Sometimes I’ve questioned friends of mine who are people of faith who constantly criticized the current president in social media, whether his last name was Bush or Obama. I’ve asked whether they prayed for their president as much as they posted against him. For any who claim to be attempting to live a biblically informed life, the Apostle Paul writes:
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:1-2, ESV).
I find myself a bit in the place of the friends I’ve chided. While I don’t make a habit of endless posts on political matters on Twitter or Facebook, which I just think is tiresome and disproportionate to the realities of life, I have to admit that this is not the president I wanted. That person never made it out of the primaries (yes, I’m going to leave you guessing!). But there is no wiggle room, at least for me, out of Paul’s injunction. And so here’s how I will pray for our incoming president.
O God, you rule over all things, and so even though I can’t make sense of it, this man will preside over our nation. Have mercy on him, and on us! He needs your mercy. He has been entrusted with and will answer for much as he presides over one of the great nations of the world. He can do great good or great harm, and one way or another will give account for his stewardship of this trust.
Grant him a humble heart as he comes to grips with the huge task before him, greater, really, than any single person can handle. May it drive him to his knees in the most fervent prayers of his lifetime, and take him to a new place of recognizing his need for the good will and aid of all the people he serves.
He will need wisdom beyond all the experience he has acquired. Grant him to cherish this more than gold or silver. Give him wise counselors who will not be an echo chamber of his own thoughts but will have the courage to say the hard thing. Grant him the greatness of soul that listens to the hard word for what can be learned, no matter who is speaking it.
I am fearful, Lord, when I hear we are in a “post truth” era. O God who sees into and discerns the heart, give our president the awareness that every word is spoken before one who is Truth, and who sees the things that are concealed. Grant him to grow in integrity and be led by truth in this office, that he would see the horror of deceiving those he serves.
I long for a society where “liberty and justice for all” is not just a pledge but the daily pursuit of our president and all our public servants. Grant our president as one who has come from the place of privilege and power to set an example of using these, and when necessary, laying them aside to lift up those without place or power. Grant him and all our public servants, and especially those who administer justice, to be impartial toward friend and enemy alike, in the righting of wrongs.
I do long for a peaceful and quiet life, not only for myself but for all people. Grant our president to pursue the things that make for peace, between parties, between peoples of different ethnicities, between our social classes, our religious groups, between men and women. Grant the greatness of soul that uses the gentle answer to turn away wrath and to plant a life giving tree in desert lands.
Grant our president a courage that is not rashness and a resolve that is not bravado in the service of justice and the proper defense of our land. At the same time, grant him a generous heart both for our people, and for the peoples of the world who share our humanity.
Finally, guard our president from dangers physical and spiritual. Protect his marriage from the estrangements that pressure can bring and his family from the dangers of the public spotlight and the temptations to undue influence.
O Lord, it strikes me that it would be a hypocrisy to pray these high and noble aspirations for our president, but to excuse myself from these same things. Grant the grace, power and courage to all who seek you to live up to these things, both for your glory, and the good of humankind. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
I apologize if this is more “religious” than is to your taste. I like what Jim Wallis, the founder and president of Sojourners has said, that “faith is always personal but never private.” Authentic faith, it seems to me always has both public implications and public consequences. At very least, putting this prayer out to you, I hope will have the consequence of committing me to pray it, or prayers like it for our president. I hope you will hold me to that, and if you share my convictions about a biblically informed faith, join me in those prayers. Our president, our nation, and our world needs them.
[In response to comments on this post, I wrote a follow-up titled “When We Can’t Pray for Leaders We Don’t Like“]