- The Washington Times - Friday, February 8, 2008

President Bush yesterday told the 56th annual National Prayer Breakfast that the United States should rely on God to “build a freer world.”

Mr. Bush also told the D.C. gathering, which was focused on helping the poor and sick in Africa, that he has felt the “power of prayer” in his own life.

“Prayer has strengthened me in times of personal challenge. It has helped me meet the challenges of the presidency,” he said.

“I understand now clearly the story of the calm in the rough seas,” Mr. Bush said, referring to the biblical story of Jesus quieting the storm on the Sea of Galilee. Mr. Bush visited that sea on his trip last month to Israel, and said afterward it was “awe-inspiring to walk where Jesus lived and preached.”

Mr. Bush’s remarks were preceded by a keynote speech from Ward Brehm, the board chairman of a U.S. government organization that delivers aid to Africa. Mr. Brehm, a successful insurance consultant who has worked in philanthropy in his private time, highlighted the need for more help for the poor and sick in Africa.

Mr. Bush will visit Africa next week to highlight the aid his administration has delivered to the continent during his time in office.

The U.S. government has delivered $15 billion over five years to fight HIV/AIDS, and $1.2 billion over five years to prevent malaria, and Mr. Bush is calling on Congress to double the AIDS commitment over the next five years to $30 billion.

Mr. Brehm, who chairs the U.S. African Development Foundation, said in an interview that Mr. Bush “hasn’t gotten anywhere near the recognition for what has been a historic fourfold increase in aid to Africa.”

In 2003, no one in Africa was receiving antiviral drugs to combat HIV/AIDS, Mr. Brehm said. But since U.S. aid kicked in, 1.5 million people have been treated with drugs.

“These people in Africa don’t have a voice. They can shout in agony but nobody hears them,” Mr. Brehm said. “I think President Bush has been their voice.”

Mr. Bush told the prayer breakfast attendees that “experiencing the presence of God transforms our hearts.”

“The more we seek His presence, the more we feel the tug at our souls to reach out to the poor, and the hungry, the elderly and the infirm,” he said.

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