a day in which Americans are encouraged to pray; pray for their neighbors and pray for our nation. The National Day of Prayer is a vital part of our national heritage, because prayer is a vital part of our national life.
I’m grateful to all of you, who remind us that a great people must spend time on bended knee, in humility, searching for wisdom in the presence of the Almighty. I want to thank the Heritage Signature Chorale, and Dr. Stanley Thurston for being here today. (Laughter.) I want to thank Amy Burton, soloist of the New York City Opera. (Applause.) And we’re sure glad you brought your son. (Laughter.)
I want to thank Shirley Dobson, who is the chair of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. Thank you for your leadership, Shirley. (Applause.) I want to thank Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie, and Dr. Daniel Coughlin for being here, as well. I’m honored that you both came. (Applause.) And, Lloyd, thank you and Shirley for your beautiful comments. It really meant a lot.
When the first Continental Congress met at Carpenters Hall in Philadelphia, one of its first official acts was prayer. In 1779, the Day of Prayer Proclamation asked that “Almighty God would grant the blessings of peace to all contending nations, freedom to those who are in bondage, and comfort to the afflicted.”
During our nation’s darkest hour, our nation’s greatest President called America back to prayer. President Abraham Lincoln urged his fellow citizens to “look to the redeeming and preserving grace of God.” And Americans wisely accepted President Lincoln’s counsel.
America is a country of faith. And throughout our history, in times of crisis and in times of calm, Americans have always turned to prayer. And this year’s event has special meaning. Since the attacks of September the 11th, millions — millions — of Americans of every religious faith have been led to prayer. They have prayed for comfort in a time of sorrow, for courage in a time of fear and for understanding in a time of anger. They have prayed for wisdom in the midst of war and for strength on the journey ahead.
These prayers have been made in private homes and in houses of worship; alone and with others; in moments of doubt and in times of thanksgiving. These prayers have been heartfelt and they have made a tremendous difference. Prayer for others is a generous act. It sweeps away bitterness and heals old wounds. Prayer leads to greater humility and a more grateful spirit. It strengthens our commitment to things that last and things that matter. It deepens our love for one another.
Prayer also deepens faith, reminding us of great truths: Evil and suffering are only for a time; love and hope endure. Even in the world’s most bitter conflicts, prayer reminds us of God’s love and grace, His mercy and faithfulness, the hope He provides and the peace He promises.
Prayer is central to the lives of countless Americans, including Laura’s and mine. We have been blessed by the prayers of millions of Americans. We could ask for no greater gift from our countrymen.
I want to thank you all for coming here to the White House to celebrate this special day, for your devotion to prayer, and for your love of this country, and for the Lord who has blessed it for so long.
May God bless you all. (Applause.)