House Speaker Paul Ryan: Prayer should always come first

Editor’s note: The following remarks were made by House Speaker Paul Ryan Thursday at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.  

I want to welcome all of you to Washington. You could not have come for a better reason. This breakfast is a national tradition because prayer is a part of our national heritage. It all goes back to the Declaration of Independence. We believe our rights come from God, and our job, as officeholders, is to protect those rights. So it is only natural we should ask for His guidance as we seek to do His will.

But I have noticed a growing impatience with prayer in our culture. You see it in the papers or on Twitter. When people say they’re praying for someone or something, the attitude in some quarters seems to be, “Don’t just pray; do something about it.” But the thing is, when you are praying, you are doing something about it. You are revealing the presence of God. Whenever people are in grief or even when they’re about to start a great undertaking, they feel the worst pain of all: They feel alone. How am I going to get through this? Why is this happening to me? “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

That is why there is nothing more comforting—or more humbling, really—than to hear someone say, “I’m praying for you.” Because when hear you that, you realize, you’re not alone. God is there. And hundreds, if not thousands, if not millions of people are all speaking to Him on your behalf. They’re not praying for some abstract notion. They’re praying for you the person. It says a lot about our country that people of both parties—and all faiths—will drop everything and pray for their fellow Americans. What it says is, we believe in the dignity of the individual. And that is why prayer should always come first.

All Americans believe this. But as Christians, we especially can appreciate this truth. We believe in Jesus Christ. We believe God came down from heaven and became a man—with a name and a body—so we could know him. We could begin to understand. He walked among the poor and lowly of this world so he could raise us to new heights in the next. It is a miracle. It inspires us every day. And that is why we should “rejoice always”; “pray without ceasing”; and “in all circumstances, give thanks.”

Republican Paul Ryan is Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. He represents Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District. Follow him on Twitter @SpeakerRyan.

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