Potential Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry summoned 15,000 to a national prayer meeting in Houston on Saturday, then he prayed for President Barack Obama and asked God to keep the president's family out of harm's way.

The Texas governor is expected to soon officially join the Republican presidential race. He said he organized the day-long prayer meeting to seek divine help in fixing America's problems that are beyond the ability of government to solve.

"Like all of you," Perry said, "I love this country deeply. Indeed, the only thing you love more is the living Christ."

Perry was greeted by a round of applause when he took the stage, and some in the crowd of 15,000 that gathered at Reliant Stadium in Houston just before noon stood.

Perry gave his view of a "personal God." He said his God has an "agenda" that is "not a political agenda. His agenda is a salvation agenda."

The governor said, with a chuckle, "He is a wise, wise God, and he's wise enough to not be affiliated with any political party."

Perry's role in the event was subtle. He led a prayer and read several Bible verses, including one from the book of Joel, reciting about the minor prophet Perry cited as an inspiration for the meeting.

"Father, we pray for our president, that you would impart your wisdom upon him, that you would guard his family," Perry said. "You call us to repent, Lord, and this day is our response."

Critics attacked the gathering, citing participation in financing the event from the controversial American Family Association of Tupelo, Miss. Critics also claim Perry's using the event to position for a run at the U.S. presidency a conflict between church and state.

Earlier this year Perry issued a proclamation urging Texans to pray for an end to the state's ongoing severe drought.