- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 3, 2011

Saying his Christian faith has been a “sustaining force” the past two years, President Obama on Thursday prayed for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords as she recovers from a gunshot wound and the Egyptian people as bloody clashes continue in Cairo.

“We pray that the violence in Egypt will end and that the rights and aspirations of the Egyptian people will be realized, and that a better day will dawn over Egypt and throughout the world,” Mr. Obama said at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.

The president said his time in the White House has “deepened” his faith, even as he confessed that his failures have sometimes caused him to question God’s plans for him.

Mr. Obama also said he tries not to mind when people mistake his faith — polls have shown that a small contingent of Americans still believe he is a Muslim even though he’s a Christian — saying, “what matters is not what other people say about us but whether we’re being true to our conscience and true to our God.”

The president described his mother as skeptical of organized religion but called her “one of the most spiritual people that I ever knew.” He said he was able to develop his faith in the absence of a formal religious upbringing after being inspired by key figures from the civil rights movement, many of whom were faith leaders.

While faith groups can do many things on their own, Mr. Obama said they sometimes need to partner with business or with government to accomplish their goals.

“There’s only so much a church can do to help all the families in need — all those who need help making a mortgage payment, or avoiding foreclosure, or making sure their child can go to college,” he said. “And that’s why I continue to believe that in a caring and in a just society, government must have a role to play; that our values, our love and our charity must find expression not just in our families, not just in our places of work and our places of worship, but also in our government and in our politics.”

Mr. Obama said he is grateful for those across the country who pray for him, and that his own prayers are usually pleas he be given the strength to meet the challenges of being the president.

But he joked that sometimes those prayers are more specific: “Lord, give me patience as I watch Malia go to her first dance, where there will be boys,” he said of his 12-year-old daughter. “Lord, have that skirt get longer as she travels to that dance.”

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