- The Washington Times - Friday, May 6, 2005

President Bush yesterday called prayer ‘an important part of American public life’ and lauded the practice of asking God to help the United States win the war against terrorism.

‘We pray for help in defending the gift of freedom from those who seek to destroy it,’ Mr. Bush said at an East Room ceremony marking the 54th annual National Day of Prayer. ‘We pray to acknowledge our dependence on the Almighty.’

Meanwhile, at a Prayer Day observation on Capitol Hill, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who has been accused by Democrats of ethics lapses, said, ?In God, all things are possible. … Even greatness from lowly sinners like you and me — especially me.?

Mr. DeLay, who got standing ovations before and after his speech, concluded with a plea for others’ prayers ‘as your servant and your brother’ for ‘the virtue of humility.’

At the White House, Mr. Bush described himself as a ‘proud Methodist’ and drew a parallel between the war against terrorism and the Civil War.

‘During the funeral for Abraham Lincoln, Bishop Matthew Simpson relayed a story about a minister who told our 16th president that he hoped the Lord was on his side,’ Mr. Bush said. ‘Lincoln wisely replied that he was more concerned that he was on the side of the Lord, because the Lord was always on the side of right.’

In case anyone doubted whether Mr. Bush considered himself on the side of right, he made clear that those on the side of wrong include radical Islamists, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il.

‘There is evil in the world — there’s always been evil,’ he told a Dutch journalist in the Map Room immediately after the prayer service. ‘Those who kill in the name of a great religion are evil people.’

On Capitol Hill, Mr. DeLay said Washington was being hampered by excessive pride.

‘Just think of what we could accomplish if we checked our pride at the door, if collectively we all spent less time taking credit and more time deserving it,’ the Texas Republican said. ‘If we spent less time ducking responsibility and more time welcoming it. If we spent less time on our soapboxes and more time on our knees.’

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid used the day to take a veiled swipe at religious conservatives.

‘Recent political debates have seen others choose to highlight our differences, with some even challenging the religious beliefs of those who hold a different political ideology,’ the Nevada Democrat said in a written statement. ‘I believe this is ill-natured, divisive and simply wrong.

‘The values of our many faiths do not divide us; they compel us to lift each other up,” he added. Instead of using faith to tear each other apart, let us pray they bring us together in the weeks and months ahead.’

Mr. Bush made no mention of politics during his remarks at the White House prayer service. But the born-again Christian, whose strong religious faith rankles many liberals, was unapologetic about the power of prayer.

‘Every day, millions of us turn to the Almighty in reverence and humility,’ he said. ‘And almost every day, I am given a special reminder of this great generosity of spirit when someone comes up and says: ‘Mr. President, I’m praying for you.’

Julia Duin contributed to this report.

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