President George W. Bush told
the National Prayer Breakfast today (Thursday, Feb. 3) that prayer is not simply "presenting God with our plans and desires; prayer also means opening ourselves to God's priorities, especially by hearing the cry of the poor and the less fortunate."
The Dec. 26 tsunami that devastated much of South Asia prompted a response not only from the American government, but from a multiplicity of faith-based organizations, Bush said. "Look at the list of organizations bringing relief to the people from Indonesia to Sri Lanka. They're full of religious names: Samaritan's Purse, American-Jewish World Service, Baptist World Aid, The Catholic Medical Mission Board. They do a superb job delivering relief across the borders and continents and cultures."
Speaking at the Washington Hilton
Hotel, the President added: "In these great moral challenges of our times, our churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples are providing the vision that is changing lives. I've seen some of their miracles up close. Last June, I met Veronica Braewell, a 20-year-old refugee from Liberia. As a 13-year-old child, Veronica witnessed armed men killing children in horrific ways. As she fled this madness, Veronica left -- was left for dead atop a pile of bodies, until her grandmother found her. In August 2003, Catholic Social Agency helped resettle her in Pennsylvania, where Veronica is now completing the circle of compassion by working in a home for elderly in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and studying to become a certified nursing assistant.
"When Veronica told me of her story, it was through the kind of tears no young woman should ever know. And when she finished, she dried her eyes and said, "Thank you, Mr. President, for my freedom." But I told her, it wasn't me she needed to thank, she needed to thank the good hearts of the United States of America. The America that embraced Veronica would not be possible without the prayer that drives and leads and sustains our armies of compassion."
In a short speech attended by Presidents Marc Ravalomanana of Madagascar
and Ricardo Maduro of Honduras,
Bush told about one of his own presidential predecessors—Abraham
In a city where power is temporary, leaders must devote themselves to
God's purposes, Bush said. "And we know that affirming this truth is
particularly appropriate in the heart of a capital built upon the promise of
self-government. No one understood this better than Abraham Lincoln.
"In November 1864, after being reelected to his second term, Lincoln
declared he would be 'the most shallow and self-conceited blockhead on Earth if
he ever thought he could do his job without the wisdom which comes from God and
not from men.' Throughout a terrible Civil War, he issued many exhortations to
prayer, calling upon the American people to humble themselves before their Maker
and to serve all those in need." .