- The Washington Times - Friday, January 21, 2005

President Bush began his second term in office yesterday by praying for guidance at a church service in which the Rev. Billy Graham credited God for the president’s re-election.

“We believe that in Your providence, You’ve granted a second term of office to our president, George W. Bush, and our vice president, Richard Cheney,” the evangelist, 86, said in an opening prayer at the National Cathedral in Washington.

“Their next four years are hidden from us, but they are not hidden from You,” said the preacher, who persuaded Mr. Bush to turn to God and away from the bottle at age 40.

“You know the challenges and opportunities they will face,” he added. “Give them a clear mind, a warm heart, calmness in the midst of turmoil, reassurance in times of discouragement and Your presence always.”

The president, joined by first lady Laura Bush, bowed his head in prayer as Mr. Graham and clergy members from various denominations asked God to bless the second Bush term.

The president seemed particularly pleased by the sermon of the Rev. Mark Craig of Dallas.

“We are a compassionate people and a loving people, and we are a moral people,” he said as Mr. and Mrs. Bush nodded in approval. “Our compassion is not liberal; our compassion is not conservative; our compassion is not libertarian.

“Our compassion is in the very heart and soul of every American citizen,” Mr. Craig said.

Mr. Bush, who is keenly aware that he has only a short time in which to enact an ambitious agenda, also seemed to appreciate Mr. Craig’s remarks about the preciousness of time, which he described as a gift from God.

“He gives us 86,400 seconds — one day — every day of our lives,” Mr. Craig said. “He says spend it any way you want, for good or for ill.”

He added: “The way we spend our 86,400 seconds — this treasure that God has given us, one day — greatly determines the quality of our lives.”

The prayer service came less than 24 hours after Mr. Bush repeatedly invoked God in an inaugural address that tackled the epic themes of good and evil, tyranny and righteousness. Although liberals often criticize the president’s religiosity, Mr. Bush is stoic about the controversy.

“I don’t see how you can be president, at least from my perspective, how you can be president without a relationship with the Lord,” he told The Washington Times in an interview last week.

“I think people attack me because they are fearful that I will then say that you’re not equally as patriotic if you’re not a religious person,” he added. “I’ve never said that. I’ve never acted like that. I think that’s just the way it is.”

Mr. Bush did not speak at yesterday’s prayer service, contenting himself to let others discuss the role of religion in America.

“We are a nation of faith,” Mr. Craig said. “We believe that in difficult times, we will persevere.

“We believe that in difficult times, God will lift us up and give us the hand we need to be victorious in our lives as individuals, and as a nation,” he added. “We always respond to challenge.”

Mr. Bush concluded the service by joining 3,200 other congregants, including former President George Bush, in singing the hymn “God of Our Fathers.”

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