Governor Rick Perry's Public Prayers Show Presidential Leadership

By Myra Adams

Recently on Fox News Channel’s morning show Fox and Friends, cohost Gretchen Carlson asked a provocative question to promo a news segment about Texas Governor Rick Perry’s massive prayer event called “The Response,” held on August 6th.

Carlson’s promo question was: Will his prayers turn off voters?

Ms. Carlson is not at fault for asking, but the underlying reason why that question even had to be formulated says a great deal about the current state of our nation, our culture and the media.

PrayerPalooza,” the Texas Tribune’s mocking name for “The Response,” held at Houston’s Reliant Stadium with a crowd of 30,000 faithful, was widely criticized in the media, questioning Perry’s involvement and political motives.  The event was further criticized by various secularist groups accusing Governor Perry of blurring the lines between church and state.

Even a lawsuit banning Governor Perry from attending the event, filed by the atheist Freedom for Religion Foundation, was tossed out by a federal judge just a week before.

But do you honestly believe the Governor was concerned over whether his involvement in “The Response” and the public prayers he offered at the stadium would “turn off voters” as he officially enters the race for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination?  Not in the least.

In fact, Perry, in response to the waves of political and media criticism leveled at him before the event said “I know there will be folks who think it’s something else,” he stated on a radio show. “But it’s not about me. It’s about Him.”

Statements like this are sure to elicit further attacks and mocking by the national media as Perry embarks on his presidential run.

In “response” Perry offered these words as part of his stadium prayer:

(Read the full transcript here)

“Father, our heart breaks for America. We see discord at home, we see fear in the marketplace, we see anger in the halls of government, And as a nation, we have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses us. And for that we cry out for your forgiveness.”

To counter the pre and post-event attacks that his participation was “political” Perry in his prayer address said this about God:

“His agenda is not a political agenda, His agenda is a salvation agenda….He’s a wise, wise God, and he’s wise enough to not be affiliated with any political party…  He is calling all American’s, of all walks of life, to seek him, to return to Him, to experience His love and His grace and His acceptance, experience a fulfilled life regardless of the circumstances. I want you to join with me as I share His word with you.”

Are these the kinds of prayers that threaten to “turn off voters?”  If so, this is a sad indication of just how far our nation has drifted from its Judeo-Christian roots.

This drift is especially apparent when you read prayer speeches by recent past presidents who addressed our nation during times of crisis.

Take for example President Franklin Roosevelt’s address to the nation on June 6, 1944, the onset of the D-Day invasion.  Here are some excerpts:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity…

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph….

With thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy.

FDR’s entire address by today’s standards sounds like a solemn church sermon. Were there any Americans turned off by this overtly Christian radio address? Did the press mock him for sounding like a preacher?  Of course not.

In fact, FDR’s speech at that perilous time in our nation’s history served to unite, comfort and rally our nation. Exactly what Rick Perry was attempting to do at the stadium, knowing full well the backlash he could expect and indeed has received, as he steps onto the campaign trail and into national spotlight.

A more recent example of a Christian themed presidential prayer address was given on September 14, 2001 by President George W. Bush as he was honoring the victims of the September 11th attacks. Bush even included a familiar New Testament verse from Romans Chapter 8.

We come before God to pray for the missing and the dead, and for those who love them… On this national day of prayer and remembrance, we ask Almighty God to watch over our nation, and grant us patience and resolve in all that is to come. We pray that He will comfort and console those who now walk in sorrow. We thank Him for each life we now must mourn, and the promise of a life to come.

As we have been assured, neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, can separate us from God’s love. May He bless the souls of the departed. May He comfort our own. And may He always guide our country.

Has our nation changed so much since 2001 that even a speech like this today might  be criticized in the media for being “too Christian” with the potential of offending people and “turning off voters?”  The answer is quite possibly “yes.”

One can hardly imagine President Obama giving such a speech under any circumstances.

Whether Rick Perry succeeds in winning the Republican nomination for president, he deserves credit for boldly standing up in a stadium to express his long held beliefs in response to a crisis. That is what leadership looks like, a trait sorely lacking in the current White House occupant.

This kind of bold leadership might be exactly what this nation needs and what Americans are seeking during our current economic crisis, coupled with the perception that our best days are behind us.

Perhaps instead of asking voters if they were “turned off,” TV host Gretchen Carlson should have asked if voters were turned on by the fact that Rick Perry believes in something far greater than himself and he is not afraid to publicly seek Divine Intervention on behalf of our nation, as many presidents have before.

While aggressive organizations like the ACLU and American United for Separation of Church and State are always jumping at opportunities to push God out of our culture, their leaders might be wise to ponder some forgotten words from one of the America’s greatest and most devout presidents.

“My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”
Abraham Lincoln