President Trump calls faith 'central to American life' at National Prayer Breakfast

A sedate-sounding President Trump garnered polite applause from a roomful of his staunchest supporters Thursday, telling them that faith is “central to American life and liberty.”

The President’s brief remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton focused on faith and he did not steer far from the script.

“Let us seek to build a more just and peaceful world where every child can grow up without violence, worship without fear, and reach their God-given potential,” he said.

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National Prayer Breakfast 2018
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National Prayer Breakfast 2018
U.S. President Donald Trump (R) bows his head in prayer during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, U.S. February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
US President Donald Trump speaks during the National Prayer Breakfast at a hotel in Washington, DC on February 8, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump attends the National Prayer Breakfast at a hotel in Washington, DC on February 8, 2018. / AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read /AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump speaks at the National Prayer Breakfast at a hotel in Washington, DC on February 8, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump(C) attends the National Prayer Breakfast at a hotel in Washington, DC on February 8, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump listens during the National Prayer Breakfast at a hotel in Washington, DC on February 8, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump speaks during the National Prayer Breakfast at a hotel in Washington, DC on February 8, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump appears on a video screen as he delivers remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, U.S. February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump rises to deliver remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, U.S. February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump concludes his remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, U.S. February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Ivanka Trump attends the National Prayer Breakfast at a hotel in Washington, DC on February 8, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C. - FEBRUARY 8: (AFP-OUT) President Donald Trump speaks at the National Prayer Breakfast on February 8, 2018 in Washington, DC. Thousands from around the world attend the annual ecumenical gathering and every president since President Dwight Eisenhower has addressed the event. (Photo by Mike Theiler-Pool/Getty Images)
Former Ukraine prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko attends the National Prayer Breakfast at a hotel in Washington, DC on February 8, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump returns to the Oval Office at the White House after his remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, U.S. February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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Trump’s tone and delivery was a sea change from the comments he made at the same event 12 months ago.

Last year, the President used his speech at the gathering of Christians to poke fun at Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had taken over Trump's old role as host of “Celebrity Apprentice.”

“The ratings went right down the tubes. It has been a disaster,” Trump told the crowd. “I want to just pray for Arnold ... for those ratings.”

The annual affair is a chance for faith leaders and lawmakers from about 70 countries to gather together.

About 55 Russians were in attendance on Thursday, triple the number from last year, organizers said.

Larry Ross of the Fellowship Foundation told CNN that “55 are coming from Russia, including a group of 35 young professionals — millennial doctors, lawyers and business leaders in their 20s and 30s — invited out of a context of relationship and faith.”

Every commander-in-chief since President Dwight D. Eisenhower has attended the annual event, hosted by a secretive Christian group known as The Fellowship Foundation.

Trump enjoys strong support from the evangelical Christian community.

Many have cheered his appointment of conservative judges and his support of “religious liberty.”

In addition to Trump, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) will deliver the keynote address at the breakfast, according to the Washington Post.

Scalise, who was severely wounded by a gunman last summer while at a congressional softball practice, has credited the “power of prayer” for his recovery.

Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback Carson Wentz was widely reported Wednesday to be the gathering’s keynote speaker this year, replacing Vice President Pence who is representing the White House at the Olympics in South Korea.

Past keynote speakers have included a mix of celebrities and religious leaders. Bono, Mother Theresa, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and television producer Mark Burnett have all addressed the annual event.

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