Praying For Our President
The title I have chosen may irk some people. If it does, I suspect that the word “our” is the culprit. My reading of Romans 13:1-7 tells me our president’s authority is to be heeded whether I voted for him or not because governmental authority is granted by God. Praying for our leaders is the Christian thing to do.
Before I give three things to pray for our president, our vice-president, advisors, and their families, I’d like to say a couple of things about prayer based on the teachings of the German theologian, Karl Barth, about prayer.
Barth makes the point that prayer first and foremost is asking, seeking, and knocking directed towards God. It’s our desiring, our wishing, and our requesting turned heavenward. He says that “the man who really prays … approaches God and speaks to Him because he seeks something of God, because he desires and expects something, because he hopes to receive something which he needs, something which he does not hope to receive from anyone else, but does definitely hope to receive from God.” This fits really well with what Jesus taught about prayer: “ask, and it will be given you” (Luke 11:9).
Another point Barth makes is that prayer only makes sense if we have a God who listens. “God does not act in the same way whether we pray or not. Prayer exerts an influence upon God’s action, even upon his existence.” One thing is for sure, God gives answers even when “our prayers are weak and poor. Nevertheless, what matter is not that our prayers are forceful, but that God listens to them. That is why we pray.” Think of it: by God’s design, our prayers can impinge upon and recruit God into the life of the world, which he bids us to do.
No other nation in the world can make a difference in world affairs like our country can. When we pray for it, and its leaders, God may bring his will to bear upon the world, a world God is in the process of transforming. This is why we must take the mandate of Scripture with the utmost seriousness to pray for our leaders. I give these three prayer suggestions based on Walter Brueggemann’s teachings in Great Prayers of the Old Testament. My hope is that we will engage God with these desires he wishes to grant.
First, let’s pray that our president will come to disbelieve that man has the ultimate answer for life. Pray that he will have the freedom to disbelieve this claim. President Obama, for the next few years, will be arguably one of the most powerful people on the planet. Because of this he will be tempted to believe in the ultimacy of Man (when Man thinks he is the final authority on earth). This temptation if followed will only end in pride or despair.
Governments tend to be full of promises and self-congratulation, believing that good is all of human origin. We pray that our president will combat this tendency and express that only One needs be in control and that we serve Him. Our president faces gigantic tasks and a world that is badly broken at home and abroad. The temptation is to believe and go about fixing the mess we are in by our own strength and wisdom. This will be the daily pressure in the Oval Office. Our prayer for our president to be free to get his direction from above is a refusal to allow the idolatry which comes from power to take a foothold in that office. Pray that the president, his family, his cabinet and advisors, will act on the freedom that is theirs to seek answers from God rather than act on the necessities that come from expediency. These necessities can only lead to fear, anxiety, aggressiveness, and convenience. Freedom to pray to God is joyful, peaceful, and reassuring.
Second, we must pray that our top leader will fight against the temptation to self-sufficiency. Take a moment and truly listen to the ideologies, propaganda, and advertising techniques so prevalent around us. They all betray our human arrogance. President Obama as our commander in Chief will have what is probably the best trained military force on earth. He will have some of the best minds, some of the best technologies behind. Heady stuff! The temptation to think “I can do it” and “who needs God?” and “ I am the king of the world” is ever present.
The Psalmist prayed to be spared the delusion of self-sufficiency. Our prayer and that of our president must also reflect the psalmist’s: “O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me” (131:1). Self-sufficiency is the main religion we encounter when we believe authority and power reside in us and not in the One who truly gives a measure of them for our own good.
Finally, we pray that our president will have a vital and personal daily growing relationship with God that affects all his dealings. We pray that Obama’s primary dialogue will take place between him and the Lord of creation. Pray that this dialogue will impinge on our entire president’s dealing with our country’s leaders, and other nations’ leaders, and that he will be the fragrance of Christ to them. May he walk with the Master and help America turn to God.
Ask away, Church, the God of heaven and earth listens.
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