In his second appearance at the annual National Prayer Breakfast, President Trump steered clear of partisan politics and instead made an impassioned plea that the nation rely on God.
“America’s a nation of believers and together we are strengthened by the power of prayer,” the president said in his 14-minute speech that emphasized connections between religion and government.
The 66th annual event, which drew more than 3,600 people to the Washington Hilton on Thursday (Feb. 8), was a time for prayer, speeches and networking between religious and political leaders from scores of countries. Guests at the breakfast included the presidents of Guatemala, Kosovo and Latvia.
Trump cited mentions of God in the Declaration of Independence, the words “In God We Trust” on U.S. currency and the etching of “Praise Be to God” atop the Washington Monument.
“Each year this event reminds us that faith is central to American life and to liberty,” he said. “Our rights are not given to us by man. Our rights come from our creator. No matter what, no earthly force can take those rights away.”
Trump’s speech also honored first responders, tireless teachers and hard-working parents.
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., who spoke after Trump and described the “miracles” of his and others’ surviving a June shooting at a congressional baseball practice, expressed his appreciation for Trump’s challenge last year to repeal the Johnson Admendment. He noted the House passed a measure to repeal the amendment but that the Senate later removed it from the final tax bill.
Both Scalise and the president emphasized the importance of Americans’ right to express religious views.
“We see the power of God’s love at work in our souls and the power of God’s will to answer all of our prayers,” Trump said. “When Americans are able to live by their convictions, to speak openly of their faith and to teach their children what is right, our families thrive, our communities flourish and our nation can achieve anything at all.”
The prayer breakfast also featured an appearance by a military veteran who bounced back from serious injury in a car bomb attack in Iraq, and the president giving a shoutout to a 9-year-old girl who has a disabling illness but whose doctor said she was able to walk again because “this little girl has God on her side.”
Held in early February each year, the breakfast is sponsored by the Fellowship Foundation, a secretive Christian organization also known as the International Foundation. It is co-hosted by both Democratic and Republican members of House and Senate weekly prayer groups. The breakfast is a predominantly evangelical Christian event, but Orthodox, Catholic and other Christians also take part, as do some non-Christians.
Attendees said they appreciated the multiday opportunity to connect with other people of faith.
“A lot of people focus on just the breakfast,” said Donna Rice Hughes, president and CEO of Enough Is Enough: Making the Internet Safer for Children and Families. “But it really is about three days of events and people coming together from all over the world and coming together in the spirit of Jesus.”
— by Adelle M. Banks | RNS