At the 2024 National Prayer Breakfast, the nation’s top political leaders prayed for guidance, safety, reconciliation, and unity.
The annual event, organized by the National Prayer Breakfast Foundation, is held to bring America’s political leadership together to pray for the nation, the president, and the world.
The convocation, now in its 72nd year, was attended by President Joe Biden and high-ranking members of both major parties.
Among those featured at the podium were the co-chairs of the National Prayer Breakfast Foundation, Rep. Tracey Mann, R-Kansas, and Rep. Frank Mrvan, D-Indiana; House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana; House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-New York; Senate Chaplain Barry Black; Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Georgia; Rep. Juan Ciscomani, R-Arizona; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York; and Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee.
Singing three numbers, Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli was the event’s featured singer and offered comments to the attendees at the event, being held for the first time in the U.S. Capitol building’s Statuary Hall.
First speaking in Italian, the renowned Catholic artist then had a translator offer the message in English.
“In ancient Rome, one ‘great’ man recommended that Roman soldiers not be permitted to listen to music because music ‘softens one’s heart and makes soldiers not prepared to battle,’” Bocelli said.
“That’s why I’m extremely pleased to be here today, to bring my own small musical contribution because I think that you, like me, are hoping and dreaming of having an army of soldiers not ready to battle, but very efficient to bring peace in the world,” he said to a round of applause.
Offering the event’s keynote address, Biden commented that he is an “unadulterated fan” of Bocelli.
Referring to the artist’s performance at the White House during Biden’s first year in office, the president said that his singing was a “gift” for the Biden family following the 2015 death of their son Joseph “Beau” Biden III.
“Your wisdom then and now this morning are deeply moving,” he said.
In his remarks on current events and the need for prayer, Biden noted he’s attended “many” prayer breakfasts in the past and has been “humbled by the prayers of so many when we needed them badly.”
“It means everything to us. And we’re all blessed to live in a nation where we can practice our many faiths and practice them freely, and when we can come together and lift up our nation and each other in our own prayers, especially in tough times,” he said.
“I’ve long believed, we have to look at each other even in the most challenging times not as enemies but as fellow Americans,” Biden said. “Scripture tells us the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, [and] faithfulness. I believe that’s our collective calling today.”
The event was marked by several sets of prayer and Scripture readings by the bipartisan assembly of elected officials and chaplains.
Prayer Transcends Partisan Divide
Co-chairs Mrvan and Mann took turns in praying “Gracious God, thank you for the opportunity to gather today in the spirit of Jesus here in the Capitol at the National Prayer Breakfast. We ask that you bless us and our country and show us the way that you would have us live and govern. We pray for discerning hearts to govern, to distinguish between right and wrong, and for the courage to work together in love.”
Johnson read from Psalm 37 — “Trust in the Lord and do good” — while Jeffries took his reading from the Book of Proverbs, reciting: “My son, pay attention to what I say. Turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight. Keep them within your heart.”
Senate Chaplain Black spoke about the power of fasting and turned to 2 Chronicles, highlighting the theme of “turning your crisis into conquest.”
He also spoke about his love for Jesus, “for I’ve found in him a friend, so kind and true.”
McBath and Ciscomani read from the New Testament.
Reading from the Gospel of Matthew, McBath cited Jesus’ words: “You have heard that it was said, ‘love you neighbor and hate you enemy.’ But I tell you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be children of your father in heaven.”
Ciscomani read from 1 Timothy, invoking St. Paul’s words: “I urge then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for all people.”
Prayer for Biden
Blackburn and Gillibrand took the stage after Biden to pray for him.
“The presidency is bigger than one person or one party. It is an American institution and as such, we should pray for the president and our country,” Blackburn said.
“Give us, we pray, the power to discern clearly right and wrong and allow all our words and actions to be governed thereby and by the laws of this land,” she prayed.
“Bless our president, your servant, your son, Joe Biden. Bless him with the wisdom of Solomon to make right and just decisions for the American people. Bless him with the courage of David to endure all the trials and tribulations that lay ahead,” Gillibrand prayed.
House Chaplain Margaret Kibben prayed that “this time of prayer serve to begin the healings of our divisions, would that it liberate us from all that holds us hostage, denying us the joy of reconciliation to be found in the fellowship of friends and with all who call upon your name.”
The co-chairs concluded the breakfast by inviting all in attendance to join them with a prayer, taken from 1 Kings 3, that members of Congress use to conclude their regular congressional prayer meetings.
Together, everyone prayed: “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”