"Growth in a person's life, growth for a nation, growth spiritually, all depend on our relationship with God. And the basis for that growth is an understanding of God's purpose, and a sharing of difficult responsibilities with God through prayer.
Today, Monday February 20th, is Presidents' Day. To honor the occasion, Building Faith would like to share something that is both presidential and faithful. The following text is the conclusion of remarks given by President Jimmy Carter at the 1980 National Prayer Breakfast (see full remarks). Appropriately enough, President Carter mentions Jesus' command to love one's enemies – which was yesterday's lectionary gospel reading (Matthew 5:38-48). Blessings to you and yours this Presidents' Day.
"The Bible says even the worst sinners love and pray for their friends, the ones who love them. And sometimes we don't go that one more step forward in growth, not on a single cataclysmic, transforming experience, but daily, and count those against whom we are alienated. At least every day, list them by name, and say, 'God, I pray for that person or those people.'
Every day, I pray for the Ayatollah Khomeini. Every day I pray for the kidnappers who hold our innocent Americans. And every day, of course, I pray for those who are held hostages as innocents. It's not easy to do this, and I have to force myself sometimes to include someone on my list, because I don't want to acknowledge that that person might be worthy of my love. And the most difficult thing of all, I think, is to go one step even further than that and thank God for our own difficulties, our own disappointments, our own failures, our own challenges, our own tests.
But this is what I would like to leave with you. To set a time in each day to list all of the things that you consider to be most difficult, most embarrassing, the worst challenge to your own happiness, and not only ask God to alleviate it but preferably thank God for it. It might sound strange, but I guarantee you it works.
And you might say, 'Why in the world should I ask God for thanks — give thanks, for something that seems to me so bad or so damaging?' Well, growth in a person's life, growth for a nation, growth spiritually, all depend on our relationship with God. And the basis for that growth is an understanding of God's purpose, and a sharing of difficult responsibilities with God through prayer."
Text taken from Gregory Korte, "How presidents pray: The prayer breakfast from Eisenhower to Obama," USA Today, Feb 4, 2016.
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