WHITE HOUSE — In remarks to Christian leaders gathered at the White House for an annual Easter prayer breakfast, President Barack Obama spoke about the importance of helping the needy.
The prayer breakfast drew some 150 pastors and Christian leaders from across the country for what the White House calls "a time of prayer [and] reflection."
Obama has hosted the event since 2010. He has used it, and a separate larger National Prayer Breakfast each year, to reflect on the importance for him of religious faith and humility in grappling with the nation's problems.
This year, he recalled his recent trip to the Middle East and visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, believed to mark the birthplace of Jesus.
He said he prayed and reflected there about the life of Jesus and lessons of his teachings, and how they can be applied to daily life.
"I thought of all who would travel to this place for centuries to come, and the lives they might know and I was reminded that while our time on Earth is fleeting, he is eternal, his life, his lessons, live on in our hearts, and most importantly in our actions, when we tend to the sick, when we console those in pain, when we sacrifice for those in need," said President Obama.
The message mirrors the essence of the approach Obama has taken in tackling the complicated and politically divisive challenges of the nation's debt and deficit challenges.
In negotiations with opposition Republicans, Obama has insisted on maintaining programs for the poor and the middle class, though he says reforms are needed to strengthen such programs.
Vice President Joe Biden called looking out for the disadvantaged in society one of the major principles of the Obama administration.
"We all know that we are connected by much more than divides us, though the focus is always on what divides us," said Vice President Biden. "As we move forward as a nation I do believe we are going to be judged on how we answer that call, that call of moral responsibility of whether we stand up for those who have the least among us, whether we act on their behalf."
President Obama drew some laughter Friday when reflecting on his visit to the Church of the Nativity.
He said it was useful to see how "managing different sections of the church and different clergy "feels familiar" - a reference to the difficulties of dealing with a sharply divided Congress in pushing his agenda forward.