(CNSNews.com) – Released American pastor Andrew Brunson thanked President Trump Saturday for fighting for his freedom, and prayed in the Oval Office for God to give the president “supernatural wisdom to accomplish all the plans you have for this country and for him.”
Brunson, an evangelical pastor who was incarcerated or under house arrest in Turkey for two years while on trial on terror and spying charges, flew home after judges ordered his release. (The court convicted him on a terrorism charge, sentenced him to three-and-a-half years’ imprisonment, but ruled he should spend no more time in jail.)
“From a Turkish prison to the White House in 24 hours,” Trump said while meeting with Brunson and his family and supporters. “That’s not bad.”
“We especially want to thank the administration,” the pastor told him. “You really fought for us – unusually so. From the time you took office, I know that you have been engaged, and Secretary of State Pompeo also was very engaged and fought for us, and Vice President Pence, we are very grateful, Mr. [National Security Advisor John] Bolton.”
Brunson also thanked senators who had visited him in prison in Turkey and “who stood with us and who prayed for us and who fought for us.”
Trump noted that lawmakers from both parties had advocated for his release: ‘Honestly, I think if there was ever a bipartisan event, this was it.”
Brunson asked Trump if he could pray for him, telling him that he and his wife Norine often do so.
“Thank you. Well, I need it probably more than anybody in this room,” Trump said.
Brunson then knelt, and with a hand on the president’s shoulder, prayed:
“Lord God, I ask that you pour out your Holy Spirit on President Trump, that you give him supernatural wisdom to accomplish all of the plans you have for this country and for him.
“I ask that you give him wisdom in how to lead this country into righteousness.
“I ask that you give him perseverance and endurance and courage, to stand for truth. I ask that you protect him from slander, from enemies, from those who would undermine. I ask that you make him a great blessing to this country.
“Fill him with your wisdom, and strength, and perseverance. And we bless him. May he be a great blessing to our country. In Jesus’ name, we bless you. Amen.”
Trump told the gathering the administration has secured the release of 18 or 19 Americans incarcerated around the world and was continuing to work for freedom for others, including others still held in Turkey.
Asked to what he attributed the success in this area – what he had done differently from previous administrations, Trump replied that foreign governments are tending not to take Americans prisoner since his administration took office
“That’s good. I like that,” he said. “And I think I could tell you why, but I won’t.”
“They tend not to take them out of our administration. And you know what? It is going to stay that way.”
Trump again denied having done any deal with Turkey’s Islamist government to win Brunson’s release and return home. But he thanked President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and predicted that the pastor’s freedom would help to restore a “great” relationship with Turkey.
Brunson, originally from North Carolina, lived and worked in Turkey with his family for more than 22 years before he was swept up in a government campaign of mass arrests following a 2016 coup attempt.
He denied allegations that he supported two groups outlawed as terrorist organizations in Turkey – the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and the movement headed by Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based Turkish Muslim cleric accused by Turkey of masterminding the failed coup bid.
The state’s indictment also accused him of “dividing and separating the country by means of Christianization” of the Turkish people.
Prosecutors had called for conviction and a prison sentence of 35 years.
Now back home, Brunson on Saturday expressed his love for the United States. He recounted that when he landed in Germany on his way home, U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell had met him at 1:30 AM and handed him an American flag that had flown over the embassy in Berlin.
“And I took it and I very naturally just – I kissed it,” he said.
“I love this country.”