Prayer was the topic of conversation when the president of the Southern Baptist Convention met with the president of the United States October 11.
Other issues were on the agenda when President Bush welcomed SBC President Frank Page; his wife, Dayle; and SBC Executive Committee President Morris H. Chapman to the Oval Office. The day's events — including an hour-long news conference and a plane crash into a New York City high-rise building — reduced what was supposed to be a forty-five-minute meeting to twenty minutes, however.
Page said he had planned to discuss some moral issues with the president, but "I did not have time for that. … [I]n fact, [Bush] had requested that we speak about several issues."
In the short time they had, prayer received most of the attention.
The meeting "primarily focused on prayer, on what prayer means to him," and how it undergirds and strengthens him, Page said of the president.
"I assured him of Southern Baptists' support of him, particularly in our prayer support," said Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, South Carolina.
Page told Bush "perhaps the message that I've heard more than anything else" from Southern Baptists about the president "was that we pray for the president and Mrs. Bush" every day, especially for "wisdom, strength, and endurance."
Chapman, in a statement to Baptist Press, said the president "expressed his deep and sincere appreciation for the prayers of Southern Baptists."
Page said he told the president that Southern Baptists feel strongly connected to him "because of our soul connection, because we believe we have a man [in the White House] who knows Christ and is not afraid to talk" about his Christian faith.
"He seemed delighted to hear that," Page said.
The president also talked about evil and terrorism during their meeting, Page and Chapman said.
He "spoke briefly about the truth of the reality of evil" in the world and about the violence that sometimes is carried out in the name of religion, Page said.
Chapman said, "The president spoke of his resolve to defeat terrorism wherever it threatens to disrupt peace and security in the world and to spread democracy around the globe."
Chapman noted the president's optimism, adding that Bush "spoke of his everyday reliance upon the guidance of God's Spirit and the importance of faith in his life and leadership."
Bush pointed out to his guests that the presidential seal on the rug in the Oval Office was designed to convey optimism, Chapman said.
"[The president] stated that in his opinion, 'Optimism is a necessary characteristic of every successful leader,'" Chapman said. "He asked, almost parenthetically, why people would want to follow a pessimist who always dwells upon the negatives rather than upon the positives that can be seen through the lens of optimism and faith."
Page, who was elected SBC president in June, acknowledged that all Southern Baptists do not agree with the president on some issues but by praying for him they are praying "as Scripture commands."
Page said he encouraged Bush "to consider strongly speaking to us in person" at next year's Convention in San Antonio.
At Bush's request, Page prayed at the close of the meeting for the president, his wife, and the cause of freedom.
First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. ~ 1 Timothy 2:1-4