Calling the United States a “nation of prayer,” President Bush joined religious leaders and politicians at the annual National Prayer Breakfast Feb. 1.
“Many in our country know the power of prayer,” he said. “Prayer changes hearts. Prayer changes lives. And prayer makes us a more compassionate and giving people.”
According to the Religion News Service (RNS), more than 3,500 guests munched on granola and coffee cake during the gathering that brings high-powered political figures from Washington and abroad together with religious leaders for Scripture and speeches.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.) served as co-chairman of the event. He described the 55th annual breakfast as an opportunity for “sowing the seeds of civility in this city, in our country and in the world.”
Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, was the keynote speaker, and contemporary Christian artist Nicole C. Mullen sang. Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, read from Philippians and Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) read from the Talmud.
The breakfast is funded by the Fellowship Foundation, a low-profile group that promotes Christian evangelism.
The president’s address came on the heels of a Gallup poll showing that Americans remain deeply divided about the amount of religious influence in public life.
About 40 percent of Americans believe the amount of influence religion has on public life should not change, 32 percent would like to have less religious influence and 27 percent said they would appreciate more religious influence on public policy.
RNS noted that the number of Americans who think religion should have less impact has increased 10 percentage points since 2001.