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.