Barack Obama photo

Remarks at an Easter Prayer Breakfast

April 19, 2011

The President.Thank you very much. Thank you. Please, please have a seat. Well, it is absolutely wonderful to be here with all of you today. I see so many good friends all around the room.

Before I begin, I want to acknowledge one particular member of my administration who I'm extraordinarily proud of and does not get much credit, and that is USAID Administrator Dr. Raj Shah, who is doing great work with faith leaders. Where's Raj? Where is he? There he is right there. Raj is doing great work with faith leaders on our Feed the Future global hunger program, as well as on a host of other issues. We could not be prouder of the work that he's doing. I also want to acknowledge Congressman Mike McIntyre and his wife Dee. Mike--[Applause]--as some of you know, obviously, North Carolina was ravaged by storms this past weekend, and our thoughts and prayers are with all the families who have been affected down there. I know that Mike will be helping those communities rebuild after the devastation.

To all the faith leaders and the distinguished guests that are here today, welcome to our second annual--I'm going to make it annual. [Laughter] Why not? Second Easter prayer breakfast. The Easter egg roll, that's well established. [Laughter] The prayer breakfast we started last year, in part because it gave me a good excuse to bring together people who have been such extraordinary influences in my life and such great friends. And it gives me a chance to meet and make some new friends here in the White House.

I wanted to host this breakfast for a simple reason, because as busy as we are, as many tasks as pile up, during this season, we are reminded that there's something about the resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ that puts everything else in perspective.

We all live in the hustle and bustle of our work. And everybody in this room has weighty responsibilities, from leading churches and denominations to helping to administer important Government programs to shaping our culture in various ways. And I admit that my plate has been full as well. [Laughter] The inbox keeps on accumulating. [Laughter]

But then comes Holy Week: the triumph of Palm Sunday, the humility of Jesus washing the disciples' feet, his slow march up that hill, and the pain and the scorn and the shame of the cross.

And we're reminded that in that moment, he took on the sins of the world--past, present, and future--and he extended to us that unfathomable gift of grace and salvation through his death and resurrection.

In the words of the Book Isaiah: "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."

This magnificent grace, this expansive grace, this "Amazing Grace" calls me to reflect, and it calls me to pray. It calls me to ask God for forgiveness for the times that I've not shown grace to others, those times that I've fallen short. It calls me to praise God for the gift of our son--His Son and our Savior.

And that's why we have this breakfast. Because in the middle of these critical national debates, in the middle of our busy lives, we must always make sure that we are keeping things in perspective. Children help do that.

Audience members. Amen. [Laughter]

The President. A strong spouse helps do that.

Audience members. Amen.

The President. But nothing beats Scripture and the reminder of the Eternal.

So I'm honored that all of you have come here this Holy Week to join me in a spirit of prayer, and I pray that our time here this morning will strengthen us, both individually as believers and as Americans. And with that, let me introduce my good friend, Bishop Vashti McKenzie, for our opening prayer.

[At this point, Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie, presiding bishop of the 13th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, came to the podium.]

Bishop McKenzie. Thank you so much.

The President. I just had to make a quick point. You notice that these days, prayers are on an iPad. [Laughter] This is a hi-tech bishop here.

[Bishop McKenzie then offered a prayer.]

Note: The President spoke at 8:39 a.m. in the East Room at the White House.

Barack Obama, Remarks at an Easter Prayer Breakfast Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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