President Obama has kept up with the tradition of hosting a National Prayer Breakfast by inviting guests from 130 nations and a collection of Congressmen and Senators.

One of the most distinctive guests was not in politics at all, however, as professional surfer Bethany Hamilton addressed the crowd at the Washington Hilton Thursday morning.

The 23-year-old, who survived a shark attack in 2003 where she lost her left arm, read two passages from the New Testament and talked about the inspiration she received to thrive in spite of her injury.

The non-denominational gathering focused on the issue religious freedom and the President discussed how important it is to diplomacy.

'No society can truly succeed unless it guarantees the rights of all its people, including religious minorities,' he said.

This is not the first time that he stressed that fact, noting that he made the same point to the leaders of China, Burma and Nigeria where such freedom is not guaranteed.

Obama says, quote, 'to harm anyone in the name of faith is to diminish our own relationship with God.'

'Our concern should not be whether God is on our side, but whether we are on God’s side,' he said.

Obama, whose own association with controversial priest Reverend Jeremiah Wright came under scrutiny during the 2008 election, talked about how his faith helps guide his decisions while in office.

'In my life, He directed my path to Chicago and my work with churches who were intent on breaking the cycle of poverty in hard-hit communities there,' he said during the 62nd annual breakfast.

'And I’m grateful not only because I was broke and the church fed me, but because it led to everything else. It led me to embrace Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. 

'It led me to Michelle- the love of my life- and it blessed us with two extraordinary daughters. It led me to public service. And the longer I serve, especially in moments of trial or doubt, the more thankful I am of God’s guiding hand.'

The bipartisan gathering was hosted by Texas Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert and Democratic Congresswoman Janice Hahn.

Gohmert joked that he was prepared for the all backstabbing in Congress, saying, quote, 'I was the deacon of a Baptist church.'

For many political watchers, it wasn't the backstabbing that Gohmert was the victim of that they were concerned about but rather his regular target: President Obama.

Gohmert is one of the President's toughest critics, but Obama was the one to make light of that fact at the beginning of the event while thanking the co-chairs.

'I, by the way, have always found Louie to be unbelievably gracious every time I’ve seen him. Now, I don’t watch TV, I’ve got to admit. But he is a good man and a great storyteller,' Obama said.

Tags: