By Elizabeth Tenety
President Obama gave Americans a peek into the spiritual life of a president Thursday, speaking at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.
“These past two years they have deepened my faith,” the president told the gathered group of political, religious and cultural leaders.
“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.”
He then quoted Scripture: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you, as well.'”
Questions about the president’s faith life have plagued his campaign and presidency –from his relationship with controversial Chicago minister Jeremiah Wright to a September 2010 Pew poll that showed nearly 1 in 5 Americans incorrectly believe that he is Muslim.
A jumbo screen shows U.S. President Barack Obama speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington February 3, 2011. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
White House watchers see the president’s recent efforts to be more vocal about his Christian faith as part of a communications strategy, and in his remarks Thursday he further explained what he believes.
Florida Pastor Joel Hunter and Potter’s House megachurch preacher T.D. Jakes, Obama said, serve as spiritual advisers. He mentioned that he and Michelle frequently attend church services at Camp David (the president’s church of choice –or lack thereof –also has been subject to scrutiny), and that Joshua DuBois, who runs the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, sends him Scripture readings on his Blackberry each morning.
Connecting his efforts on health care and unemployment to a biblical command to serve “the least of these,” the president admitted that he struggles to have the “humility” to be patient with his policy priorities.
Other items of note from the president’s address:
Shared that he prays “that I might walk closer with God and make that walk my first and most important task.”
Called Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) “a brother in Christ.”
Characterized his father as “nonreligious” and his mother as spiritual, but not religious.
“I came to know Jesus Christ for myself,” while working with faith leaders as a community organizer.
Every morning and night, the president said, “I wait on the Lord,” asking for strength and forgiveness.
On the prayers of a father: “As I travel across the country, folks often ask me, what is it that I pray for? And like most of you, my prayers sometimes are general: Lord, give me the strength to meet the challenges of my office. Sometimes they’re specific: Lord, give me patience as I watch Malia go to her first dance, where there will be boys. Lord, have that skirt get longer as she travels to that dance.”
What did you think of the president’s testimony?
Read more on charity:water, an organization Obama mentioned in his speech.