President Carter, who is widely known for his own evangelical Christian beliefs, told a national prayer breakfast here yesterday that he finds the religious faith of other world leaders an important key in the search for world peace.
Whether leaders are Christian, Jewish, Muslium or Hindu, all "worship the same God," he said.
"If we emphasize and reinforce those ties of mutual faith . . . to the deeply ought guidance of God, we can prevail," he said.
Of Israeli Prime Minister Meanchim Begin, the president said, "I like him; I admire and respect him." The Israeli leader, he said, has "the fervor of a deeply committed religious man who worships the same God you and I do."
He said he "felt an instant kinship with (Egyptian) President Sadat" who, he said, "never fails to point out that the Egyptians and the Jews worship the same God and are both sons of Abraham."
The president said he prepared for his visit to India and meeting with that nation's leaders last month by reading the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu devotional book.
In India, last month as he visited the tomb of the Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi, the president said he reflected on Gandhi's "knowledge of Christianity and Judaism, his worship of God and his simplicity of life. I felt a kinship with him and with Indian leaders who have not always been our friends in recent years."
President and Mrs. Carter were the guests of honor at the annual breakfast attended by 2,800 persons, many of whom were members of Congress, the diplomatic corps and other high government officials.
The president spoke simply but eloquently of his own faith. "To me, God is real," he said.
"God is ever present in my life. He sustains me when I am weak and gives me guidance when I turn to Him and gives me a perfect example to emulate in my relations with other human beings," the president continued.
"My wife and I worship together every night and often during the day I turn to God," he said.
The prayer breadfast movement is an outgrowth of a relatively unpublicized evangelical Christian group here known as Fellowship House. The group's best known leader is former iowa senator Harold Hughes, who left a promising political career three years ago to work full time in religious pursuits.
The movement nurtures weekly prayer meeting groups in numerous government agencies, including the Senate and House of Representatives. By a 25-year tradition, the president is always the guest of honor at the invitation-only national prayer breakfast. In his remarks yesterday in the ornate Washington Hilton grand ballroom, Carter noted that "almost everybody in this room is a leader who is looked up to by others. I pray that doesn't generate pride and self-satisfaction but rather a sense of humility that we migth better serve those who have placed their faith in us as we place our faith in God."
Five years ago Sen. Mark O. Hatfield (R-Ore.) stunned a prayer breakfast gathering, which included President Nixon, by accuring the movement of fostering "a national folk religion" instead of the Christianity it professed, and called for "repentance."
Since that time, the theme of humility and dependence on God, struck by President Carter yesterday, has been more prominent in the annual gatherings.
The main speaker yesterday was Max Cleland, head of the Veterans Administration, who recounted how the savage Vietnam War injuries which left him confined to a wheelchair tried his faith.
"I was not always sure the Lord did the right thing" in preserving his life after the grenade explosion which maimed him, he admitted. "It took me a year before I was able to see the sunrise in the morning and always be glad to see it," he added.
He was elected to the Georgia State Senate but was then defeated in a race for lieutenant governor. With that defeat, he said, "I came to the end of my rope; I had confront myself and God."
But he came to understand, he said that God "had a plan for me . . . He also had a plan for someone else in this room . . ."
The reference was to President Carter, who appointed Cleland to his present position.
Other participants in yesterday's prayer breakfast included U.S. District Court Judge John Sirica, Rep. Barbara Jordan (D-Tex.), and U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Louis H. Wilson. Sen. James Allen (D-Tex.), Gen. Louis H Wilson. Sen James Allen (D-Ala.) president.