(CNSNews.com) - Saying that he hoped there would one day be an international day of prayer, President Bush marked the 20th annual National Day of Prayer at ceremonies held Thursday at the White House.
"As we pray for God's continued blessings on our country, I think it makes sense to hope that one day there may be an International Day of Prayer," Bush said during his eighth and final appearance at the prayer ceremony.
"It will be a chance for people of faith around the world to stop at the same time to pause to praise an Almighty," he added.
The president thanked the American people for praying for him over the last eight years. Without those prayers, Bush candidly admitted, he would not have made it through the "turbulent years" of his presidency.
"I may have been a little hardheaded at times, but I'm absolutely convinced it was the prayers of the people who helped me (understand) in turbulence you can find calm and strength," Bush said to the assembled audience of clergy and lay leaders from many faiths.
The president even poked a little fun at himself, taking note that the election is just months away, and he will soon be without a job.
"It's interesting, when you think about our faith you can find it in the Pledge of Allegiance, you can find an expression of American faith in the Declaration of Independence, and you can find it in the coins in our pockets. I used to carry coins -- in about 10 months I'll be carrying them again," Bush said.
On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, there were fewer jokes as hundreds gathered at the Cannon House Office Building to pray for what conservative Christian leader James Dobson called the nation's "moment of desperation."
"We're facing political decisions that none of us have the wisdom to decide, and our country is about to change hands, and we just ask that the Lord will be with us this year, especially in November," Dobson said.
In recent months, Dobson, founder of the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Focus on the Family, has denounced all three remaining presidential candidates: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain.
Dobson, whose wife Shirley is the chairman of the National Day of Prayer, prayed that "His will and His purposes would be ordained for this country." He concluded by saying, "The Lord has blessed us with great leaders for so long, so many decades and centuries, and we just ask for His blessing to be upon us."
One congressional attendee, Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), told Cybercast News Service that faith and politics do mix, saying that the prayer observance is important for the nation because God was important to the nation's Founding Fathers.
"Back when the Founding Fathers first came to this country, they came from a land where people were given their rights by kings and queens - by the royalty," Aderholt said.
In America, all rights, especially human rights, come from God, the former Alabama circuit judge said.
"If God gives you rights, man can't take them away," he said. "If a man such as a king gives you rights, the king can take them away," he added.
Aderholt said it is important to have a system where God is acknowledged, "not as a theocracy, not as a system where you have an established church or where anybody is forced to do anything , but acknowledgement of God, realizing that all men were created in the sight of God, meaning that another man can't take those rights away."
That point was underscored by the presence this year of Chinese Christians at National Day of Prayer festivities.
John Pan, director of Initiatives for China, a human rights group, said an observance like the one on Capitol Hill would simply not be allowed in Communist China.
"We believe that the need for China is not just for political reform - but also a spiritual awakening - for the people to realize that we all have the image of God," Pan said ld Cybercast News Service .
Pan noted the fact that, just days ago, Chinese security forces attacked Buddhist monks and clashed with protesters in Tibet, killing more than a dozen Tibetans.
"We need to respect every human being, every soul, regardless of their agenda, their religious background," Pan said. "So far, that image is not very well respected in China."
The National Day of Prayer is congressionally authorized to be held on the first Thursday in May. It was signed into law by President Harry Truman in 1952.
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