On October 2, President Donald J. Trump and his wife and 43,751 other Americans tested positive for COVID19.
Christians worldwide have been asked to pray for the President of the USA. For example, Eugene Cho, head of Christian advocacy organisation “Bread for the World,” asked Twitter followers to “put aside partisan politics and genuinely lift up the President and FLOTUS in prayer.” Franklin Graham has Declared a Day of Prayer for President Trump. And James Dobson, Jerry Falwell Jr, Jack Graham, Robert Jeffress, and Paula White have all joined this call.
The question many have asked is, how and what do we pray? How should we, as followers of Jesus, react at this moment?
To Pray or Not to Pray?
Mr. Trump cuts a divisive figure as President. Christians are divided on partisan grounds, with some consistently believing Mr. Trump has been placed by God to lead the USA. Others believe he and his values are anathema to the Christian faith. There appears to be little middle ground. The response to the calls to prayer for the President has been just as divisive. Some people are praying for a miraculous cure, while others are praying for his demise.
Let me be clear, I am not telling people how to vote or which policies are appropriate or inappropriate. I have consistently made it clear in my writing and speaking that I’m all for Christians engaging with politics and standing for political office. I have called on Christians to focus on our central message – the good news about God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Anything that clouds that message is an enemy of the Gospel.
Throughout history, Christians have enjoyed long periods of peace under wise and just rules. In these times, we have been able to share the good news and live out the kingdom of God in our communities. At other times, Christians have come under intense and cruel persecutions by malicious, brutal leaders.
Christians have also been divided, at times, on how to react to a leader. For example, former President Jimmy Carter, who made his faith tradition a central platform in his campaign and office, divided Christians. Many found his Biblical appeal for racial equality attractive and admired his inclusion of human rights in American foreign policy. Others were concerned that Mr. Carter did not appear strongly enough against abortion, Communism, or homosexuality.
Christianity, Politics and the 1980’s
Pastors during the 1980 Carter-Reagan election often faced divided congregations. Many had church members angry that their pastor was or was not endorsing one of the candidates as God’s chosen.
During the 1980’s, political divisions amongst Christians began to more overtly appear. Sadly, today, there are significant political divisions across Christendom. Each side declares that God supports their view, their political party, their leader. Christians and churches are divided across the USA and other countries. Sadly, as I have previously noted, this form of political engagement is alienating non-Church people from us.
Paul’s Thoughts on Praying for Leaders
The Apostle Paul challenges these divisions with some straightforward advice on how we should pray for leaders. Advice the church needs to heed during peace, times of turmoil, and moments where humans do not agree with each other. In his letter to Timothy, Paul said: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for all people— for rulers and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God, our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2: 1–4).
I think it’s essential that we understand why Paul told Timothy (pastor of the Ephesian church) to pray “for rulers and those in authority:”
- That followers of Jesus can “live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
- That “all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
Paul says, “This is good and pleases God, our Saviour.”
Christians must bear this in mind every time we type a response to a political post on Facebook, or enter a discussion with our family, head to the ballot box, or pray for a President with a potentially life-threatening virus.
Paul’s aim is in line with God’s who “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” All people. Not just Democrats. Not just Republicans. Not Just Independents, or liberals, greens, or socialists. All people – conservative and radical; left and right. This should be the overriding goal for Christians – that all people come to a place of following Jesus.
A great way to pray for the President of the USA is that Mr. Trump would look to Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour. And exercise power in such a way that the Gospel can grow across the USA and the globe.
Therefore, this call to prayer for the US President can unite Christians in sharing the Gospel with the world rather than turning Christians into partisan political warriors distracted from our fundamental mission. Which way will you stand?
Lord, we send petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving for all people— for Mr. Trump and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness so that all people will be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. Amen!