WASHINGTON — Addressing an interdenominational audience of 2,500 government leaders from around the world Thursday night, Sen. Mike Lee offered a candid recollection of his late father, former Solicitor General Rex E. Lee.
"He was respected throughout his career as a great lawyer, law professor, and administrator, but around our house he was known as a kind and loving husband to my mother and father to seven children," the younger Lee said of his father, who also served as the 10th president of Brigham Young University before passing away in 1996.
"He was a gifted orator, but used his persuasive skills at home to teach his children to love each other and love the Lord," he said.
The Utah Republican's remarks were part of a discussion of the importance of prayer — a subject Lee earlier said he was eager to address.
"Prayer is free," Lee, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told the group that convened for a dinner sponsored by the organizers of the National Prayer Breakfast, held earlier that day.
"It requires no electricity, advanced technology, or advanced education. But prayer doesn’t happen by chance. It requires us to assert ourselves by approaching our Heavenly Father in faith and humility," he said.
Speaking with the Deseret News shortly before his speech, Lee said the timing seemed appropriate: "I think this is an important topic. I think prayer has never been more important than it is right now, with people throughout our country and the world facing a lot of difficult challenges."
Lee said he would tell the audience that prayer is intended to help people conform their desires to God’s will.
"When we pray, we’re speaking to an omniscient, omnipotent being. We’re not trying to change God, we’re trying to change ourselves," he said.
Lee's speech also acknowledged the importance of prayer in his own life.
"I have experienced this heavenly help and strength, not simply through my own prayers, but often through your prayers and the prayers of others who pray for liberty and peace — and for that I am most thankful," he said in his remarks.
In the interview, Lee said he has been inspired by the prayers of U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black, Jr., whose daily invocations often attract wide attention, and even a "Saturday Night Live" parody.
Black, a retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral and the former Chief of Naval Chaplains, “goes to our Senate prayer group. I have loved hearing his prayers in the Senate. They sound almost like they were written by a combination of Isaiah and the Psalmist,” Lee said.