During his 15-minute speech at the 66th annual Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning, President Donald Trump exhibited much greater comfort in his faith than he has shown previously.
He opened by giving credit to God for His blessings on this unique nation:
Our founders invoked our Creator four times in the Declaration of Independence; our currency declares “In God We Trust,” and we place our hands on our hearts as we recite the pledge of allegiance and proclaim we are one nation under God. That is why the words “Praise be to God” are etched atop the Washington Monument, and those same words are etched into the hearts of our people. So today we praise God for how truly blessed we are to be American.
And then he treaded where the previous president feared to go: Trump unabashedly used the name of Jesus Christ:
As the Bible tells us, we are God’s handiwork, created in Jesus Christ to do good works.… All we have to do is open our eyes and look around us, and we can see God’s hand. In the courage of our fellow citizens, we see the power of God’s love and work in our souls, and the power of God’s will to answer all of our prayers.
It was in his insertion into his speech of part of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus that raised most eyebrows and gave the most comfort to those still questioning the depth of Trump’s faith in Christ. The full quote is:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.
For we [who have been saved through faith] are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us [believers] to do.
This was carefully crafted and woven into his speech to confirm his newfound faith in Christ. His journey began, according to George Barna in his book The Day Christians Changed America, in September 2015 when he met with 40 evangelical leaders in a private meeting. As Barna reported:
Among those present were David Jeremiah, Jan Crouch, Paula White, Robert Jeffress, Kenneth Copeland, and black pastors Darrell Scott and Clarence McClendon.
After the substantive portion of the meeting ended, many of the pastors and others present felt led to pray for Trump; they laid hands on him and asked for God’s blessing and guidance for this man.
Barna was tentative in describing what happened next:
Somewhere along the line it seems that Trump may have discovered enough spiritual truth to embrace Jesus Christ as his savior.
It was James Dobson, the former head of Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, who revealed his belief that Trump had become a born-again Christian. In the face of consternation and disbelief in the evangelical community, Dobson clarified his statement:
Only the Lord knows the condition of a person’s heart. I can only tell you what I’ve heard. First, Trump appears to be tender to things of the Spirit. I also hear that Paula White [whom some refer to as Trump’s spiritual advisor] has known Trump for years and that she personally led him to Christ….
This man is a baby Christian who doesn’t have a clue about how believers think, talk and act.
The New York Times simply doesn’t know what to do with this. The day before Trump’s speech at the Prayer Breakfast, the liberal paper decried the fact that the “front door [to the White House] is open to evangelicals,” quoting the Reverend Johnnie Moore, a Southern Baptist minister. Said Moore, “It hasn’t been evangelicals reaching into the White House. It’s been the White House reaching out to evangelicals. Not a day goes by when there aren’t a dozen evangelical leaders in the White House for something.”
The Times noted that Moore, a former Liberty University vice president, is only one of about a half-dozen people in Trump’s informal evangelical advisory group, which pays regular visits to the White House. Others include Tim Clinton (director of Liberty University’s Center for Counseling and Pastoral Care, and no relation to Bill or Hillary), Robert Jeffress, Darrell Scott, Samuel Rodriguez, and Paula White. In restrained horror, the Times noted that these meetings “start with policy briefings from West Wing staff and agency officials and end with impromptu visits to the Oval office, where Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will banter, then pray, with them.”
As the president becomes more familiar with his new-found faith, he becomes more comfortable with it, especially when given opportunities to speak in public to audiences such as the 3,000 or so evangelicals attending the Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning. There was likely not a single soul attending who didn’t receive the clear message from the president’s use of part of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that he considers himself the receiver of the grace of God about which Paul was speaking.
Image: Screenshot of a C-SPAN video