Obama nurtures faith away from spotlight

President reads devotional every morning, has annual conference call to receive prayers from group of pastors
Associated Press
Oct 19, 2013

President Barack Obama is not an overtly religious man. He and his family rarely attend church, and he almost never elaborates in public about his own relationship to his Christian faith.

But away from the public eye, advisers say, the president has carefully nurtured a sense of spirituality that has served as a grounding mechanism during turbulent times, when the obstacles to governing a deeply divided nation seem nearly insurmountable.

Every year on Aug. 4, the president's birthday, Obama convenes a group of pastors by phone to receive their prayers for him for the year to come. During the most challenging of times, prayer circles are organized with prominent religious figures such as megachurch pastor Joel Hunter, Bishop Vashti McKenzie of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Rev. Joseph Lowery, a civil rights activist.

Each morning for the past five years, before most of his aides even arrive at the White House, Obama has read a devotional written for him and sent to his BlackBerry, weaving together Scripture with reflections from literary figures such as Maya Angelou and C.S. Lewis.

"I've certainly seen the president's faith grow in his time in office," said Joshua DuBois, an informal spiritual adviser to Obama who writes the devotionals and ran Obama's faith-based office until earlier this year. "When you cultivate your faith, it grows."

Obama is particularly moved by theories that draw connections between biblical themes and the personal journeys of historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr., DuBois said.

He added that the president's spiritual strength is his belief that God will carry him through to see another day even in times of crisis.

"Because of these grounding aspects of his life, he doesn't let the day-to-day challenges really shake him," said DuBois, a former associate pastor at a Pentecostal church.

The image of Obama as someone who draws heavily on faith to guide his daily life contrasts with his public persona.

An intensely private person, Obama has shied away from all but the most general descriptions of his spiritual life.

Obama had to distance himself from his longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, when his anti-American rantings threatened Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

Persistent and false claims that Obama is secretly a Muslim have followed him even into his second term.

"Sometimes I search Scripture to determine how best to balance life as a president and as a husband and as a father," Obama said in February at the National Prayer Breakfast. "I often search for Scripture to figure out how I can be a better man as well as a better president."

The best clues to which texts fortify Obama's spiritual consumption may come from the daily devotionals that DuBois started sending Obama, then a U.S. senator from Illinois, in 2008.

DuBois ran religious outreach for Obama's presidential campaign that year, and his digital benedictions for Obama have been compiled in a forthcoming book, "The President's Devotional."

"A snippet of Scripture for me to reflect on," Obama has said. "And it has meant the world to me."

At pivotal moments in Obama's presidency, DuBois sometimes selects texts that offer lessons appropriate to the challenges at hand.

Before one State of the Union address, it was the words of Isaiah, in an appeal for clarity of speech: "So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth, it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose."

Others are intended as an oasis from the conflicts Obama confronts on any given day.

"We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed. Perplexed, but not in despair," reads a verse from 2 Corinthians that DuBois sent Obama one November, followed with his own meditation: "Dear God, give us a resilient spirit, a spirit that returns to face this day even in the shadow of yesterday's challenges. Help us, today, to bounce back."

In his final years in office, Obama plans to continue with the morning meditations, the birthday call with pastors and ad hoc prayer circles, said a senior administration official, who wasn't authorized to comment by name on Obama's spiritual life and requested anonymity.

In times of crisis, from hurricanes to school shootings, many Americans look to their president as a source of strength and comfort.

"This office tends to make a person pray more," Obama said last year in an interview with Cathedral Age magazine. "And as President Lincoln once said, 'I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.'"



John Harville

Girl... why don't you cite for us exactly which media are 'liberal' - and use your own information and opinion, not something you get from Fox or others.


"I am not a crook." Dick Nixon.

John Harville

... ;but Nixon was a Quaker.


Sun, 10/20/2013 - 7:12pm

"""Truth2u, you might want to refresh your memory as to what precisely the Constitution says concerning holding office. "No religious test shall be required..." Further, the presidential oath of office, as specified in the Constitution, does NOT say, "So help me, God." George Washington added that.""" so what if GW added it, that doesn't nullify that the Founding Fathers such as Jefferson believed and openly declared America as a Christian Nation.

Where did I say the constitution required a religious test, Sam? I stated that the LAWS which were made by the Founding Fathers such as that in PA. required it, and the Fathers certainly knew what the Constitution stated in since they wrote it. top putting words into peoples mouths.

I do not have time to rebuke your post but I will when I get off work today.

Just a very quick google produced enough to make your post null.


John Harville

Repeating... until the 14th Amendment states could require a religious test.
Since the 14th, ratified July 9, 1868, no governmental unit within the US or its territories can require a religious test - the 14th amendment made it the Law of the Land.

John Harville


John Harville

Jefferson wrote his own 'Gospel', removing all the miracles and mysticism and virgin birth and revealing Jesus as a terrific politician and wise statesman.

Truth or Dare

You all want the real news, have cable? Go to CSPAN's PUBLIC AFFAIRS, channels 79 and 80. You'll get it in action, out of the horses mouths, and won't have to rely on Fox, MSNBC, CNN, whatever.

As for Jefferson.....he was just another slave owner.


Well fortunately the Bible says slaves are ok. So he must have been a good christian.