WASHINGTON (BP) — President Donald Trump reinforced some of the faith-related themes from his State of the Union address earlier in the week, and columnist Arthur Brooks lamented the divisive nature of the culture at the 68th annual National Prayer Breakfast today (Feb. 6).
Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, noted that while he was not in attendance this year, the event is a powerful time of Gospel proclamation.
“Anytime people get together and we focus on praying for our nation, there is something special about it,” Floyd said. “May God give the United States and other nations represented in this year’s gathering a mighty spiritual awakening.”
President Trump’s comments focused on how much he believes has been accomplished in his presidency.
“This morning, we come together as one nation blessed to live in freedom and grateful to worship in peace,” Trump said, and thanked those in attendance.
“Everyone here is united by a shared conviction, we know that our nation is stronger, our future is brighter and our joy is greater when we turn to God and ask Him to shed His grace on our lives,” Trump continued. “In everything we do, we’re creating a culture that protects freedom and that includes religious freedom.”
Trump also noted developments in executive actions he has taken to preserve the sanctity of human life, to “stop taxpayer dollars from going to colleges and universities that spread the poison of anti-Semitism and bad things about Christianity” and “to protect the constitutional right to pray in schools.”
Trump promised to keep “national spirit” alive.
Speaking of his recent impeachment trial, Trump said “It’s not easy when they impeach you for nothing, then you’re supposed to like them. It’s not easy folks. I do my best. But I’ll tell you what we are doing, we’re restoring hope and spreading faith.”
Trump likened America to a light shining to all the world.
“In America, we celebrate faith, we cherish religion, we lift our voices in prayer and we raise our sights to the glory of God.”
Rep. John Moolenaar (R-Mich.) opened the breakfast, saying it is an event founded in faith.
“The national prayer breakfast is deeply rooted in tradition of faith and the belief that Jesus’ teachings are a solid foundation upon which to build better relationships,” Moolenaar said.
Moolenaar described the breakfast “as an encouraging time where leaders of the country and for the world can gather for friendship, support and most of all prayer.”
“We are thankful for the support of a prayerful nation; we believe God’s grace is sufficient for each day,” Moolenaar said.
Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi from New York recognized people of different religions from around the world who have faced hardship or even persecution for their faith.
“We want them each to know that they are not suffering in secret,” Suozzi said. “We know who you are, and we are praying and working for genuine freedom for all of you and for people being persecuted for their faith throughout the world.”
Keynote speaker Arthur Brooks, author, Harvard University professor and Washington Post columnist, shared thoughts from his most recent book “Love Your Enemies.”
Brooks said besides his other occupations, he is most importantly a follower of Jesus.
“Today I get to talk to you about the biggest crisis facing our nation, and many other nations today — it’s the crisis of contempt and polarization that is tearing our societies apart,” Brooks said. “In this crisis lies the greatest opportunity we’ve ever had as people of faith to lift our nations up and to bring our people together.”
Brooks encouraged leaders to look for new solutions to the crisis. Referencing Matthew 5:44, Brooks said the new solution is in the words of Jesus — love your enemies.
“That’s thinking differently,” Brooks said. “It changed the world 2,000 years ago and it is as subversive and counterintuitive today as it was then.”
Brooks noted how leaders should treat and view those with whom they disagree.
“They are not stupid, and they are not evil,” Brooks said. “They are just Americans who disagree with us on public policy, and if you want to persuade them, which you should, you can only do it one way and that is with love.”
Following Trump’s speech, the attendees sang a closing song.
Next year’s National Prayer Breakfast will be February 4, 2021.