America’s heritage of faith and ongoing experience of God’s grace were President Donald Trump’s focus in an address Feb. 8 at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.
“Each year, this event reminds us that faith is central to American life and to liberty,” Trump said. “Our founders invoked our Creator four times in the Declaration of Independence. Our currency declares, ‘In God we trust.’ And we place our hands on our hearts as we recite the Pledge of Allegiance and proclaim we are ‘one nation under God.’”
Screen capture from CNN
Among Southern Baptists in attendance were former Southern Baptist Convention Presidents Ronnie Floyd and Jack Graham, Student Leadership University President Jay Strack, Texas pastor Robert Jeffress, California pastor Greg Laurie and Johnnie Moore, an author and media relations specialist.
Strack told Baptist Press (BP) he has been attending National Prayer Breakfasts for 30 years, “and I thought today was maybe the most moving that I’ve been to since Mother Teresa was here” in 1994 and delivered a pro-life message beside then-President Bill Clinton, a supporter of so-called abortion rights.
The annual breakfast – with Democrats and Republicans in attendance along with diverse residents of numerous countries – “shows people from all over the world” that “in the name of Jesus, Republicans and Democrats can work together,” Strack said.
Rep. Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican who was shot in June 2017 while practicing for a congressional baseball game, delivered the morning’s keynote address and spoke of “miracles” God performed to save his life following the injury. Scalise was introduced by his longtime friend Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La.
U.S. Army officer Scott Smiley also spoke, along with his wife Tiffany, about his recovery following a 2005 suicide bombing in Iraq that left him blind. Members of Congress from both parties offered prayers.
Photo courtesy of Jay Strack
Program from the 2018 National Prayer Breakfast.
Trump quoted Ephesians 2:10 and said “America’s heroes rise” to the verse’s call to do good works. As examples from the past year, he cited first responders and ordinary citizens who helped their neighbors during Hurricanes Harvey and Irma; firefighters who battled California wildfires; strangers who shielded one another from bullets during a mass shooting in Las Vegas; communities that have fought the nation’s opioid crisis; and members of the U.S. military.
The president also spoke of America’s “tireless” quest “for justice and peace,” noting that the U.S.-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State terrorist group “has liberated almost 100 percent of the territory just recently held by these killers in Iraq and all throughout Syria.”
America “stands with all people suffering religious persecution,” Trump said. He referenced government oppression and human rights violations in Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea.
“Our rights are not given to us by man,” Trump said. “Our rights came from our Creator. No matter what, no earthly force can take those rights away. That is why the words ‘praise be to God’ are etched atop the Washington Monument, and those same words are etched into the hearts of our people.”
Trump said Americans are “truly blessed” by God.
“Across our land, we see the splendor of God’s creation,” Trump said. “Throughout our history, we see the story of God’s providence, and in every city and town, we see the Lord’s grace all around us through a million acts of kindness, courage and generosity.”
Floyd, president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, told BP the breakfast “was a very engaging experience” and “a good reminder about the power of prayer.”
“Extremely moving was the personal testimony by Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who was overwhelmed with the answered prayer that God provided for him when he received a major life-threatening gunshot wound last year while he was practicing baseball with his fellow members of Congress,” Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, said via email.
Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, said he has attended the National Prayer Breakfast “many times over,” but this year’s event “was the best yet.”
“It’s a great time,” Graham told BP in a text message, “when politicians put partisanship aside and pray together for our nation and countries around the world.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)