By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
I've got a new story up on usnews.com about the White House commissioned and vetted prayers that local community members are giving at President Obama's public events.
I had each of the three invocation givers at President Obama's events so far recite the prayer that he wrote and delivered so I could post the audio here.
Here's Ryan Culp, a high school wellness teacher and evangelical Christian, reading the prayer he delivered at President Obama's February 9 appearance in Elkhart, Ind.:
Ryan Culp's Invocation
Here's James Bing, a Baptist minister, reading the prayer he delivered at President Obama's February 10 appearance in Fort Myers, Fla.
James Bing's Invocation
And here's Austin Nunez, an administrator in the Tohono O'odham Nation, reading the prayer he delivered at President Obama's February 18 appearance outside Phoenix:
Austin Nunez's Invocation
Here's the top of my piece:
When Barack Obama's presidential campaign contacted Ryan Culp last year to ask him to deliver a prayer at an Obama rally in Culp's native Elkhart, Ind., the high school wellness teacher declined. "I'm a conservative Republican," Culp, who met his wife and raised his two kids in the same evangelical church in which he was brought up, said in a phone interview. "I didn't want to be perceived to be a supporter of a Democratic campaign."
Earlier this month, though, when the White House phoned Culp to say that President Obama was returning to Elkhart—this time for a nationally televised town hall meeting to sell his economic stimulus plan—and asked him to open the event with a prayer, he agreed. "It was an opportunity to say that we're not Democrats or Republicans," said Culp, 36, "but Americans searching for an answer."
The day before the president arrived in Elkhart, Culp spent an hour and a half crafting his prayer, roughly a minute and 20 seconds long, before calling an aide from the White House Office of Public Liaison to recite it for vetting, as the administration requested. "She said that it was beautiful and that there shouldn't be a problem with it but that she would call in the morning if there was," Culp recalls.
The White House had no revisions for the prayer, which opened with the line: "Dear Heavenly Father, we come to you this day thanking you for who you are—a God that cares about each of our needs, our desires, and our fears." Culp delivered it the following day at Obama's town hall meeting, landing a handshake from the president and mentions in several local papers.
A once-in-a-lifetime experience for Culp has become routine for President Obama: In a departure from previous presidents, his public rallies are opening with invocations that have been commissioned and vetted by the White House.