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Public Papers - 1989 - February

Remarks at the Annual National Prayer Breakfast

1989-02-02

My special thanks to Bob Stump and Doug Coe, to our honored guests throughout this country and from our foreign lands, and it is a pleasure for Barbara and me to be here once again.

There is no greater peace than that which comes from prayer and no greater fellowship than to join in prayer with others. And coming to the prayer breakfast is, for us at least, like coming home. The Lord works in mysterious ways. There is nothing mysterious, however, about His priorities. I'm the one with the laryngitis, and Sandy Patti is the one that lifted our spirits with that magnificent voice, clear as the finest crystal. We're grateful to her. And the Lord works in very mysterious ways, but I wonder why it is that under the protocol sense of things I always have to follow my friend Al Simpson. [Laughter]

Let us all thank the Lord for having granted us this day, making it possible for us to spend this time together. Billy Graham, my dear friend, tells me that when he was a boy living on a farm in North Carolina one of his jobs was milking cows. And one day he was sent out to milk one of their cows named Brindle, a cow he'd never milked before. And he was told that it was a gentle cow, that it would be very cooperative. When he sat down on the stool to milk the cow, she switched her tail, slapped him in the face, nearly put his eye out, a few minutes later kicked the bucket all the way across the barn, and then tried to kick him. And at that point, he began to wonder if the person who described this kind and gentle cow had ever sat down next to her in the barn. [Laughter] And I've thought of that story in the light of my request for America to become a kinder and gentler nation. It's one thing to request it, and it's another thing to see it actually happen. And maybe a lot of folks out there, cynics, are thinking, well, if you people in Washington will stop trying to milk us, we'll stop kicking. [Laughter]

But we're facing some serious opportunities and some great opportunities in our country -- tough problems and great opportunities. And I believe that a wonderful resource in dealing with them is prayer -- not just prayer for what we want but prayer for what is in the heart of God for us individually and as a nation. And shouldn't we also remember, with all that we have to be grateful for, to pause each day to offer a prayer of thanksgiving. All of us should not attempt to fulfill the responsibilities we now have without prayer and a strong faith in God. Abraham Lincoln said: ``I've been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I have nowhere else to go.'' Surely he was not the first President, certainly not the last, to realize that.

It's not just Presidents. I heard about a little boy whose elderly grandmother came to live with them for the winter. And the first day the little boy played hard inside the house, and he wanted to turn the heat down. But grandmother insisted on keeping it high. And when he opened the windows, she closed them. And for several days it went on like this, up and down, back and forth, with the little boy too hot and the grandmother too cold. After about a week, the little boy knelt beside his bed one night and prayed, ``Lord, bless mother and daddy, and make it hot for grandmother.'' [Laughter]

Well, I suppose there may be some people in Washington, around the country, who have already begun to pray, ``Make it hot for George.'' [Laughter] Those prayers will be answered over time. Be patient. [Laughter] But I can also tell you from my heart that I freely acknowledge my need to hear and to heed the voice of Almighty God. I began my Inaugural Address with a prayer out of a deep sense of need and desire of God's wisdom in the decisions we face. And if we're to walk together toward a more caring, more generous America, let us all share in paving the way with prayer.

Thank you all, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 9:18 a.m. in the International Crystal Ballroom at the Washington Hilton Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Representative Bob Stump; Doug Coe, an associate of the National Prayer Breakfast Movement; gospel singer Sandy Patti; Senator Alan K. Simpson; and evangelist Billy Graham.

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