In the last of the official inaugural events this weekend, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence attended the National Prayer Service on Saturday morning, Jan. 21, the day after Inauguration Day. Held at Washington National Cathedral, the prayer service is a tradition dating back to George Washington.
Twenty-six faith leaders were present to offer prayers and Scripture reading instead of delivering a sermon. The majority of the speakers were evangelical Christians, including David Jeremiah, Cissie Graham Lynch, and Jack Graham. At this interfaith service, there were representatives from Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, and Bahai affiliations present to say their prayers for the new administration and the country.
During the celestial solo, “How Great Thou Art,” Melania Trump was visibly emotional, wiping away tears.
Yet when it was announced the cathedral would host the traditional service, there was criticism of the cathedral — and about the choir’s participation in the Inaugural Day ceremony, due to the Left’s attempt to boycott Trump. Former dean of the Washington Cathedral, Gary Hall, was upset they chose to “endorse” president Trump by holding the service in the cathedral.
“It is simply inappropriate to use a precious institution such as Washington National Cathedral to suggest that the church bestows its blessing on a leader so obviously beyond the pale of Christian thought,” Hall wrote in a commentary for Religious News Service.
With that same feeling of disdain, the introduction by Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde failed to mention the names of either Donald Trump or Mike Pence — instead focusing on the hour of prayer for this land and its people.
Despite the awkward introduction, the prayers that followed by the pastors, ministers, and various faith leaders asked God specifically for wisdom and grace for President Trump.
Alveda King prayed for a zeal for justice and strength for forbearance. There were several petitions to God to “keep this nation under Your care.” There were prayers for not only the new administration, but for America’s educators, first responders, civil servants, and military. One minister prayed for the poor, unemployed, underemployed, and homeless. And there was the intimate request to God to give wisdom and strength to President Trump to know and do God’s will — that he and all government leaders would be filled with truth and righteousness.
Psalm 23 was read, reminding the congregation that the Lord is our shepherd, providing peace and provision. Jesus’ Sermon on The Mount was read from Matthew 5, recalling the beatitudes God bestows on His children. There was encouragement to persevere through trials from James 1, with the promise of patience and wisdom from God.
The musical portions of the service were beautiful, diverse, and inspirational. During the celestial solo, “How Great Thou Art,” Melania Trump was visibly emotional, wiping away tears.
The performer received a standing ovation, with both Trump and Pence nodding in approval and appreciation. There were also traditional hymns and patriotic choruses. The service concluded with a unified recitation of The Lord’s Prayer for all those in attendance and those watching the service elsewhere. The final performance was a stunning solo of “America the Beautiful” that ended with the choir singing the final verse.
Donald Trump greeted each of the clergymen and women as they proceeded out of the cathedral, then shook hands with each of the speakers.
It was an hour of prayer for all people and our nation. There were prayers for forgiveness, blessing, and guidance. Just prior to the service, Robert Jeffress — pastor of First Dallas and personal friend of Donald Trump — was interviewed on “Fox and Friends.”
“Religious freedom is the ability to live your life according to your faith.”
He stated that this inauguration has had the most prayers of any inauguration in history — and that Donald Trump will be the most faith-friendly president. He also said he knew Donald Trump was grateful for the prayers from all people. A year ago, Dr. Jeffress recalled telling Trump, “I believe you’re going to be the next president of the United States. And if that happens, it’s because God has raised you up for a great purpose.”
In an interview with Neil Cavuto, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said regarding the interfaith service, “This is a country where religious freedom prospers and America prospers when religious freedom prospers. Religious freedom is the ability to live your life according to your faith.”
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Despite the attempt to politicize the event, there was a sense of religious unity in the multiple religions represented. Each person sincerely prayed for America and for our new president. There is common ground and solidarity when there is a focus beyond oneself and a common goal for a greater purpose.
Katie Nations, married for 15 years, a working mother of three young children. She lives in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.