Scott Morrison has offered a prayer for the national cabinet to stay “strong and united” and committed the Australian nation to God during times of “great need and suffering” as it responds to Covid-19.
The prayer is contained in a video, first published by Eternity News but later removed and republished by Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools, in which Morrison explains his faith gives him “enormous encouragement” in how to respond to the crisis.
Morrison, Australia’s first evangelical Christian prime minister, has made no secret of his religious faith, referring to his re-election in 2019 as a “miracle”. Many other former prime ministers, including Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd, identify as Christians.
On 23 March Morrison called for Australians of faith to pray as parliament reconvened to pass the second tranche of fiscal support for those harmed by the economic effects of Covid-19 shutdowns.
But glimpses of Morrison’s personal practice of Christianity are rarer, such as his decision to invite cameras into Horizon church at Easter in 2019.
In the video, which appears to be filmed in his prime ministerial office, Morrison thanked people for their prayers and described the world as “largely in trauma … with the scale and pace of what is unfolding – this is incomprehensible, even just a month ago, what we’re seeing today”.
“Pray for the premiers and chief ministers, they’ve joined me in a national cabinet – which is unprecedented for Australia,” he said.
“It is a moment like when Moses looked out at the sea and held up his staff … there are moments of great faith in this.
“But as a prime minister I have to take my decisions based on very strong advice and exercise the best judgment I can.
“And my faith gives me an enormous encouragement in how I can make those decisions and try and do that in the best way I can.”
Morrison then shares biblical verses from Psalms about God delivering the righteous from troubles and from Isaiah that the Lord “will guide you always” and “will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land”.
“Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins – that’s a prophecy over our country, I believe – and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called repairer of broken walls, and a restorer of streets with dwellings.
“I pray that we will be a restorer of streets, with people in them, businesses open again, Australians going about their lives again, returning to their jobs, returning to their livelihoods, returning to normal times in our schools so children can learn and that we can get to the other side of this.”
Morrison offers a prayer that begins “heavenly father, we just commit our nation to you in this terrible time of great need and suffering of so many people”.
“And we do this also for the entire world – in places far from this country there are people suffering even more, going through tremendous hardship, crying out.”
Morrison also prays for “colleagues in parliamentary roles, it doesn’t matter what party they’re from”, ministers in his cabinet, and again for the premiers and chief ministers.
“Pray that you’ll keep the national cabinet strong and united, and we may be able to face each day and each challenge with unity and purpose.”
Bishop Phillip Huggins, the National Council of Churches Australia president, told Guardian Australia: “The prime minister says he’s a person of faith – therefore he prays.
“He’s just being true to himself – likewise – the prayer we’re asking people to share is consistent with our tradition.”
The NCCA prayer asks worshippers to pray for “those in need of healing” and the “Holy Spirit’s discernment amidst the many choices and decisions facing our national, community and medical leaders”.
Martyn Iles, the Australian Christian Lobby managing director, said it was “refreshing to see a prime minister with the humility to consider and pray for others in the midst of crisis”.
“Alongside his emphasis on practical measures, it demonstrates good leadership,” he said.
By Paul Karp