Can’t bring yourself to pray for our new president? Perhaps you can, but can’t fathom the idea of praying for the president who just left office?
Today is President’s Day or Washington’s Birthday (observed), a federal holiday celebrating the birth of our first president, George Washington. It’s also a state holiday throughout most of the country with slightly different names and definitions, but it’s traditionally a day for honoring those who have served as president. As Christians, it’s a good day to remind ourselves that the Bible calls us to pray for all those in authority over us, regardless of whether we voted for them or not. Consider these two passages:
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. (1 Timothy 2:1-2 NLT, emphasis added)
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. (Romans 13:1 NLT)
For those who like the heat of politics, these verses can be what Vice President Al Gore might have called an inconvenient truth. Regardless of your political views, we are called to pray for our president and other leaders. My original intent was to simply post a prayer for President Trump today (and you can still find my prayer for him HERE), but given the political climate, I felt led to reflect on these verses. To that end, I want to share this excerpt from my first book, American Psalms:
THE PARTISAN PRAYER
“The primary weapon Satan uses against us is pride, and the greatest temptation when praying for our leaders is to pray with partisanship. Remember, God has a purpose for the life of our leaders—even when we don’t agree with their policies… While the command to pray for our leaders is clear, the motivation is sometimes lost. We are called to submit to the authorities over us (Romans 13:1) because the way we interact with the government is a witness to Christ’s work in our lives. We must always be respectful of the office, even when we disagree with the policies coming out of it. Here are some additional tips to help:
- Ask God to reveal your motives; be sure you’re praying for God’s will in the lives of our leaders and not your own.
- Concentrate your prayers on their protection and family lives. That’s not to say you can’t pray for policy, but remember that you’re praying for your God-established leader, not your enemy.
- Purposefully pray for politicians who serve outside your own political party.
- Never engage in negative talk about our leaders. Discussing policy is one thing, but disrespecting our leaders dishonors God. Though we hear pundits do it all the time, never refer to our president or representatives by their last name alone. There’s technically nothing wrong with referring to “Bush” or “Obama” from a news perspective, but we’re called to be more than technically accurate. Show respect for the office by always including the title of the individual—President or Senator.
Remember, prayer is never about changing someone else; it’s always about allowing God to change us.”
(American Psalms: Prayers for the Christian Patriot by Joshua J. Masters, p. 60)
If you find it impossible to pray for those in authority over our nation, consider how Daniel respected and even worked with Nebuchadnezzar’s government (while still honoring God) after Babylon took the Jewish people captive (cf. The Book of Daniel). Consider the respect Jesus showed the Romans. (cf. Matthew 22:15-22). Although they forcibly conquered the land of Israel, they were still the governing authority and Jesus submitted to them.
It would be difficult to find a single person who loves the policies of both President Obama and President Trump, but we can pray for both of them. On this President’s Day, what if we agreed to pray for God’s blessing and will in the lives of ALL our living presidents and their families: President Donald J. Trump, President Barack Obama, President George W. Bush, President William J. Clinton, President George H. W. Bush, and President Jimmy Carter?
There are, undoubtedly, circumstances that require the followers of God to stand for certain unwavering principles. We see that in the lives of Daniel and Jesus as well, but if you can’t bring yourself to pray for our leaders, then you should ask God what He wants to change in you to make that possible. In fact, that might not be a bad prayer when it comes to our politics in general.
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