>How Will We Pray?

>Obama & McCain

As the Presidential election draws near I have pondered how Evangelicals would respond to a win by Barack Obama. Although it is not healthy to posit a dichotomy that presents Republicans as conservative Evangelicals and Democrats as liberal Evangelicals (or not believers at all), one wonders whether Evangelicals themselves see this as an accurate assessment of the playing field. I don’t think most people I know would agree with this portrait of American politics and religion, at least not in word. However, as I think back over my short journey as a believer and my church experience, I am confronted with the reality that the practice of prayer among Evangelicals, at least the ones I’ve been around, betrays a a certain political bias with which they work.

I came to faith about 10 years ago, when then President Bill “busy in the Oval Office” Clinton was finishing his last stint (his last term, get your mind out of the gutter). I can remember being in church and hearing the prayers, “Dear Lord, protect our country from this immorality and destruction of values and the wickedness of a government that denies you, etc. etc. etc.” Now this may be a bit more than what you heard in your circles, but the point is, when Clinton was President, praying for our leaders seemed to consist of taking the approach of the prophets (Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel) by confessing the sins of our leader rather than actually praying for our leader. What I mean is, the prayers I remember hearing for Bill Clinton were quite different from what I hear for George Bush (who by the way is not perfect, contrary to popular belief). Our prayers for Bush are, “Lord bless President Bush, give him wisdom, protect him from evil, place wise counsellors around him and help him to lead our country. Help him to stand for what is right, etc. etc. etc.” I don’t remember hearing those kinds of prayers for Clinton, do you?

Now let me clarify, quickly. This is not about Republican vs. Democrat, and it is not about conservative vs. liberal. It is about healthy, consistent, biblical practice. We tend to take the NT 1 Tim 2:1 approach with Bush while there was on OT prophetic approach to the Clinton regime. What will our prayer practice be if Obama wins? How about McCain? It seems when there is an opposition party to the Evangelical position we tend to pray for our “country” and the sins of our country and when we agree with the leadership we pray for our country and the individual. Is this consistent? Don’t get me wrong, Clinton did some really immoral things that caused our country great harm. Yet I would be hard-pressed to find a conservative Evangelical who would say that they prayed for Bill Clinton personally over his extra-marital affair in hopes that there would be repentance, forgiveness, restoration and reconciliation. And let me be the first to say that I did not pray for him in this way. It has not been until recently that I have really thought about my own inconsistencies in praying for our leaders and this was brought about by the recent news of Ted Kennedy’s cancer. And I will admit that I found myself praying for him everyday and not really knowing why, other than the Lord put it on my heart to pray for him. Strange, eh? I thought so. So here I was praying for a person I have actually despised (and I really don’t know him) because of his political views that I vehemently oppose. Yet I now know that my prayer life is not to be based on political views or opinions.

I will tell you now, openly, that I will vote for John McCain for President because in the present world of turmoil, economic uncertainty, and war, I feel he is the best man for the job. But the Lord may feel otherwise. I have to trust in the Lord and what the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 13 and know that the Lord is in control and can do great things with a man I think is unqualified. But most of all, he wants me to pray for Barak Obama just like he wants me to pray for George Bush or John McCain. Thus, I ask this question of pastors and lay persons alike. What is your take on this? How will you pray in your churches if we wake up Nov 5th to President Barak Obama? Moreover, will those prayers be genuine prayers of concern for wisdom, righteousness, direction and seeking after the Lord, or will they be a platform to point out the weaknesses of the leader? Food for thought.



10 thoughts on “>How Will We Pray?

  1. >I hope to continue praying with humility that I learned during Bush’s second run for president.It seemed like every conservative I knew couldn’t raise the rhetoric high enough against Bill Clinton, on everything from personal immorality to engaging in a war without congress declaring war!Then then the current administration got involved in a long term committment to do war in the middle east the conservatives got very silent (except the Libertarians). It became clearer to me that the church was more interested in party politics than being even-handed & truthful.My prayers have become more generic, and less arrogant in the presumption that I know enough about the motives of the man in the white house to call for his condemnation. Even though I expect that an Obama administration would be very clear in it’s stance for particular immoralities, I hope I’ll keep praying for mercy & wisdom instead of jumping on the “OT” prayer track.

    Posted by Jacob | July 1, 2008, 1:08 am
  2. >As someone who hasn’t been thrilled about Bush since the 2000 Bush-Gore debates (I wasn’t thrilled about Bill Clinton either), I have made it a point to pray for him over the course of the last seven-years-and-change. After all, when Paul wrote Romans, Nero was emperor. If I can still imagine Nero as worse than Dubyah, I’m still on good ground.The question with which I struggle most is the balance between Boethius and Machiavelli, politically speaking. On one hand Boethius is quite compelling when he writes that the things of political power are the property of Fortuna entirely and can only do harm to those concerned with genuinely good living. On the other, Machiavelli holds that Fortuna only holds half of the cards, that political action matters and can achieve good or bad ends. (And everyone remembers what the ends justify in Machiavelli.)BTW, by using Machiavelli I realize I’m stacking the deck, but please realize that I’m not any Boethian either. If anything, I’m a Thomist, both of the Aquinas flavor and of the Jeffersonian but never the Malthusian. But Boethius and Machiavelli serve as clear illustrations of two tendencies in philosophy regarding political power.

    Posted by Nathan P. Gilmour | June 28, 2008, 2:32 pm
  3. >Hello OSO,What would you say is Biblical economic theory?

    Posted by M. Jay Bennett | June 28, 2008, 5:11 am
  4. >If a Republican is elected, we should pray (among other things) that his administration would not overlook the potential problem of expanding class divisions (rich v. poor). – Which is, of course, a Biblical thing and backed up by many passages in the Bible.If a Democrat is elected, we should pray (among other things) that his administration would not over-burden our free market economy. Which is, of course, an assumption that free market economics is Biblically based but is not backed up by any passage in the Bible.

    Posted by One Salient Oversight | June 28, 2008, 3:51 am
  5. >Thanks for the comments. I guess what I was getting at was whether Evangelicals will pray for someone like Obama the same way they have prayed for Bush? Would it not be right to ask God to bless Obama (that is if he were President and frankly I’m praying he won’t be) and to give him direction, guide him, help him make right choices, etc.? To put it more clearly, I should allude to Jay’s comment about prayer for balance. Can Evangelicals pray arduously for a Democratic President the same way they would a Republican? It seems more like when someone we disagree with is elected, we start asking God for help in the sense that our country is heading in the wrong direction and the government is now untrustworthy, and ungodly and all the other fears, rather than acknowledging God’s sovereignty and praying for the individual in a genuinely positive way.Again, I’m voting for McCain and from a purely human standpoint it scares me to death to think of Obama as President. But if he becomes President, I am going to teach my little girls to pray for him just like they’ve prayed for Bush.

    Posted by Mark Mathews | June 27, 2008, 10:56 pm
  6. >”I’m curious–does the “conservtive” in the name of this blog mean politically conservative, theologically conservative, both, or neither?”Perhaps whoever came up with that name purposefully left it ambiguous. Whoever that may have been. 😉 It means politically and theologically. However not all of the contributors, or readers for that matter, are conservative in both areas. The name was actually assigned to some of us in a fairly non-conservative context so our conservatism stood out compared to the majority of those who were a member of that msg board. Speaking of context, its funny to see how “conservative” changes depending of the environment. Compared to the Truly Reformed perhaps we are not true conservatives, theologically speaking. Compared to left-leaning emergers, we are rabid right-wingers, politically and theologically. Back to the name, while it is “accurate” we apply it loosely. And most of us are probably wishing for better categories and descriptors than “conservative” or even “reformed.” Mafia is accurate though. You really don’t want to cross the line around here. 😉

    Posted by Jeff Wright | June 27, 2008, 7:47 pm
  7. >I’m curious–does the “conservtive” in the name of this blog mean politically conservative, theologically conservative, both, or neither?

    Posted by Matt | June 27, 2008, 6:03 pm
  8. >Good thoughts, Jay. Both the Republicans and Democrats have potential for good and evil.Although I will probably vote for McCain, it looks like Obama will be our next president. I will pray for his success.My gut tells me that his is a campaign based mostly on rhetoric, but I’ll pray that this is not the case. I’ll pray that he can bring real change to this country–that he’ll promote unity amongst diversity, real help for the poor, real peace in the Middle East, and real restoration of our global reputation.

    Posted by Matt | June 27, 2008, 6:01 pm
  9. >I tend to prefer the generic prayers for wisdom. I think it would be good to pray the details for both, that both would not neglect the poor and both would not neglect protecting the innocent.

    Posted by Jared Nelson | June 27, 2008, 4:32 pm
  10. >Great questions Mark! If I might be allowed simplicity for the sake of brevity:Perhaps it would be helpful to think of the two poles of American politics as a sort of continuum with the ideal being somewhere in between. If so, generally, in both cases we should pray for wisdom, grace, protection, etc. But specifically we should pray for balance. Economically speaking: If a Republican is elected, we should pray (among other things) that his administration would not overlook the potential problem of expanding class divisions (rich v. poor). If a Democrat is elected, we should pray (among other things) that his administration would not over-burden our free market economy.Internationally speaking: If a Republican hawk is elected, we should pray (among other things) that his administration would work to maintain America’s good reputation in the world by working multilaterally, honoring humanitarian war-time conventions, and taking great care to prosecute just wars. If a Democratic dove is elected, we should pray (among other things) that his administration would work to maintain America’s good reputation in the world by being tough on America’s enemies and being willing to prosecute just wars when necessary.We could take this into every area of the American government’s work.

    Posted by M. Jay Bennett | June 27, 2008, 3:14 pm

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