Barack Obama: Praying to Be 'An Instrument of God's Will'

The Democratic presidential candidate discusses what he prays for daily and why the Golden Rule applies on the campaign trail.

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When I'm speaking behind a pulpit, I'm in church. And what that means is that it's during a religious service. I'm there, mindful that the primary reason for being in church is to worship. And so I'm going to constrain myself in speaking on purely political issues and am more likely to broaden the theme to address broader issues—values and our ideals, how we can come together to solve the problems that we face as a nation and in the world. But I'm very sensitive to respecting the role that the church service plays and not wanting to abuse the privilege of addressing a congregation.

In writing about your experience encountering church people as an organizer in Chicago, you said you saw “their ability to make a way out of no way, I could see the Word made manifest… I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ one day and be baptized.” It sounds like a conversion or a born-again experience.

'I Felt God's Spirit Beckoning Me'

It wasn't an epiphany. I didn't “fall out,” as they say in the black church. It was an emotional and spiritual progression, as well as an intellectual one. And it didn't happen overnight. What happened was that I felt drawn to the message of Jesus Christ and the power of the church to fortify people in their spiritual journeys. And, you know, in my heart, at least, I felt God's spirit beckoning me. So ultimately, as I write in [“The Audacity of Hope”], I submitted myself to his will, dedicated myself to discovering his truths.


But it's an ongoing process for all of us in making sure that we are living out our faith every day. And, you know, it's something that I try to pray on at the beginning of every day and at the end of every day, whether I'm living my life in a way that's consistent with my faith.

Is it difficult in the rough and tumble of campaign politics to stick to that, to live out your faith? And can you talk about whether you have a favorite prayer or what you pray about?

Prayers and Fair Play on the Campaign Trail
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Interview by Dan Gilgoff
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