7:35 A.M. ESTTHE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you all for that warm welcome. And would you join me in thanking Congressman Robert Aderholt — (applause) — who has dedicated his career to serving the people of his great state, but also to this extraordinary bipartisan tradition? Congressman, it’s an honor to be with you early today.
To leaders in faith and in public life who are gathered here today, to all our distinguished guests: Good morning.
AUDIENCE: Good morning!
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It’s an honor to be with all of you and with the President of the United States of America for the 68th annual National Prayer Breakfast. Welcome. Welcome to you all. (Applause.)
And it’s a special joy to be here at this early hour with the most important person in my life. We’ve been together for more than 35 years. She’s a Marine Corps mom. She’s an advocate for military families. She’s even an art teacher at a Christian school two days a week. Would you join me in thanking the Second Lady of the United States of America, Karen Pence, for being with us today? (Applause.)
You know, the Bible tells us to be faithful in prayer; that the “effective and fervent prayers of a righteous [people] availeth much”; that we’re to persevere in prayer; and that, in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, we’re to present our requests to God. And since the founding of this nation, the American people have relied on prayer.
Rightly understood, I believe that prayer and faith are the thread that runs through every era of American history. In 1775, the Second Continental Congress established a day of fasting and prayer. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln urged Americans to pray so that, as he said, “the united cry of the nation [would] be heard on high and answered with blessing.”
But it was in 1953, at the invitation of the Reverend Billy Graham, that President Dwight Eisenhower addressed a group of just 400 people, in what would become known as the first National Prayer Breakfast. And ever since then, every President has attended the breakfast each year, and President Donald Trump will continue that tradition today. (Applause.)
When the President and I spoke last night, I told him I was coming over to Columbia Hall, and he wanted me to extend his appreciation to all of you here — all of you who have contributed and made this event possible and have come with us and been willing to participate here. So allow me to bring greetings and gratitude from a great champion of people of faith here in America and around the world. I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
As the President has said many times, in his words, “We are a nation of faith.” And I can assure you that this President, this Vice President, and our entire administration believe in prayer and we rely on the prayers of the American people every day.
In fact, President Trump has made it a practice of opening every Cabinet meeting in prayer. And he’s one of only four Presidents in American history who have actually issued multiple proclamations calling the American people to prayer in a single year.
And from early in this administration, President Trump has taken steps to ensure that the federal government will never penalize anyone for their religious beliefs in this country. (Applause.)
As the President said in his historic State of the Union Address just a couple of days ago, “In America, we do not punish prayer. We do not tear down crosses.” We do not “ban symbols of faith” or “muzzle preachers and pastors.”
And at this National Prayer Breakfast, at a time when religious belief is too often marginalized, all of you gathered here and the American people can be confident that this President and this administration will always defend the freedom of religion of every American of every faith, so help us God. (Applause.)
So we’ve been standing for religious liberty here at home. And, as many of you know at this gathering that draws people, literally, not only from around the country, but from around the world, this President has also worked tirelessly to support Christian and religious minorities around the world, to help rebuild communities, and also has worked tirelessly to secure the release of Americans who face persecution and captivity for their faith. We have, at the efforts of the administration and this President, seen Americans released from captivity in Egypt, in Venezuela, and North Korea. And he’ll be joining us this morning because Pastor Andrew Brunson is home. (Applause.)
So Karen and I are going to slide over the National Prayer Breakfast Main Hall and I know you all will be participating from here, but we wanted to come by and say thank you.
You know, the Bible says that if you owe debts, pay debts; if honor, then honor; if respect, then respect. And on behalf of our little family, we wanted to say thank you for your prayers. Thank you for your prayers for our friend, the President of the United States of America, and his family. Thank you for your prayers for members of Congress in the House and the Senate, and for all of those who serve in positions of authority in our nation’s capital and in city halls and state houses around the country.
Thank you also for your prayers for the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States and those who serve in law enforcement. (Applause.)
And thank you for the prayers of all of those, like many of you gathered here, who rightly handle the word of truth — religious leaders who pour your lives into the lives of people all across this country.
And finally, thank you for your prayers for all of the American people.
You know, when Karen and I travel across this country, and when the President and I travel, we — the sweetest words we ever hear are when people will reach out, grab a hand, and say, “I’m praying for you.” And you know when people mean it, and it’s always a blessing.
And so, I want to encourage you to continue to avail yourself of the opportunity to pray. Pray for all of those in positions of authority. And at this National Prayer Breakfast, I’d encourage you to, in these divided times, pray for America, for all of the American people.
For I truly believe that those ancient words that Americans have clung to in much more challenging times than we could ever imagine in our day are still true today, that if His people, who are called by His name will humble themselves and pray, He’ll do like He’s always done through the long and storied history of this nation: He’ll hear from Heaven, and He’ll heal this land, this one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
So thank you for joining us for this year’s National Prayer Breakfast. God bless you all. And God bless America. (Applause.)