It was the Sunday after the election many years ago. I was worshipping at with my congregation that morning and the mood was not happy. Much of the congregation had voted for the other guy – the candidate who was defeated. They were sure that the winning candidate would ruin our country, economically, morally, socially.
The prelude ended and the pastor began the announcements by saying, “I know that many of you are unhappy with the outcome of the election. I know that you are afraid of how this president will lead us. I want to start this morning by telling you the Christian response to this election.”
We waited, most expecting him to denounce the president-elect. And I have never forgotten what he
“Pray for this president.”
“Pray that God will guide his decisions and give him wisdom. Pray that all of our leaders will lead us wisely. I know that many of you will have trouble with this. But this is the Christian response, the Biblical response. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” And if you still have trouble praying for this president, remember that Jesus said to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44).”
Then he led us in a prayer.
As I write this, I don’t know the outcome of the election. I do know that there will be people who are excited by the outcome and filled with hope, and there will be people who fear what the newly elected candidate will do once in office. What I do know is this: as Christians, our response is clear. We are to pray for God to give our leaders wisdom to lead us in paths of justice and righteousness. And if that’s hard for you with this president elect, think about this: those leaders and governments Paul was telling his readers to pray for - that was the Roman emperor and the hated Roman Empire, whose abuses of power often meant the persecution of Christians, whose Pax Romana was maintained though conquest and oppression. If the early Christians could pray for their persecutors, how much more can we pray for our country, which we love, and for our leaders, whatever we might think of them?
This election has been soul-wearying in so many ways. And the atmosphere of fear and division has not dissipated just because votes were cast. Jesus begins the sermon in which he tells us to love our enemies with the Beatitudes. We are called to be peacemakers, to comfort those who mourn, to be merciful. We begin our work by praying:
Creator and Keeper of All:
We pray for ourselves
that Your love would soften our own hearts
so we may be the salt and light
our country and this world so desperately needs.
We pray for our divisions to be healed.
We pray for Your holy wisdom
to inspire and guide our leaders.
We pray for Your reign to come,
and You will to be done
in our lives,
in our congregations,
in our communities,
in our country,
in the world.
We pray this no matter who is President,
for we put our trust in You.
We pray this always.
We pray in hope and in fear
We pray in faith of your love for us and the world.