WASHINGTON (BP) – The participation of at least five Southern Baptist pastors in inaugural activities for President Donald Trump continues a tradition of prayer, Scripture and references to God surrounding presidential inaugurations dating back to George Washington.
Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress preached today (Jan. 20) at a private worship service for the families of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at St. John’s Church near the White House. The service is a pre-inauguration tradition dating back to the 1933 inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt, according to the U.S. Capitol Historical Society.
A Jan. 21 National Prayer Service at the National Cathedral in Washington will feature Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd, Texas pastors Jack Graham and Ramiro Peña and California pastor David Jeremiah. The National Prayer Service tradition also dates to at least 1933, according to a press release from the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
The inauguration ceremony itself featured prayers, a Scripture reading by evangelist Franklin Graham, two Bibles used for Trump’s oath of office and a continuation of the tradition of presidents’ invoking God in their inaugural addresses.
“This is a time of change for America and the world,” pastor Jack Graham said in a statement. “At moments, it has felt as if so much hangs in the balance. Yet, I believe we can approach this new era of our nation’s history with hope, for one thing hasn’t changed – we remain ‘One Nation Under God.’”
Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, preached from the biblical book of Nehemiah. His sermon was titled “When God Chooses a Leader,” according to Jeffress’ Twitter account.
At the National Prayer Service, Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, will lead in prayer “for those who serve,” according to the Inaugural Committee. Peña, pastor of Christ the King Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, will lead in The Lord’s Prayer. Scripture readings will be presented by Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, and Jeremiah, pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif.
Jeffress, Jack Graham, Floyd and Jeremiah all serve on Trump’s 25-member Evangelical Executive Advisory Board.
Trump set a record with six total invocations and benedictions, inauguration historian Jim Bendat told Baptist Press in an email. The tradition of prayers at presidential inaugurations dates back to Franklin Roosevelt, The Hill reported.
To take his oath of office, Trump placed his hand on two Bibles: one used by Abraham Lincoln in 1861 and again by President Obama at both of his inaugurations, and another given to Trump by his mother in 1955.