Near the end of a bumpy first year in office, President Obama readied for a Christmas vacation in Hawaii, but before he left, he called on a group of five ministers for a spiritual recharge.
Like previous prayer calls, this one was more personal than political.
"He certainly does not ask us how we would run the country and what issue to pursue or not pursue," said Bishop Charles Blake of the Los Angeles-based Church of God in Christ, who was on the phone last December.
For 10 minutes, the president and the pastors prayed for peace, an economic recovery, protection for U.S. soldiers, and for Obama to be guided by a wisdom and power beyond himself.
Glimpses into Obama's spiritual life have been rare since he became president. He split with his longtime Chicago pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, after the fiery minister nearly derailed Obama's campaign, and has not joined a church in Washington.
"Having been burned, for lack of a better word, during the campaign and early days of his administration, I would not be surprised that he would be rather discreet about any revelations of his religious life," Blake said.
Still, Obama continues to champion the role of faith in public life, frequently summoning the spirits of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and even St. Thomas Aquinas to frame his policies in moral terms.
Like previous presidents, he regularly seeks the counsel of longtime Washington insiders, including Sojourners founder Jim Wallis, Reform Rabbi David Saperstein and retired Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, to shape decisions about the Iraq war, health care reform and the economy.
But Obama has also turned to a group of fresh—and relatively unfamiliar—faces to manage religious issues ...1