Jimmy Carter Praying Trump Avoids Military Action; Peace Possible Through 'Principles of Christianity'

(Photo: REUTERS/Neil Hall)Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter delivers a lecture on the eradication of the Guinea worm, at the House of Lords in London, Britain February 3, 2016.

Former President Jimmy Carter said he is praying President Donald Trump will refrain from escalating tensions in North Korea, Russia or Syria and expressed confidence world leaders can live at peace with one another if they adhere to biblical principles.

"I pray that he would keep our country at peace and not exaggerate or exacerbate the challenges that come up with North Korea, in Russia or in Syria," Carter told the Associated Press in a wide-ranging interview on Wednesday. "I hope he realizes very profoundly as I did, and as other presidents have done, that any nuclear exchange could involve catastrophe for all human beings."

"I pray that he will promote human rights, equality among all people, and that he will value the truth," Carter said, contending he believes world powers can "find a way to live in harmony and peace with people who are our enemies and with whom we have strong differences of opinion.

"That's going back to the basic principles of Christianity: love your neighbor and ... even love your enemies," he said. "We haven't reached that point yet, but we have the potential to do it."

Carter's remarks come just days after Trump said he's considering military action against Syria in response to a suspected chemical attack on civilians at the hands of the Assad regime that left dozens dead.

"It was atrocious. It was horrible," Trump said of the attack. "This is about humanity, and it can't be allowed to happen."

Addressing Syria's supporters in Moscow and Tehran, Iran, he added: "If it's the Russians, if it's Syria, if it's Iran, if it's all of them together, we'll figure it out."

On Twitter, Trump vowed to thwart Russia's missile defense system in Syria, warning that rockets "will be coming, nice and new and 'smart,'" and telling Russia to "get ready."

"You shouldn't be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!" he wrote.

On Thursday, the president clarified an attack on Syria isn't necessarily imminent: "Could be very soon or not so soon at all!" he wrote.

Trump has previously had threatening exchanges with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but later said there is "a good chance" that peace between North Korea and the United States can be established.

In a separate interview, Carter, who recently released his latest book Faith: A Journey for All, said Trump's sustained popularity among evangelicals has "surprised" him.

"I think some of that popularity or trust has been shaken lately by the allegations about extramarital affairs and things of that kind," he said. "But I think every evangelical is searching for a proper relationship with God and with people around us and I believe that we'll see perhaps in the election in 2018 some loss of that, you know, political confidence."

He added that America is experiencing a "lack of faith" in things the country used to cherish, including "Faith in democracy, faith in freedom, faith in God, faith in ourselves, faith in our neighbors."

"In history, we have seen major challenges to the principles that we should hold dear and I pray that we have the resilience," he said. "And with the almost instant communications, I think we have the capabilities within ourselves and the relationships with others to overcome these challenges."

"I think in the past we have proven as a country that we can overcome any major challenge that presents itself," he continued. "So I have confidence or faith in the future of America."

Previously, Carter told talk show host Stephen Colbert that he prays for Trump, but he wasn't sure if his prayers would be answered.

"I pray that he'll be a good president, and that he'll keep our country at peace, and that he'll refrain from using nuclear weapons, and that he will promote human rights. So, yeah, I pray for him," Carter said.