President Obama delivered an intense reflection on his Christian faith Thursday, telling hundreds gathered at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington how religion sustains him amid the trials of the office — and against attacks on his faith — and providing both an explanation and a defense of how Christianity informs his view of the bitterly contested role of government in society.

In elaborating on the practices and tenets of his personal faith life — something the president is increasingly doing to combat suspicions that he is not a Christian or a genuine believer — Obama said his daily prayer has deepened during the travails of the first two years of his term.

And the first thing he prays for, he said, is “to help those who are struggling.”

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