Obama's Message at the Easter Prayer Breakfast

Here is an excerpt of President Obama’s  Easter Prayer Breakfast message—–

To all the faith leaders and the distinguished guests that are here today, welcome to our second annual — I’m going to make it annual, why not?  (Laughter and applause.)  Our second Easter Prayer Breakfast.  The Easter Egg Roll, that’s well established.  (Laughter.)  The Prayer Breakfast we started last year, in part because it gave me a good excuse to bring together people who have been such extraordinary influences in my life and such great friends.  And it gives me a chance to meet and make some new friends here in the White House.

I wanted to host this breakfast for a simple reason -– because as busy as we are, as many tasks as pile up, during this season, we are reminded that there’s something about the resurrection — something about the resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ, that puts everything else in perspective.

We all live in the hustle and bustle of our work.  And everybody in this room has weighty responsibilities, from leading churches and denominations, to helping to administer important government programs, to shaping our culture in various ways.  And I admit that my plate has been full as well.  (Laughter.)  The inbox keeps on accumulating.  (Laughter.)

But then comes Holy Week.  The triumph of Palm Sunday.  The humility of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.  His slow march up that hill, and the pain and the scorn and the shame of the cross.

And we’re reminded that in that moment, he took on the sins of the world — past, present and future — and he extended to us that unfathomable gift of grace and salvation through his death and resurrection.

In the words of the book Isaiah:  “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities:  the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

This magnificent grace, this expansive grace, this “Amazing Grace” calls me to reflect.  And it calls me to pray.  It calls me to ask God for forgiveness for the times that I’ve not shown grace to others, those times that I’ve fallen short.  It calls me to praise God for the gift of  his Son and our Savior.

And that’s why we have this breakfast.  Because in the middle of critical national debates, in the middle of our busy lives, we must always make sure that we are keeping things in perspective.  Children help do that.  (Laughter.)  A strong spouse helps do that.  But nothing beats scripture and the reminder of the eternal.

So I’m honored that all of you have come here this Holy Week to join me in a spirit of prayer, and I pray that our time here this morning will strengthen us, both individually as believers and as Americans.  And with that, let me introduce my good friend, Bishop Vashti McKenzie, for our opening prayer.  (Applause.)

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  • http://augustiniandemocrat.blogspot.com/ John W Brandkamp

    This, along with other expressions, have served to give me a decent indication of our President’s deep seated Christian faith. But I should also reiterate that I also accept our former President’s faith as legitimate. Sadly, our political divides have led us to deligitimate any religious expressions shown by those who differ from us politically. This speaks to our deep political idolatries that have distorted our Christian faith.

  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

    “…whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice.”

  • http://practicingresurrection.wordpress.com/ Bill

    For any who missed his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast this year, I highly recommend it. It is refreshing to see a politician be so candid and explicit about his faith. Here is the link: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/02/03/remarks-president-national-prayer-breakfast

    and here are some excerpts:

    “And it was through that experience working with pastors and laypeople trying to heal the wounds of hurting neighborhoods that I came to know Jesus Christ for myself and embrace Him as my lord and savior.”

    “And let me tell you, these past two years, they have deepened my faith. (Laughter and applause.) The presidency has a funny way of making a person feel the need to pray. (Laughter.) Abe Lincoln said, as many of you know, “I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.” (Laughter.)”

    “It’s also comforting to know that people are praying for you who don’t always agree with you. Tom Coburn, for example, is here. He is not only a dear friend but also a brother in Christ. We came into the Senate at the same time. Even though we are on opposite sides of a whole bunch of issues, part of what has bound us together is a shared faith, a recognition that we pray to and serve the same God.”

    “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. “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.””

    “When I wake in the morning, I wait on the Lord, and I ask Him to give me the strength to do right by our country and its people. And when I go to bed at night I wait on the Lord, and I ask Him to forgive me my sins, and look after my family and the American people, and make me an instrument of His will.

    I say these prayers hoping they will be answered, and I say these prayers knowing that I must work and must sacrifice and must serve to see them answered. But I also say these prayers knowing that the act of prayer itself is a source of strength. It’s a reminder that our time on Earth is not just about us; that when we open ourselves to the possibility that God might have a larger purpose for our lives, there’s a chance that somehow, in ways that we may never fully know, God will use us well.

    May the Lord bless you and keep you, and may He bless this country that we love.”

  • Andrew

    This is a beautiful message. Then again, I haven’t heard a speech from the President I didn’t like. I think it’s important not to read to much into this though. As Obama said at the White House Iftar dinner celebration:

    “These events (White House dinners celebrating milestones of specific faiths) celebrate the roll of faith in the lives of American people. They remind us of the basic truth that we are all Children of God, and we all draw our strength from God.”

    I don’t know Ben. I guess in my opinion I don’t think anything said at this dinner should be seen as an authentic profession of faith from any president. These dinners are symbolic. They all mean the same thing. To Washington, commemorating the message of Easter simply serves as a reminder (like ever other religious holy day) that we are God’s Children and draw faith from God (whoever or whatever we consider he, she, or it, to be).

    I’m not saying that what he said was wrong in anyway. On the contrary- it was moving! It’s just politicians-and Obama is no exception- are gifted rhetoricians. They tailor messages to their audience as much as they possibly can. I’m glad the President and everyone else can draw strength from Christ on this day. I don’t know- maybe I’m just skeptical.

    Happy Easter everyone!

  • http://www.resaliens.com Lyn

    I was encouraged when I saw this on the 700 Club…and that I saw this on the 700 Club! ;)

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben witherington

    Andrew I disagree. We have had Presidents, like Richard Nixon who never felt compelled to go to a prayer breakfast and give a speech like that, and furthermore, there was no compulsion for the President to go to Shiloh Baptist this morning for church, even though that created huge difficulties for that congregation. President Obama is a real Christian person, whether one agrees with all of his political views or not. And my observation would be that he has drawn more and more on his faith as things have gotten more difficult during these years of economic recovery and too many wars. He believes in respect for other religions, as we all should, but if we ask where his allegiances lie, there is little doubt.


  • Drane

    Here is the problem with Christian presidents or other Christians in high office:
    They all must ultimately govern as Pontius Pilate–”Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” That is to say: coercion, power to kill, is the basis of any modern politician’s power.

    But hear the gospel: So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’

    I believe Obama is a sincere Christian, but like most, badly taught. Washington Prayer meetings serve only to reinforce sinful behavior, bad theology, and the kingdom of the world, while denying the realities of the kingdom of God, resurrection and new creation.

    Live the kingdom of God. Live in the resurrection. Live in New Creation. Live as Christ called us to live.

  • Drane

    As I reflect further on what Pres. Obama has said (and I voted for him, and I still regard him as better than any of the Republican alternatives out there) I find his statements very problematic.
    1. He personalizes, and individualizes the gospel to mean forgiveness of individual sin, and nothing more.
    2. This is an almost gnostic view of the world. “But nothing beats scripture and the reminder of the eternal.” The Eternal? How about the temporal, where civilians are weekly, maybe daily, being killed by mis-targeted drone-fired rockets.
    3. How about Laos, where just in the last month a mother was killed by a cluster bomb dropped by American planes some 30 years ago (yes, not Obama’s fault, but the result of his Pilate-like thinking).

  • Damien

    I tend to agree with Drane. Obama is the Commander in Chief and it seems to me that if there are “too many wars”, he might have *something* to do with it too. As long as he is Commander in Chief, I don’t see how he could escape responsibility for the killing of civilians in Afghanistan, especially when his policy toward that country has been to *increase* the number of troops and the intensity of operations there.

    Of course, no-one knows what is in the President’s heart and we should not be speculating about whether he is a Christian or not. This serves no useful purpose. That being said, I don’t believe we should take politicians at their word either. It is a time-honored strategy for them to court Christians and, all too often, we become their useful idiots and lose our identity in the process. E.g. the previous president and the Evangelicals who were extolling the virtues of torture and utilitarianism. See also the sad fact that peace rallies have

    We should not either assume that such speeches have a negative impact on voters. The median voter in the US is still firmly Christian. Some hard-core Democrats might dislike Christianity but, at the end of the day, they would still rather vote for a yellow dog than a Democrat. Same thing for hard-core Republicans. That leaves us with independents and swing voters and I’m willing to bet that displays of piety resonate well with them.

    If he says he is a Christian, let us take him at his word. But let us also point it out when his decisions and policies are at odds with what he regards as his faith. For instance, we should be concerned when the man who has sworn to uphold the Constitution openly flouts it by authorizing non-defensive military action against a sovereign country without authorization from Congress. We should be concerned when extraordinary rendition continue. We should be concerned with detainee abuse at Bagram, which has been called “the forgotten second Guantánamo”. We should be concerned when targeted killings of civilians, including US citizens, continue. We should be concerned when torture in the name of national security is still going on (e.g. Bradley Manning).

    Actions speak louder than words. I’d be better if we had even fewer public displays of religious fervor and more Christian day-to-day leadership.

  • Leah

    No matter what the President does or says,he is criticized “That was a good speech,but..” or”Oh he’s a Christian(or sometimes not),but his faith isn’t good enough”
    He is a good man who is doing the hardest job in the world. The crises have come fast and furious.Who would want the job? If we get another Republican in the next election,we will be very sorry in the end. I’ve looked at the lineup and I remember eight years of Bush 2. Absolutely frightening..

  • http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/ Wintery Knight

    I wonder if anyone has considered this.

    On abortion:

    On marriage:

    Not to mention bankrupting the entire country by adding 5.5 trillion dollars to the debt since the Democrats took over the house in January 2007.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lishakrishna Lesha Holland

    So, just what in the heck was Fox News so bent out of shape about, regarding President Obama’s alleged “dissing” (snubbing) of Easter? Seriously, can someone please explain this to me? It seems pretty clear to me that he had a LOT to say about it!

  • Drane

    I can explain it to you. FOX News lies. Most of the people in the organization have no regard for the truth. But, then, this is stating the obvious.

  • Mario

    The issue Lesha, Drane, et al. is that obama gave this speech to a closed audience at the prayer breakfast…yes, it got news coverage, but it was geared to a ‘closed’ audience.

    What obama failed to do was to acknowledge this most sacred day in the Christian faith to the people he was elected to lead. Even though he publicly acknowledged Eid al Fitr (the end of Ramadan), Kwanzaa (a made up ‘holiday’), Passover, and Earth Day…Earth Day, really?

    President Bush (43) was never shy about his religion and professed his faith from the beginning, not after ‘being called on the carpet.’

    obama’s a disgrace…

    Drane, did you come up with that assessment about Fox News all by yourself or did you hear someone else say it?

    The problem with this country is that there aren’t more people who are outraged that obama didn’t acknowledge Easter…

  • Drane

    Mario wrote: “The problem with this country is that there aren’t more people who are outraged that obama didn’t acknowledge Easter…”

    You are saying that Obama didn’t acknowledge Easter? Really?? Mario, please, learn to read:

    OBAMA: “I wanted to host this breakfast for a simple reason -– because as busy as we are, as many tasks as pile up, during this season, we are reminded that there’s something about the resurrection — something about the resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ, that puts everything else in perspective.”

    Didn’t acknowledge Easter? Are you kidding? Or are you just disappointed that he spoke of the resurrection of Christ, but didn’t mention bunnies and eggs?

    Forgive me, I’m being snarky.

  • Mario

    You’re a snarky moron…I suggest you take your own advice and “learn to read.”

    Read the REST of my post instead of looking for one line with which you think you can make an argument to fit your narrow point of view.

    Obama’s statement was made at a PRAYER BREAKFAST (that would be the reference I made to the ‘CLOSED’ audience). He made no ‘proclimation’ to the rest of the Nation about Easter–but he did for Kwanzaa & Earth Day???

    If I thought he was sincere in his speech of the Ressurrection, I would not be disappointed. But, the last thing Obama is is sincere. He’ll be a “decent Christian” in front of a Christian audience, but in front of the rest of the nation, he doesn’t want to offend anyone–except the majority (Christians).

    He’s been a disappointment since the very beginning.

  • Daniel

    It amazes me that those who claim to be Christians would even want to utter this President’s name considering his stance on traditional Christian values and especially those with whom he keeps company and those that support him. The liberal left in this country is trying very hard every day to sweep Christianity under the carpet, to wipe it out of public life, and to deny our nation’s Christian foundations. As for Fox News not knowing about this “Prayer breakfast”, it’s no wonder, it’s not like the Obama administration came out and made a public statement about it or anything, after all, he’s been busy campaigning for re-election since he won the last election, and not much of anything else.

  • Lisa Marie Hardman

    So many people post negative things about our Christian president. I’m curious to see if any repost this article. I hope so. My prayer is that we will all be united under our Mighty God whose unfailing love is given to us all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lishakrishna Lesha Holland

    They’re all “made up holidays.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/lishakrishna Lesha Holland