February 2nd, 2012
12:18 PM ET
Washington (CNN)–President Barack Obama called on lawmakers to allow their faith and values to guide them as they seek to solve the country’s "most urgent problems" including the sluggish economy and continuing involvements overseas, such as the war in Afghanistan.
Speaking at the 60th annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington on Thursday, the president said, "We know that part of living in a pluralistic society means that our personal religious beliefs alone can't dictate our response to every challenge we face. But in my moments of prayer, I'm reminded that faith and values play an enormous role in motivating us to solve some of our most urgent problems, in keeping us going when we suffer setbacks, and opening our minds and our hearts to the needs of others."
Addressing the divisive partisanship in Congress and relations between the White House and the GOP leadership, the president cautioned leaders should not "get caught up in the noise and rancor that too often passes as politics today, these moments of prayer slow us down. They humble us."
The president spoke about how his values continue to influence and "motivate" his leadership when addressing one of the most divisive issues between Democrats and Republicans, the elimination of some tax breaks for wealthy Americans.
"[W]hen I talk about shared responsibility, it's because I genuinely believe that in a time when many folks are struggling, at a time when we have enormous deficits, it's hard for me to ask seniors on a fixed income, or young people with student loans, or middle-class families who can barely pay the bills to shoulder the burden alone," he told the audience.
But he later continued, "[W]e can earnestly seek to see these values lived out in our politics and our policies, and we can earnestly disagree on the best way to achieve these values."
The president also reminded the audience of his deep faith as he spoke of beginning each day with a prayer and how he spends "a little time in scripture and devotion" each morning.
He recounted a meeting he had as president with religious leader Rev. Billy Graham who counseled many previous presidents. A letter from the ailing Graham was read at Thursday's prayer breakfast.
Obama talked about the humbling experience he had with Rev. Graham who said a prayer for him and how he wanted to say a prayer for Graham.
"What do you pray for when it comes to the man who has prayed for so many?" the president asked his audience.
"And so I prayed - briefly, but I prayed from the heart...saying a prayer for Billy Graham - a man whose faith had changed the world.”
“I have fallen on my knees with great regularity since that moment - asking God for guidance not just in my personal life and my Christian walk, but in the life of this nation and in the values that hold us together and keep us strong,” he said.