The best clues to which texts fortify Obama’s spiritual consumption may come from the daily devotionals that DuBois started sending Obama, then a U.S. senator, in 2008. DuBois ran religious outreach for Obama’s presidential campaign that year, and his digital benedictions for Obama have been compiled in a forthcoming book, “The President’s Devotional.”
“A snippet of scripture for me to reflect on,” Obama has said. “And it has meant the world to me.”
At pivotal moments in Obama’s presidency, DuBois sometimes selects texts that offer lessons apropos of the challenges at hand. Before one State of the Union address, it was the words of Isaiah, in an appeal for clarity of speech: “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth, it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose.”
Others are intended as an oasis from the worldly conflicts Obama has to weather on any given day.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed. Perplexed, but not in despair,” reads a verse from 2 Corinthians that DuBois sent Obama one November, followed with his own meditation: “Dear God, give us a resilient spirit, a spirit that returns to face this day even in the shadow of yesterday’s challenges. Help us, today, to bounce back.”
In his final years in office, Obama plans to continue with the morning meditations, the birthday call with pastors and ad hoc prayer circles, said a senior administration official, who wasn’t authorized to comment by name on Obama’s spiritual life and requested anonymity.
Privately, Obama also speaks to staff of being mindful of his own spiritual responsibility to the nation, the official said. In times of crisis, from devastating hurricanes to tragic school shootings, many Americans look to their president as a source of strength and comfort.
“This office tends to make a person pray more,” Obama said last year in an interview with Cathedral Age magazine. “And as President Lincoln once said, ‘I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.’”
(AP PHOTO: Joshua DuBois an informal spiritual adviser to President Barack Obama, poses for a photo in northeast Washington.)