NOTE – I wrote this blog post a little over a week ago based on some struggles I had been experiencing with people who I care for. I was going to post it right after writing it, then the Executive Order travel ban happened. As a result of the ban I worried at that time because of the circumstances that my post might not be viewed I in the manner I had intended. So I postponed this post until today.
I have said before that I talk politics not politicians at church, chaplaincy, and on this blog but I’m going to break that for the beginning of this post. The reason I am going to break my previous statement is because it is necessary for the subject that I wish to write about – praying for the president.
My friend Kirby, a poli sci professor at Texas A & M, posted a Google Chrome extension (PolitEcho) that analyzes one’s Facebook “friends” and places them on a continuum of political ideology. Below is its analysis of my “friends”.
As you can see from the above graphic of my friends, if it is accurate, I am apparently drawn to people who have an extreme range in political thought. I know for a fact that several of my friends are having trouble praying for our current president and I also know that some other friends have had trouble praying for previous presidents. I have heard this as a friend, a pastor, and a chaplain.
1 Timothy 2:1-4 reads as follows:
1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
That isn’t a suggestion. It is a directive. Following that command is obviously easier when you like the president that is currently in office. It isn’t necessarily very easy if you really don’t like the president and feel like he (and thus far it has always been a “he”) is dangerous for the country.
Yet scripture tells us believers to pray for him. is a pretty big deal since Paul was telling Christians to do this during a political regime that would soon want to kill them. Yes praying for the emperor was smart. It showed that Christians, while having very different values, weren’t trying to overthrow the empire. Christians were persecuted in the Roman Empire for many things but the biggest reason was that we were viewed as bad citizens for not being willing to sacrifice and worship the emperor1 . Christianity wants to transform countries, not necessarily depose kings. Praying for Caesar didn’t mean supporting what he was doing in Rome. In fact, the followers of Christ worked to change the world that the Caesars wanted to create. So Paul instructed followers of Christ to pray for their political leaders. This is usually fine and dandy with people when we like the leader.
But not so much when we don’t.
One of my favorite aspects of Anne Lamott’s book “Plan B” is her honesty in admitting that she didn’t want to pray for President George W Bush, a president that I voted for twice. She knew she needed to pray for him because she claimed to follow Christ. She knew that it is written scripture that Christians should pray for their political leaders. Of course, this didn’t mean that she wanted to pray for him. So she prayed for God to help her pray for the president. I love prayer like that and I believe God does too. It reminds me of the father in scripture who prays “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief”2 .
I’m convinced that praying for President Trump means asking for God’s best for him while also asking for the best for our country. Asking that the duties of the office of the presidency won’t destroy his marriage or family. That love in his marriage and family will grow during his time in office. Asking the Father to help President Trump to make very difficult decisions and to make the right decisions. To know when to listen and to whom to listen. Praying for him to be surrounded by people who will offer him good advice and help him to see the American way. Praying for humility for the man who now sits in the oval office. Praying for him to be able to find ways of peace for our country in a world off war. Most importantly praying that God will make himself known to President Trump and that Donald Trump will also know that he himself is known by God. That’s actually a pretty dangerous prayer because while it is best for all of us to encounter God it also tends to flip everything one thinks upside down.
None of the above means that we can’t pray for certain of his policies to be stopped from going into action. Nor does it mean that one can’t pray for his time in office to be as short as possible. It just means that we need to be praying for him and his life. I believe that praying for our leaders affects our attitudes toward them. It might help to love him like Christ does, as a child created in the image of God no matter how marred that image might be. I can pray for President Trump while also praying for policies that I am convinced are more consistent with the American way.
- The Emperor Cult was a crucial part of Roman power and the witness of Christians that “Jesus was Lord” was a direct affront to the Roman thought that “Caesar is lord”.
- Mark 9:24