American pastor Andrew Brunson, recently freed after nearly two years of detention in Turkey, asked God for “supernatural wisdom” for President Donald Trump during a prayer in the Oval Office.
Mr Trump welcomed Mr Brunson to the White House to celebrate his release from nearly two years of confinement, which had sparked a diplomatic row with a key ally and outcry from US evangelical groups.
Mr Brunson returned to the US aboard a military jet shortly before meeting the president.
“From a Turkish prison to the White House in 24 hours, that’s not bad,” Mr Trump said.
Mr Brunson appeared to be in good health and good spirits.
When he asked Mr Trump if he could pray for him, the president replied, “Well, I need it probably more than anyone else in this room, so that would be very nice, thank you.”
Mr Brunson left his chair beside Mr Trump, kneeled and placed a hand on the president’s shoulder.
As Mr Trump bowed his head, Mr Brunson asked God to “give him supernatural wisdom to accomplish all the plans you have for this country and for him. I ask that you give him wisdom in how to lead this country into righteousness.”
He continued: “I ask that you give him perseverance, and endurance and courage to stand for truth. I ask that you to protect him from slander from enemies, from those who would undermine. I ask that you make him a great blessing to this country. Fill him with your wisdom and strength and perseverance. And we bless him. May he be a great blessing to our country. In Jesus’ name, we bless you. Amen.”
Mr Brunson, originally from Black Mountain, North Carolina, had lived in Turkey with his family for more than two decades and led a small congregation in the Izmir Resurrection Church.
He was accused of committing crimes on behalf of Kurdish militants and to aid a Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, accused by Turkey of engineering the failed coup.
He faced up to 35 years in jail if convicted of all the charges against him.
Mr Trump maintained there was no deal for Mr Brunson’s freedom.
“We do not pay ransom in this country,” Mr Trump said.
Mr Trump thanked Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had resisted the demands of Mr Trump and other high-level US officials for Mr Brunson’s release.
The US had repeatedly called for Mr Brunson’s release and, this year, sanctioned two Turkish officials and doubled tariffs on steel and aluminium imports citing in part Mr Brunson’s plight.
Mr Trump asked Mr Brunson and his family which candidate they voted for in 2016, saying he was confident they had gone for him.
“I would like to say I sent in an absentee ballot from prison,” Mr Brunson quipped.
A Turkish court on Friday convicted Mr Brunson of having links to terrorism and sentenced him to just over three years in prison, but released the 50-year-old evangelical pastor because he had already spent nearly two years in detention. An earlier charge of espionage was dropped.
Hours later, Mr Brunson was flown out of Turkey, his home for more than two decades. He was taken to a US military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, for a medical check-up.