President Obama called for humility Thursday at the National Prayer Breakfast, and spoke of faith, his own Christian faith and an abiding faith he says is shared by all Americans. An excerpt from his remarks:
As Christians, we place our faith in the nail-scarred hands of Jesus Christ. But so many other Americans also know the close embrace of faith -- Muslims and Jews, Hindus and Sikhs. And all Americans -- whether religious or secular -- have a deep and abiding faith in this nation. Recently I had occasion to reflect on the power of faith. A few weeks ago, during the inauguration, I was blessed to place my hand on the Bibles of two great Americans, two men whose faith still echoes today. One was the Bible owned by President Abraham Lincoln, and the other, the Bible owned by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As I prepared to take the sacred oath, I thought about these two men, and I thought of how, in times of joy and pain and uncertainty, they turned to their Bibles to seek the wisdom of God’s word -- and thought of how, for as long as we’ve been a nation, so many of our leaders, our Presidents, and our preachers, our legislators and our jurists have done the same. Each one faced their own challenges; each one finding in Scripture their own lessons from the Lord.
And as I was looking out on the crowd during the inauguration I thought of Dr. King. We often think of him standing tall in front of the endless crowds, stirring the nation’s conscience with a bellowing voice and a mighty dream. But I also thought of his doubts and his fears, for those moments came as well -- the lonely moments when he was left to confront the presence of long-festering injustice and undisguised hate; imagined the darkness and the doubt that must have surrounded him when he was in that Birmingham jail, and the anger that surely rose up in him the night his house was bombed with his wife and child inside, and the grief that shook him as he eulogized those four precious girls taken from this Earth as they gathered in a house of God.
And I was reminded that, yes, Dr. King was a man of audacious hope and a man of relentless optimism. But he was always -- he was also a man occasionally brought to his knees in fear and in doubt and in helplessness. And in those moments, we know that he retreated alone to a quiet space so he could reflect and he could pray and he could grow his faith.
And I imagine he turned to certain verses that we now read. I imagine him reflecting on Isaiah, that we wait upon the Lord; that the Lord shall renew those who wait; that they shall mount up with wings as eagles, and they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.
We know that in Scripture, Dr. King found strength; in the Bible, he found conviction. In the words of God, he found a truth about the dignity of man that, once realized, he never relinquished.
Read the full text of his speech here.