Thousands gather at National Cathedral to offer prayer for President Obama
WASHINGTON — More than 2,000 people filled the National Cathedral on Tuesday to offer a prayer for President Barack Obama as he enters his second term in office.
Clergy from several Christian denominations as well as the Muslim, Jewish and Sikh traditions offered prayers as Obama sat in the front row, alongside first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden.
“Strengthen the hearts of our president, Barack, and our vice president, Joseph,” Kathryn Lohre, president of the National Council of Churches, said in one of several prayers. “Make them bold for the work you have set before them. Grant them wisdom to discern your will and to consider your word among the counsels they receive.”
The nation’s 57th inauguration wrapped up Tuesday after five days of festivities. Hundreds of thousands of people packed the National Mall on Monday to watch Obama, 51, take the oath of office on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. He officially started his second term 24 hours earlier, after a brief private ceremony at the White House.
The National Prayer Service dates to the nation’s first president, George Washington, but the event traditionally has taken place at the cathedral since 1933. The Episcopal cathedral recently announced that it would begin holding same-sex weddings — an issue that Obama championed in his inaugural address Monday.
The Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor at the 16,000-member Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., called for an end to partisan fighting in Washington, singling out the debt ceiling and health care fights.
“We’re in need of a new common national vision — not one that is solely Democratic, or solely Republican,” Hamilton said. “We need at least one or two goals or dreams that Americans on both sides of the aisle can come together and say, ‘Yes! That’s what it means to be American. That’s where we need to go.’”
Hamilton concluded by directly addressing Obama. “When you feel your lowest, don’t give up,” he said. “Wait upon the Lord; he will renew your strength that you might lead us as a nation to knock holes in the darkness.”
The Obamas and the Bidens were joined by White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew, several members of the president’s Cabinet and Congress, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as well as Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts.
In the evening, the couples were attending the final event of the long inaugural weekend — a private inaugural ball at the Washington Convention Center designed to thank staffers of the campaign for their work.