WASHINGTON, DC—President Bush, already facing the lowest approval ratings in history, is coming under fire from former supporters over what they call his "ineffectual and incompetent" use of prayer for national guidance and assistance.
"Every time the president is criticized, he insists that the nation is in his prayers," said the Family Research Council's Bob Jensen. "That may be, but it's becoming more and more clear that these prayers are either too infrequent, too brief, or not strongly worded enough to be effective."
Jensen added: "This nation deserves more than a president who just pays lip service to prayer. It deserves a president who demands that his prayers get real-world results."
Despite assurances from the president that he "prays every day" for the nation's interests both at home and abroad, the mounting crises of recent months—escalating gas prices, the botched Dubai port security deal, ethics scandals, and the rising death toll in Iraq—have left many unimpressed with the effectiveness of his devotion.
Francine Gundersen, an Iowa mother and churchgoer, says she voted for Bush but is now having doubts about his commitment to prayer, particularly with regard to Iraq, where her son, P.F.C. Jason Gundersen, has served since June 2004.
"Bush says he prays for the soldiers' safe return, but if that's the case, where is my son, Mr. President?" she said.
The White House Office of Communications, which has denied any wrongpraying, released transcripts of Bush's inner dialogues with God from May 12 through Oct. 22, 2005 and tried to paint the president as "very close" to the Almighty, saying he speaks with Him "regularly."
"The president spends many hours each day alone in quiet contemplation," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. "These allegations are, quite simply, absurd. The president is as strong a prayer as any who has occupied the White House."
In an interview on Fox News, Vice President Dick Cheney defended Bush, saying the president puts as much energy into prayer as he does into domestic policies.
"Half the time, I can't even get him on the phone because he's busy praying for the American people, the same people who are now so quick to criticize him," Cheney said. "If something's wrong with those prayers, I would suggest that it's perhaps the fault of a supernatural entity. But it's not the president's. He is doing his duty."
While newly released portions of White House prayer logs show that Bush's praying has actually gone up in recent months, critics are seeking to subpoena the documents in their entirety to determine the strength of those prayers.
The harshest criticisms continue to come from members of the president's conservative base, who insist that the proper devotional words must be used in prayer.
"There is a real possibility that the president misrepresented the number of times he invokes Jesus' power each day in accordance with the strict guidelines of scripture," said Henry Holbrook, senior fellow at the Intercession Institute, a leading conservative prayer tank. "Is he clasping his hands together tightly enough? Is he using the proper forms of the pronouns 'thine' and 'thou'? What about the verb 'hast'?"
Susan DiDomenico of the National Prayer Task Force said her organization is seeking "full disclosure" of any and all prayers Bush may have skipped or manipulated to seem more effective or holy.