Editor’s note: Following are President Bush’s remarks at the White House this morning at an event marking the National Day of Prayer.
THE PRESIDENT: Welcome to the White House. I am really glad you’re here. Thanks for coming. And I’m honored to join you for the National Day of Prayer. On this special day, we give thanks for the many ways that America has been blessed, and we acknowledge the Almighty, who is the source of these blessings.
I appreciate the chairman of the National Day of Prayer, Shirley Dobson. I notice you brought your old husband with you, too. (Laughter.) Thank you for organizing this event here at the White House and around the nation.
Mrs. Bright, it’s good to see you. Thank you, welcome. I’m glad you’re back again. Dr. Blackaby, thank you very much, sir, for being the honorary chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. And we welcome Marilynn, as well.
I want to thank the members of the Cabinet who are here. Thank you all for coming. I appreciate you taking time out of your day to be here to join.
I’m glad to see my friend, Archbishop Demetrios. How are you, sir? Thanks for coming. I appreciate the military chaplains who are here. Thanks for administering to the needs and souls of the men and women who wear the uniform. Yours is an important job, and I’m grateful, as your commander in chief, for what you do.
I want to thank Rabbi Ciment, Father Connor and Jay Dennis for joining us. Thank you for your prayers and your strong statements.
I thank Rebecca St. James for your beautiful music. We’re proud you’re here. I want to thank those who accompanied you. About the coat – (laughter) – your answer is, it’s the voice that matters. (Laughter.) And the spirit behind the voice.
And Gail, thank you for coming, as well. We’re proud you’re here. Thanks for sharing with us.
America is a nation of prayer. It’s impossible to tell the story of our nation without telling the story of people who pray. The first pilgrims came to this land with a yearning for freedom. They stepped boldly onto the shores of a new world, and many of them fell to their knees to give thanks.
At decisive moments in our history and in quiet times around family tables, we are a people humbled and strengthened and blessed by prayer. During the darkest days of the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress and George Washington – I call him the first George W. – (laughter and applause) – urged citizens to pray and to give thanks and to ask for God’s protection.
More than two centuries since our first National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving, we continue to ask for God’s guidance in our own lives and in the life our nation. Each year, thousands of citizens write letters and send cards to the White House that mention their prayers for this nation and this office.
In my travels across the great land, a comment that I hear often from our fellow citizens is, “Mr. President, I pray for you and your family.” It’s amazing how many times a total stranger walks up and says that to me. You’d think they’d say, “How about the bridge?” Or, “How about filling the potholes?” (Laughter.) No, they say, “I’ve come to tell you I pray for you, Mr. President.”
And the only thing I know to do is to look at them in the eye and say, that is the greatest gift that a fellow citizen can do for those of us who have been entrusted to lead our country. And for that – (applause.) And so I thank thanks – I say thanks to the millions of Americans who pray each day for our nation, our troops and our elected leaders.
Prayer is a gift from Almighty God that transforms us, whether we bow our heads in solitude, or offer swift and silent prayers in times of trial. Prayer humbles us by reminding us of our place in creation. Prayer strengthens us by reminding us that God loves and cares for each and every soul in His creation. And prayer blesses us by reminding us that there is a divine plan that stands above all human plans.
In the stillness and peace of prayer we surrender our will to God’s will, and we learn to serve His eternal purposes. By opening ourselves to God’s priorities, our hearts are stirred and we are inspired to action – to feed the hungry, to reach out to the poor, to bring aid to a widow or to an orphan or to the less fortunate.
On this day, we also remember that we are a people united by our love for freedom, even when we differ in our personal beliefs. In America, we are free to profess any faith we choose, or no faith at all. What brings us together is our shared desire to answer the call to serve something greater than ourselves.
Over the past five years, I have watched the American people answer this call. Some serve their fellow man on distant shores, placing themselves in harm’s way so that others might live in freedom. Others serve in our nation’s armies of compassion, bringing comfort and kindness to suffering communities at home and abroad. In millions of acts of service, the American people have shown the good heart of our nation.
From our nation’s prayerful beginnings, America has grown and prospered. Through prayer, we humbly recognize our continued dependence on divine providence.
I want to thank you all for keeping prayer a part of our national life. May God bless each one of you, and may God continue to bless our nation.
And now it is my honor to welcome Reverend Jay Dennis. (Applause.)
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