President Obama and the National Prayer Breakfast | Sojourners

President Obama and the National Prayer Breakfast

Hi everyone. I'm currently in Washington, D.C. Long story short, I have a meeting with a group of other folks at the White House today, and I'm looking forward to learning, listening, and collaborating. I'm honored to be a participant in these discussions with folks I already respect and admire, and I hope to get to write more about this meeting.

But this morning, I had the privilege of attending the National Prayer Breakfast -- with about 3,500 other people in this intimate time of prayer.

When I received this invitation, it was a no-brainer. Lately, I've been really burdened to pray -- to pray for my city, this country, our leadership, and the affairs of the larger world. A few months ago, I shared with you this deep spiritual sense of wanting and really, needing, to pray for President Obama.

Before I attended this prayer breakfast, I wanted to make sure that my motivation wasn't to simply be a part of a formal demonstration of prayer. I have no political agenda and even despite getting pushback and some criticism from folks that I lean towards one party or affiliation, I am indeed politically independent.

I care about politics not because I obsess over politics; rather, politics is important to me because it involves policies, and policies, ultimately, impact people. We have no choice: We must be engaged in our civic responsibilities and affairs.

While I can pray anytime and anywhere (and isn't this amazing?), I saw attending the prayer breakfast as an opportunity -- as I shared with my church this past Sunday -- to represent my church, my family, and others that connect with me, to genuinely lift up prayers for the leadership of this nation and the challenges for our country and the world.

So, I ask you these questions and I would really love to hear from you:

  • How are you praying for this country?
  • What should we be praying for?

There's much to pray for, no? The situation in Egypt, the financial burden of debt and the economy, foreign relations, the growing homeless community in our very neighborhoods and country, immigration and health-care reform, the increasing lack of civility, and the list goes on.

But one prayer that I will be especially lift up is: how we care, advocate, and empower the marginalized and forgotten in our midst.

And lastly, as I listened to President Obama's speech this morning, I couldn't help but think about the fact that while we can certainly make a compelling case that we are the best country in the world, we are nevertheless, the Roman Empire from the lens of scripture.

Much has been given and much is to be expected (Luke 12:48).

And so, my prominent prayer for our country is:

May we be peacemakers.

If you're interested, here's the full manuscript of President Obama's speech and quasi-sermon from last year's National Prayer Breakfast. I hope you take about 15 minutes to read through it.

Remarks by the President at the National Prayer Breakfast,
February 4, 2010

Thank you so much. Heads of state, Cabinet members, my outstanding Vice President, members of Congress, religious leaders, distinguished guests, Admiral Mullen - it's good to see all of you. Let me begin by acknowledging the co-chairs of this breakfast, Senators Isakson and Klobuchar, who embody the sense of fellowship at the heart of this gathering. They're two of my favorite senators. Let me also acknowledge the director of my faith-based office, Joshua DuBois, who is here. Where's Joshua? He's out there somewhere. He's doing great work.

I want to commend Secretary Hillary Clinton on her outstanding remarks, and her outstanding leadership at the State Department. She's doing good every day.

I'm especially pleased to see my dear friend, Prime Minister Zapatero, and I want him to relay America's greetings to the people of Spain. And Johnny, you are right, I'm deeply blessed, and I thank God every day for being married to Michelle Obama.

I'm privileged to join you once again, as my predecessors have for over half a century. Like them, I come here to speak about the ways my faith informs who I am -- as a President, and as a person. But I'm also here for the same reason that all of you are, for we all share a recognition -- one as old as time -- that a willingness to believe, an openness to grace, a commitment to prayer can bring sustenance to our lives.

There is, of course, a need for prayer even in times of joy and peace and prosperity. Perhaps especially in such times prayer is needed -- to guard against pride and to guard against complacency. But rightly or wrongly, most of us are inclined to seek out the divine not in the moment when the Lord makes His face shine upon us, but in moments when God's grace can seem farthest away ...

[Click here to read the rest of President Obama's speech from last year's prayer breakfast.]

Eugene ChoEugene Cho, a second-generation Korean-American, is the founder and lead pastor of Quest Church in Seattle and the executive director of Q Cafe, an innovative nonprofit neighborhood café and music venue. You can stalk him at his blog or follow him on Twitter. He and his wife are also launching a grassroots movement, One Day's Wages, to fight extreme global poverty. This blog post originally appeared on Eugene Cho's blog.

for more info