President-elect Barack Obama started the day with a tradition.
Obama and family and close friends attended a private prayer service at St. John’s Church on Lafayette Square. Five other presidents have attended services at St. John’s, a historic Episcopal church, on the morning of their inaugurations.
The family of Vice President-elect Joe Biden also attended.
The Obamas were greeted in front of the church by the Rev. Luis Leon. Once inside, they were seated at the center of the front row next to the Bidens. About 200 invited guests filled the red pews behind them.
Rev. Leon gave a welcome address, thanking Obama for his attendance and reminding those gathered that the church has hosted the prayer service for the president-elect 10 times of the morning of inaugurations.
Bishop Charles E. Blake delivered a very brief invocation, and then the church choir sang “This Little Light of Mine.”
Many of the speakers at St. John’s were religious leaders familiar to Obama from his campaign. Dr. Joel Hunter, the senior pastor at Northland who prayed with Obama over the phone on Nov. 4, offered the first prayer. He instructed those sitting near Obama to place their hands on his shoulders and head as a “spiritual means of giving grace.”
He then faced Obama and concluded: “Through you made God bless America in a way that we are a blessing to the whole world.”
After a brief reading from Rabbi David N. Saperstein and a solo singing performance by Yolanda Adams, Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell — President George W. Bush’s spiritual adviser — introduced the keynote speaker: Bishop T.D. Jakes, pastor at Potters House, in Dallas.
Jakes read from Daniel 3:19 and used the scripture to offer Obama a series of four lessons for his administration.
1: “In time of crisis, good men must stand up. God always sends the best men into the worst times.”
2: “You cannot change what you will not confront. This is a moment of confrontation in this country. There’s no way around it. …This is not a time for politeness or correctness, this is a time for people to confront issues and bring about change.”
3: “You cannot enjoy the light without enduring the heat. The reality is the more brilliant, the more glorious, the more essential the light, the more intense the heat. We cannot separate one from the other.”
4: “Extraordinary times require extraordinary methods. This is a historical moment for us and our nation and our country, and though we enjoy it and are inspired by it and motivated by it.”
After the lessons, Jakes looked directly at Obama, saying: “The problems are mighty and the solutions are not simple, and everywhere you turn there will be a critic waiting to attack every decision that you make. But you are all fired up, Sir, and you are ready to go. And this nation goes