About 30 leaders received invitations to the White House around a week and a half ago and included many of Trump’s faith advisory council from his campaign, including Florida megachurch pastor Paula White, South Carolina megachurch pastor Mark Burns, former Republican representative Michele Bachmann and Southern Baptist pastors Jack Graham, Ronnie Floyd and Robert Jeffress.
Evangelicals, especially those who consider themselves more charismatic, often lay hands on individuals during prayer. In the New Testament, the apostles would lay hands on believers, often using it as a sign of responsibility or authority. Many Christians lay hands on those who are being ordained in the church.
Photos of the gathering were posted by Johnnie Moore, who handles media relations for several pastors and ministries.
Monday’s meeting, he said, was an informal gathering where they prayed for wisdom, that God would protect him and his family and that God would lead him. “It was normal, what a lot of us pray when we pray for elected officials,” he said. “It was like a meeting of friends.”
Moore said that many of these leaders are in regular communication with the White House, including with Kushner. He said that religious leaders, including Catholic, evangelical and Jewish leaders, were invited to the White House ahead of the nomination of Neil M. Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
Moore described Trump as “strong and focused as I’ve ever seen him.” Monday’s meeting came as Trump has been embroiled in reports about his family’s ties to Russia.
“He was in great spirits, as was the vice president,” he said. “He was very very much command of the situation. It felt like all was well. He was happy and joking.”
He said many of the leaders there are hoping the White House will appoint someone to become an ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, a position that was held by Rabbi David Saperstein until Trump took office.
In May, Trump gave evangelical leaders a tour of his private quarters in the White House before the leaders watched Trump announce an executive order on religious freedom. His evangelical advisory council is no longer a formal board, but many of the leaders still talk with each other and with the White House on a regular basis, Moore said.
More photos of the meeting were posted by pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, who wrote on Facebook that he was asked by Paula White to pray over Trump and the pastor asked God for “supernatural wisdom, guidance and protection.” “Wow — we are going to see another great spiritual awakening,” he wrote.
“Highlight after all these years of fighting for America – standing in the Oval Office with @realdonaldtrump and @vp and @paulamichellewhite and other leaders – listening to our great President talk about America – Great Job Mr President- Great Job,” he wrote on Instagram. He did not immediately return interview requests on Wednesday.
President Barack Obama met and prayed with religious leaders regularly, but Trump’s visible religious outreach has extended mostly to evangelical pastors.
Trump is a self-described Presbyterian but does not attend church regularly, though he has been embraced by many evangelicals. Early in Trump’s administration, leaders of Presbyterian churches in the D.C. area said Trump had not joined any of their churches. Trump visited church on Easter at Bethesda-by-the-Sea, a Palm Beach Episcopal church where he was married to Melania Trump. On the morning of his inauguration, he visited St. John’s Episcopal Church in D.C. for a private service, and he attended a prayer service the day after his inauguration at the National Cathedral.
While evangelicals vary in their views of Trump, a survey from the Pew Research Center during Trump’s first few months in office found that white Catholics and white evangelicals who attend religious services regularly have a higher approval rating of Trump than those who don’t attend services regularly.
This story has been updated to include an interview with Moore and to reflect Trump’s church attendance since his inauguration.