American leaders expressed the role faith plays in shaping people’s lives at the National Prayer Breakfast this morning.
The bipartisan event is traditionally held the first Thursday of February at the Washington Hilton and has been organized by The Fellowship Foundation since 1953.
The following are some of the statements made by this year’s speakers:
1. “Jesus, Lord, I pray for the people who weren’t able to eat breakfast today, people that don’t have clothes on their back or shoes on their feet. But I pray that you make them find a way and have faith in you that they will see better days,” University of Alabama football player and Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry said while giving the closing prayer.
2. “This breakfast is a national tradition because prayer is a part of our national heritage. It goes all the way back to the Declaration of Independence. We believe that our rights come from God and our job as officeholders is to protect those rights. So it is only natural that we should ask for his guidance as we seek to do his will,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan.
3. “Whenever people are in grief, or even when they are about to start some great undertaking, they feel the worst pain of all: They feel alone. How am I going to get through this? Why is this happening to me? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? That is why there is nothing more comforting or more humbling, really, than to hear someone say, ‘I’m praying for you.’ Because when you hear that, you realize you’re not alone. God is there, and hundreds, if not thousands, if not millions, of people are all speaking to him on your behalf. They’re not praying for some abstract notion; they’re praying for you, the person,” said Ryan.
4. “Even the very progress that humanity has made … shines a brighter light on those who still struggle, reveal the gap in prospects that exist for the children of the world. And that gap between want and plenty, it gives us vertigo. It can make us afraid—not only of the possibility that progress will stall, but that maybe we have more to lose,” President Barack Obama said during his speech.
5. “Fear can lead us to lash out against those who are different, or lead us to try to get some sinister other under control[.] … For me, and I know for so many of you, faith is the great cure for fear. Jesus is a good cure for fear,” Obama said. “God gives believers the power, the love, the sound mind required to conquer any fear. And what more important moment for that faith than right now? What better time than these changing, tumultuous times to have Jesus standing beside us, steadying our minds, cleansing our hearts, pointing us to what matters?”
6. Former “Touched by an Angel” television star Roma Downey described the role her faith has played since her childhood in Ireland.
“When I was just 10 years of age, my mother died, and I remember going to visit her grave when a fierce gun battle broke out in the cemetery, and I narrowly missed being shot. The bullet hole singed the coat I was wearing and missed my head by inches. Surely I must have had an angel watching over me that day,” Downey, who was joined by her husband Mark Burnett at the podium, said.
The couple produced the internationally successful prime-time miniseries “The Bible” and are currently producing a film remake of Christian historical epic Ben-Hur.
7. Downey and Burnett said their faith inspired them to devote their lives to creating family-friendly entertainment.
“Far more important than the ratings were the stories of families sitting together in their living rooms watching ‘The Bible.’ The stories of how God’s love for us unfolded through the ages moved them and engaged them because faith was and is alive and well in America,” said Downey.
8. “As we hear these words from John 13, 15, and 17, we know that this message, this command of love, is not confined to the New Testament. This same message stands at the center of the Torah and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, too,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said before presenting this year’s Bible reading.
9. “When people say we’re praying for someone or something, the attitude in some quarters these days is ‘Don’t just pray; do something about it.’ The thing is, when you are praying, you are doing something about it. You are revealing the presence of God,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said.
10. “You know, it says a lot about our country that people of both parties and of all faiths will drop everything and pray for their fellow Americans,” Ryan said.
11. Obama told the story of a Muslim man who told the president he was afraid that publicly praying in Marquette Park of Chicago would attract “unwelcome attention” to himself and his children the day after the San Bernardino tragedy. After the man’s daughter reminded him of the story he often told of Rabbi Robert Marx’s and Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership during a march for equality in that very park, he laid down his rug and prayed.
“I can’t imagine a clearer expression of Jesus’ teachings, I can’t imagine a better expression of the peaceful spirit of Islam, than when a Muslim father filled with fear drew from the example of a Baptist preacher and a Jewish rabbi to teach his children what God demands.”
12. “I pray that we will see every single child as our own, each worthy of our love and of our compassion,” Obama said.
13. “When you hold in your arms the mothers and fathers of innocent children gunned down in their classroom, that reminds you there is evil in the world. And so you come to understand what President Lincoln meant when he said that he had been driven to his knees by the overwhelming conviction that he had no place else to go. And so like every president, like every leader, like every person, I’ve known fear, but my faith tells me that I need not fear death, that the acceptance of Christ promises everlasting life and the washing away of sins,” Obama said.
14. Obama praised the response of the faithful to both international and domestic crises:
“When Syrian refugees seek the sanctuary of our shores, it’s the faithful from synagogues, mosques, temples, and churches who welcome them. The first to offer blankets and food and open their homes. Even now, people of different faiths and beliefs are coming together to help people suffering in Flint.”
15. “We pray for God’s protection for all around the world who are not free to practice their faith, including Christians who are persecuted or have been driven from their ancient homelands by unspeakable violence,” Obama said.