Obama told the audience of about 3,000 people gathered in a Washington, D.C., hotel ballroom that it is the biblical command to aid the needy that keeps him "from being overwhelmed." His ability to help sometimes seems inadequate to the need, the president said.
"It's faith that reminds me that despite being just one very imperfect man, I can still help whoever I can, however I can, wherever I can, for as long as I can, and that somehow God will buttress these efforts," Obama.
Churches, non-profit organizations and private groups can only do so much in some situations, he said. For that reason, he continues to believe government "must have a role to play" in times of need, Obama said.
Humility is needed at a time when political debates are "bitterly polarized," the president said.
It is "useful to go back to Scripture to remind ourselves that none of us has all the answers -- none of us, no matter what our political party or our station in life," he told the legislators, administration officials, foreign diplomats, religious leaders and others in attendance.
"The full breadth of human knowledge is like a grain of sand in God's hands."
His challenge, Obama said, is "to balance this uncertainty, this humility, with the need to fight for deeply held convictions, to be open to other points of view but firm in our core principles. And I pray for this wisdom every day."
The president said he also regularly prays "that I might walk closer with God and make that walk my first and most important task."
His first two years in the White House "have deepened my faith," and that faith has sustained him in recent years, Obama said. "hen Michelle and I hear our faith questioned from time to time, we are reminded that ultimately what matters is not what other people say about us but whether we're being true to our conscience and true to our God," he said.
He came to "know Jesus Christ for myself and embrace Him as my Lord and Savior" as a result of working as a young man alongside pastors and church members in ailing neighborhoods of Chicago, the president said.
Obama was a part of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago for about 20 years before resigning his membership during the 2008 presidential primary campaign. He left the church after reports were made of controversial comments, which some categorized as racist and anti-American, by his former pastor Jeremiah Wright and a guest preacher. Since moving into the White House, he has worshiped most often at Evergreen Chapel, which is located at the presidential retreat of Camp David in Maryland.
Randall Wallace, the screenwriter of "Braveheart" and director of such movies as "Secretariat," delivered the keynote speech.
The National Prayer Breakfast, which is sponsored by an evangelical Christian organization, began in 1953 during President Eisenhower's first administration. The president traditionally speaks at the event.
A transcript of Obama's 23-minute address may be accessed online at http://bit.ly/hJ5Vkz.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.
Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net