“Our Best Days Are Ahead of Us” – National Prayer Breakfast Brings Legislative Rivals Together for an Hour

At this year’s National Prayer Breakfast, the theme was what brings us together, rather than what tears us apart.

Speaking to lawmakers and guests at the February 1 gathering in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol, President Joe Biden said, “My prayer, my hope, is we continue to believe our best days are ahead of us, that as a nation we continue to believe in honesty, decency, dignity and respect. We see each other not as enemies but as fellow human beings, each made in the image of God, each precious in his sight.”

The gathering of congressional leaders for prayer is a tradition that harks back to 1942 when legislators held informal prayer meetings during the darkest days of the Second World War. In 1953, President Eisenhower oversaw the first official national prayer event. In 1970, the annual faith assembly on the first Thursday of February became known as the National Prayer Breakfast.

“We’re all blessed to live in a nation where we can practice our many faiths and practice them freely and where we can come together and lift up our nation and each other in our own prayers, especially in tough times,” Biden said.

The program began with Andrea Bocelli singing the Lord’s Prayer and concluded with the tenor’s rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” followed by a closing prayer by House Chaplain Margaret Grun Kibben.

In the spirit of bipartisanship, Republican Congressman Tracey Mann and Democrat Congressman Frank Mrvan served as the honorary co-chairs of this year’s breakfast. The two lawmakers jointly read a prayer, followed by other members of Congress from both parties who read Scripture and prayed for the president.

Keynote speaker Senate Chaplain Barry Black cited the cleansing power of fasting and prayer in times of crisis. “I’m talking about representatives, senators, chiefs of staff, waiters, waitresses, janitors were fasting and praying,” he said. “Hundreds of us have been doing that.”

Noting that the actions of fasting and prayer are cornerstones of many religions—including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, to name a few—he asked that people here and abroad follow the advice of Methodism founder John Wesley of not eating until mid-afternoon twice a week. “It’s easier than it sounds,” he added.

Following the tradition set by his predecessors, Mr. Biden thanked others for their prayers on his behalf and then described his own, for the families of three service members recently killed in Jordan.

“Not only do we pray for peace, we are actively working for peace, security, dignity for the Israeli people and the Palestinian people,” he said. “I’m engaged in this day and night, working as many of you in this room are, to find the means to bring our hostages home, to ease the humanitarian crisis and to bring peace to Gaza and Israel — an enduring peace with two states for two peoples — just as we worked for peace, security and dignity for the Ukrainian people as they show incredible resolve and resilience against Putin’s aggression. We must continue to help them,” he said, adding that standing against bigotry—such as antisemitism and Islamophobia, and bias against Americans of Arab or South Asian heritage—was a “calling,” and “a covenant we have with one another to hold this nation together.”

Biden received a standing ovation at his concluding words: “Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand: That’s sincerely my prayer to all of you. We have really tough, tough differences. We really go at one another. But let’s remember who the hell we are. We’re the United States of America. It’s all about dignity and respect so let’s practice it.”

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