In Autobiography, Michelle Obama Says Prayers Sustained Her in the White House

Michelle Obama has described how the prayers of millions of Americans sustained her during her years in the White House.

In her autobiography, Becoming, published this month, she writes about living with the threat of violence, conscious that her husband’s presidency produced “a reactionary sense of fear and resentment”. On one occasion, a man fired a semi-automatic rifle at the White House, hitting the window of a room in which she sometimes had tea.

“‘We’re praying nobody hurts you,’ people used to say, clasping my hand at campaign events,” she recalls. “I’d heard it from people of all races, all backgrounds, all ages — a reminder of the goodness and generosity that existed in our country. ‘We pray for you and your family every day.’

“I kept their words with me. I felt the protection of those millions of decent people who prayed for our safety.”

She and her husband “relied on our personal faith as well,” she writes. They went to church “only rarely” during their time in the White House, “mostly because it had become such a spectacle, involving reporters’ shouting questions as we walked in to worship.”

The book describes the scrutiny engendered by the discovery that the Revd Dr Jeremiah Wright, the pastor at Trinity Church, Chicago, where they had worshipped, had preached an “angry and inflammatory sermon . . . regarding the treatment of blacks in our country”.

The press highlighted “the worst and most paranoid parts of the man who’d married us and baptised our children,” she writes.

The incident, and the attempt by opponents to “use faith as a weapon”, had a far-reaching impact: the couple decided to “exercise our faith privately and at home, including praying each night before dinner and organising a few sessions of Sunday school at the White House for our daughters”.

They did not join a church in Washington, “because we didn’t want to subject another congregation to the kind of bad-faith attacks that had rained down on Trinity, our church in Chicago. It was a sacrifice, though. I missed the warmth of a spiritual community. Every night, I’d look over and see Barack lying with his eyes closed on the other side of the bed, quietly saying his prayers.”

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Source: Church Times