Praying for the President

June 19th, 2018

In his instructions to Timothy, Paul commands Christians to pray “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

But how?

How do I pray for a president whose personal behavior and political agenda are a consistent contradiction of just about every biblical value I hold? How do I pray for an administration which seems intent on destroying things for which I have labored throughout my adult life and undermining the basic institutions of our democracy?

Does prayer change things?

I’ve seen the pious maxim "Prayer Changes Things" on all sorts of Christian kitsch. But whether or not prayer changes things, I’m sure that prayer changes me. So, I’ve been thinking about the difference praying for our president makes in me.

Praying for compassion

Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16)

We aren’t called to judge, but we can be fruit inspectors. Inspecting the fruit of Trump’s life over the years, I see a tragically broken man. When I’m centered in Christlike love, I feel compassion for a person whose behavior reveals a terribly damaged, unhealthy — physically, spiritually, relationally — human being.

God never intended for anyone to be as miserable as he appears to be, driven by greed, anger, narcissism, resentment and fear so that he has to attack or demean anyone who dares to question him. God never intended for anyone to be that mean, dishonest and downright cruel.

So, I can pray compassionately for his healing; for some work of redemption in his life that would bring wholeness, joy and love; some movement of the Spirit that would break the bondage to his pathological narcissism and enable him to be responsive to the pain of others.

Praying for perspective

I’m a news junkie. But never in my lifetime have we had a president who dominates the 24-hour news cycle the way Trump does with his relentless barrage of tweets and his persistent way of defining reality around his own delusions, better known as lying.

Drowning in the flood of the tweets and headlines, I need to come up for air now and then. I need to discipline the amount of space he consumes in my mind and soul by limiting the amount of time I spend watching cable network news.

In prayer, I am drawn to Paul’s words, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Praying for courage

In her new book, fellow pastor and faithful friend, Ginger Gaines-Cirelli defines sacred resistance as the way we “participate in God’s way, guided by God’s wisdom, empowered by God’s grace…It provides both a vision to work toward and the traveling mercies to get there.” (p. xxii-xxiii) It’s about love that looks upon human community with a desire for healing and peace with justice…with a desire for mending.” (p. 4)

For me, sacred resistance is standing with and for everyone and everything that is consistent with Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom of God, coming on earth as it is in heaven, while standing against anyone or anything that undermines or contradicts that vision.

Praying for my political leaders takes me deeply into Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom and leads me to pray for courage to participate in its coming and wisdom to know now to do it.

Praying for the fruit of the Spirit

Paul said, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) Seeing the absence of those fruits in the President’s behavior forces me to face up to places where I fall short of them in my own. It leads me to pray more deeply for the Spirit to be at work to grow those fruits in my life and relationships. It calls me to practice the spiritual disciplines that open the way for the Holy Spirit to be at work in me.

This prayer for the church becomes my prayer for the president, for our nation’s leaders, and, most of all, for myself.

O gracious God, we pray for your holy Church universal, 
that you would be pleased to fill it with all truth, in all peace. 
Where it is corrupt, purify it; 
where it is in error, direct it; 
where in any thing it is amiss, reform it; 
where it is right, establish it; 
where it is in want, provide for it; 
where it is divided, reunite it;
for the sake of him who died and rose again, 
and ever lives to make intercession for us, 
Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen.

Praying for the President and our political leaders may not change them, but it might just change me.

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