"This is a Nation of Prayer"

Feb 10, 2003 02:17 PM EST

WASHINGTON - The nation's legislators, military leaders, religious leaders and foreign diplomats met with President Bush for a National Prayer Breakfast Feb. 6 at s Washington Hotel Ballroom. The participants were encouraged to pray for the families of the astronauts who died in the Columbia space shuttle, and for the troops who are gathering in the Middle East in preparation for the possible war with Iraq. Bush further encouraged to pray for the military families and for the nation's leaders.

"We pray for wisdom to know and to do what is right," Bush said. "And we pray for God's peace in the affairs of men."

During this "testing time for our country," he continued, Americans are able to rely on several factors.

"We can be confident in the character of the American people," he said. "The months since Sept. 11, 2001, have not brought fear and fatigue or rash anger. Instead, we've witnessed courage and resolve and calm purpose.

"We can be confident in America's cause in the world," the president said. "Our nation is dedicated to the equal and undeniable worth of every person. We don't own the ideals of freedom and human dignity, and sometimes we haven't always lived up to them. But we do stand for those ideals, and we will defend them.

"We can also be confident in the ways of Providence, even when they are far from our understanding. Events aren't moved by blind change and chance. Behind all of life and all of history, there's a dedication and purpose, set by the hand of a just and faithful God," Bush said. "And that hope will never be shaken."

"This is a nation of prayer," said Bush. "I know, from firsthand knowledge, that this is a nation of prayer. See, I work the rope lines a lot, and I hear all kinds of things on the rope lines. But the thing I hear the most, the comment I hear the most from our fellow citizens, regardless of their political party or philosophy, is, 'Mr. President, I pray for you and your family, and so does my family.' That's what I hear. I turn to them without hesitation and say, 'It is the greatest gift you can give anybody, is to pray on their behalf.'

"I especially feel that because I believe in prayer. I pray. I pray for strength, I pray for guidance, I pray for forgiveness," Bush said. "And I pray to offer my thanks for a kind and generous Almighty God."

56 senators, 240 House of Representatives members, First Lacy Laura Bush, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers and the Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet joined President Bush for the prayer breakfast; the event is at its 51st year.

By Pauline C.