“The sweetest words the President and I ever hear are ‘I’m praying for you,’” Pence said. The Vice President drew attention to the fact that prayer has been the binding thread that has kept the nation together through its earliest and most tumultuous times.
“The federal government will never, ever penalize any person for their religious beliefs again,” Pence promised. “Believers of every background have a champion in President Donald Trump.” Pence read from Jeremiah 29:11 to the crowd gathered.
Cissie Graham Lynch (granddaughter of Billy Graham) gave the first prayer of the event. She thanked God for the President and Vice President and asked that he would help all those in leadership to lead well. She also asked for a time of mending toward unity and for peace. Following Lynch, Priest Narayanachar, Sister Bingham, Chaplain Agbere, Rabbi Shemtov and Cardinal Wuerl each offered prayers.
As Trump addressed the group, he started by quoting Billy Graham’s thoughts on prayer. “Prayer is the key that opens [to] us the treasures of God’s mercies and blessings.” Trump then articulated the role faith and the prayers of religious Americans have had in building the United States.
“The prayers of religious believers helped gain our independence, and the prayers of religious leaders like the Reverend Martin Luther King—great man—helped win the long struggle for civil rights. Faith has shaped our families, and it’s shaped our communities. It’s inspired our commitment to charity and our defense of liberty. And faith has forged the identity and the destiny of this great nation that we all love,” President Trump said.
President Trump used the opportunity to sign another executive order, the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative. Trump explained the initiative would ensure “the faith-based and community organizations that form the bedrock of our society have strong advocates in the White House and throughout the federal government.” Additionally, Trump says the initiative will “ensure that faith-based organizations have equal access to government funding and the equal right to exercise their deeply held beliefs.”
Concluding his speech, Trump said, “Today we gather to remember this truth: We thank God for the faith of our people. We praise God for the blessings of freedom. And we ask God to forever bless this magnificent land that we all love so much.”