About two dozen evangelical leaders spontaneously prayed with President Trump in the Oval Office Monday during a day-long “listening session” with the Office of Public Liaison.
Johnnie Moore, a former senior vice-president at Liberty University, posted pictures of the prayer time Tuesday night on social media but emphasized that it was more than just a photo op.
“It shows a substantive relationship between the evangelical community and this administration,” he told CBN News.
Moore said faith leaders are enjoying frequent access to officials throughout the Trump administration and explained: “We enjoy an open door, not just in the Eisenhower Building, but in the West Wing.”
The West Wing includes the Oval Office where the president works, as well as the Cabinet Room, the Situation Room and the Roosevelt Room. The Eisenhower Executive Office building is located right next to the West Wing and houses other White House staff.
Jennifer Korn, special assistant to the President, organized the meeting, but the prayer time was an unexpected bonus, Moore said. “When the West Wing became aware that we were on the property, they invited us over to spend a few minutes,” he said.
He described the president as “in wonderful spirits” as did Tony Suarez, executive vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
“It was so relaxed,” Suarez told CBN News. “Just like friends getting together.”
Other leaders in the room included Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council (FRC); Pastor John Hagee, founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio; Paula White, senior pastor of New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Florida; former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann; Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition; Gary Bauer, president of American Values; Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas; Jim Garlow, senior pastor of Skyline Church in La Mesa, California; Rodney Howard-Browne, senior pastor at the River at Tampa Bay Church, Mike Evans, the founder of Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem, and Richard Land, president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte and others.
Moore acknowledged that the Trump administration has not organized a specific office for evangelicals, unlike the Obama administration which created the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships or the Bush administration which oversaw the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives. Moore said the current relationship, however informal, has provided more access.
“While there is no formal office,” he said, “we actually think we’re enjoying a much more substantive relationship.”
After the meeting, Perkins told FRC supporters that he’s found the Trump administration to be “genuinely interested and responsive to the concerns of the evangelical community” and added that after 14 years in Washington, D.C. “I am more optimistic that we can change the course of this country.”
Leaders at Monday’s day-long session described discussing a wide variety of issues with administration policy makers. Moore said they included religious liberty and criminal justice reform. Perkins mentioned foreign policy and Israel.
Suarez said the group prayed for a number of policy matters including Trump court nominations that have yet to be confirmed. Suarez said he’s most concerned about a lack of action on immigration reform but added “I don’t blame the White House. I blame Congress.”