At the 69th National Prayer Breakfast, President Joe Biden called for those watching online to lean on their faith and see others not as Democrats or Republicans but “fellow Americans, fellow human beings.”
“For me, in the darkest moments, faith provides hope and solace … clarity and purpose as well. It shows the way forward as one nation in a common purpose to respect one another, to care for one another, to leave no one behind,” he said.
For the first time in its history, the event, which has been attended by every sitting president since Eisenhower established it in 1953, was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his remarks, Biden recounted the numerous challenges facing the country including racial tensions, political unrest and the numerous ways COVID-19 has upended the country while leading to the deaths of more than 445,000 Americans.
“These aren’t Democrats or Republicans losing their lives to this deadly virus, they’re fellow Americans, fellow human beings,” Biden said. “This is not a nation that can or will simply stand by and watch this. It’s not who we are. It’s not who faith calls us to be. In this moment, we cannot be timid or tired. We have too much work to do.”
Rep. John Moolenaar (R-Mich.) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) served as co-chairs of the event alongside Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). Other Democrats and Republicans also served in honorary roles at the bipartisan event.
Speakers included Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and former director of student ministry for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, and David Beasley, who was a member of a Southern Baptist church while he served as governor of South Carolina from 1995-99. In November Beasley was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work as executive director for the World Food Programme. Nashville-based We the Kingdom, winners of the 2020 Dove Award for Best New Artist, performed three songs during the event.
Former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama addressed viewers. Due to health concerns, former President Jimmy Carter’s comments were read by Sen. Coons. Former president Donald Trump did not participate in the event.
All speakers addressed a central theme of unity and forgiveness. At the beginning of the breakfast, a video featured the Lord’s Prayer as spoken by others from around the world in their native language.
Lankford quoted 2 Corinthians 5 to begin his comments: “… He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are, therefore, Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you, on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”
The Oklahoma senator referred to the weekly prayer gatherings with other legislators from across the political aisle.
“This group … understands the nature of what it means to be an ambassador … to be able to bring clarity from another place and another people to a new group,” he said. “We’re literally bringing the message of hope and of Christ and to be able to reconcile people. That’s what happens in [our weekly prayer] and that’s what I pray happens through our National Prayer Breakfast.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Scott Barkley is national correspondent for Baptist Press.)