WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Speaking at the 61st annual National Day of Prayer breakfast on Thursday, President Barack Obama called for humility among political leaders "for no one can know the full and encompassing mind of God."
He spoke from paper, not a prompter, and in personal terms, saying he often searches Scripture for guidance to become "a better man as well as a better president."
"It says something about us as a nation, as a people, this great prayerful tradition has endured. In calm and in crisis we come together not as Democrats and Republicans but as brothers and sisters and as children of God."
As people of faith, he added, "We're attentive to our imperfections, particularly the imperfections of our president."
The president also spoke of taking the oath of office on Bibles used by Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr., of the struggles each faced and how each turned to Scripture for lessons.
Of Lincoln, he said, "To see this country torn apart, to see his fellow citizens wage a ferocious war… that was as heavy a burden as any present will ever have to bear…. Today the divisions in this country are not as deep… but they are real."
Obama lauded the way prayer transcends politics but suggested dismay that the goodwill always seems to quickly fade.
"We'd like to think the shelf life wasn't so short. I go back to the Oval Office and start watching the cable news networks, and it's like we didn't pray. So, my hope is that humility … carries over every day."
He made no mention of gay marriage or immigration or other hot button social issues in his 19-minute speech.