The New York Times | Paula White, Trump’s Spiritual Adviser, Says He Has ‘a Hunger for God’

WASHINGTON — The televangelist Paula White wants those watching the inauguration on Friday to know that Donald J. Trump has “a heart for God, a hunger for God.”

Ms. White, who has been called Mr. Trump’s “spiritual adviser,” will be the first female clergy member to pray at a presidential inauguration, where she will deliver an invocation. The president-elect and Ms. White have been friends for 15 years, since Mr. Trump saw her on Christian television and called to tell her she was “fantastic.” He also repeated several of her sermons back to her, she said.

During the campaign, Mr. Trump seemed to demonstrate little fluency with the language of the religious right, even as he courted its support. While Ms. White acknowledged that Mr. Trump “doesn’t speak what I call ‘Christianese,’” she rejected portrayals of him as unversed on spiritual matters.

“More than people would ever recognize, he’s self-reflective,” she said during an interview Wednesday afternoon at her hotel in Washington. “He’s a deep thinker, studier. He’s a phenomenal listener.”

“I know that President-elect Trump has a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ,” she added. “We’ve had in-depth conversations about God.”

Ms. White, the pastor of a church near Orlando, Fla., has been associated with “prosperity gospel,” which holds that if believers give generously, God will reward them with earthly and heavenly riches. She said her teachings are too varied to be narrowed to such a theology.

Her former ministry, the Without Walls International Church, was one of six investigated in the past decade by the Senate Finance Committee over possible financial improprieties. At the time, Ms. White and her husband, Randy, from whom she is now divorced, refused to cooperate with the inquiry, and kept their lavish spending hidden behind tax laws that allowed religious organizations to operate tax-free with little transparency.

Ms. White said that Mr. Trump was not drawn to her for any attention she has given to success and wealth. “Winning to him also equates to good, and good equates to God,” she said.

Over the past decade, Ms. White said, Mr. Trump has called on her to pray over him before, in her words, “most major events” in his life: ahead of a season finale of “The Apprentice,” and in the minutes before his speech at the Republican National Convention last year. (Ms. White also spoke at the event.) She also said she had sometimes been invited to simply sit with the president-elect in his Trump Tower office for a day.

An evangelical advisory board she led during the campaign will expand and continue to gather weekly, offering feedback to the new administration. During the campaign, Ms. White helped organize meetings with religious leaders to pray with Mr. Trump.

Growing up, Mr. Trump regularly attended Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan. At the time, he was drawn to the self-help, self-confidence exhortations of the head minister there, Norman Vincent Peale, whom the president-elect has called “the greatest guy.” Mr. Peale’s sermons — his admonition to avoid “fear thoughts” — stuck with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump has spoken of religion in the vocabulary of his real estate enterprise. In his 2004 book “Think Like a Billionaire,” he wrote: “If God ever wanted an apartment in Trump Tower, I would immediately offer my best luxury suite at a very special price. I believe God is everywhere and in all of us, and I want every decision I make to reflect well on me when it’s time for me to go to that big boardroom in the sky.”

But he has also resisted some of the central orthodoxies of his faith. In 2015, he asked, “Why do I have to repent, why do I have to ask for forgiveness if you’re not making mistakes?”

Ms. White said she hopes to “invoke God’s presence for our nation, for our president” on Friday, and plans to cite Abraham Lincoln. She also said she wanted her time in Washington to be seen as an “assignment for the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Ms. White, who ministered around Washington in the late 1980s, said she was planning to attend the Faith, Freedom and Future Inaugural Ball and a gala hosted by the Traditional Values Coalition, where her husband, Jonathan Cain, of the band Journey, was scheduled to perform songs from his new solo Christian album.

When asked if she expected to be a frequent guest of Mr. Trump at the White House, she smiled and said, “I’m sure I’ll visit.”

Read more at Paula White, Trump’s Spiritual Adviser, Says He Has ‘a Hunger for God’.