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California megachurch pastor Rick Warren drew the most fire for offering the invocation at the inauguration, but another evangelical pastor prayed with Barack Obama for the third time in recent months. Florida megachurch pastor Joel Hunter offered a blessing at the private prayer service for "Barack Hussein Obama" the morning of his inauguration, asking that those surrounding the President would place their hands on him.

Hunter, a registered Republican, was also asked to pray at the Democratic National Convention and on Election Day with Obama. The author of the book A New Kind of Conservative: Cooperation Without Compromise spoke with Christianity Today the night of the inauguration about the prayer service and what he expects from the new administration.

Can you tell me more about your involvement in the private prayer service?

I said, "In the ancient tradition of laying on hands, will those of you who are directly behind and beside the president, please lean forward and put your hands on his shoulders." The president-elect had on one side Michelle and on the other side Mary Robinson, his mother-in-law. But in order to give a traditional blessing, it's traditional to lay hands, it's also traditional to use a person's full name, which I did. The church of course is just historic and beautifully, and of course T.D. Jakes (who gave the sermon) was just super. He was relatively brief, I'm sure it was tough for him, but he just did a grand job.

How in touch have you been with the transition team?

I have chimed in, when asked and when I have been in Washington. Last week they asked if I would come to the faith team and the Middle Eastern foreign policy team. I'm just part of this throng of people that they're seeking more than opinions. ...

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Joel Hunter Leads Blessing for Obama
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January 2009

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