President Bush joined with foreign dignitaries, business leaders, and officials from throughout the U.S. government early Thursday for the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.   VOA's White House Correspondent Paula Wolfson reports.

This was not an event for pronouncements of policy.  Instead, it was a time for quiet prayer.

"We have a lot of distinguished guests here today - members of Congress, military leaders, captains of industry.  Yet at this annual gathering, we are reminded of an eternal truth:  when we lift our hearts to God, we are all equal in his sight," the president said.

In his remarks to the event, President Bush reflected on the importance faith plays at all levels of life in the United States. 

"It is fitting that we gather in prayer because we recognize a prayerful nation is a stronger nation," he said.

Every U.S. president since Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s has attended the annual prayer breakfast. Although it is billed as a non-denominational event hosted by members of Congress, it is organized by an evangelical Christian group called The Fellowship Foundation.

Conservative evangelical Christians are a powerful political force in the United States, and are part of President Bush's base of political support.   But this year's prayer breakfast was bipartisan and stayed clear of election politics.   None of the major candidates for president addressed the gathering.   Instead, the major speech of the morning was delivered by Ward Brehm, a businessman who developed an interest in Africa through his church and now heads a government agency called the U.S. African Development Foundation, which helps small businesses in Africa. 

Brehm talked about his impressions of the continent, and how he became aware through his work in Africa that all peoples - rich and poor - share one human spirit.

"I will forever be indebted to Africa.  Africa awakened me when I didn't even know I was asleep," he said.

Approximately 4,000 guests attended this year's National Prayer Breakfast, including representatives of about 150 countries.  Among them:  the prime ministers of Bosnia and Samoa, and the presidents of Burundi, El Salvador, Honduras and Micronesia.