The Politics of Prayer

by: Clayton King

As a rule, I'm usually asleep most nights by 9:30.  That doesn't mean I'm in bed.  I'm usually on the couch.  I don't make it to bed until around 11pm when I wake up and find the lights and TV are turned off and everyone has left me all alone in the den.  That is, unless there's something really interesting on TV that won't allow me to slip into unconsciousness.  Like the Super Bowl, game 7 of the World Series...or last night's Presidential election.

I confess that I stayed up way too late (or early) because I was glued to the unfolding story that's dominated the headlines in America for the past year.  I also realized, rather recently, that the rest of the world has been watching our democracy approach this election with great concern and interest.  While traveling in Europe last month with my staff and family, a gas station attendant in Greece told me that he was afraid we'd elect the wrong candidate...all the way across the world in the United States.

I was both surprised and comforted by the election results.  First, I didn't expect Donald Trump to win by the margin of victory that he achieved.  No one can deny that many Americans (on both sides of the election) are sick and tired to feeling ignored, left out, pandered to and marginalized.  Yet there was comfort in the stability of our democracy.  Whether you like the results or not, the good news about our form of government is that we get a chance every four years to start over and hit the re-set button.  As they said in the early 1900s, "Throw the bums out!"  It may seem inefficient, but it beats the way power and authority has historically been transferred: bloody wars that leave the weaker side not just marginalized, but dead. 

And yet there is this sense inside of me as a father, husband, pastor and citizen, that I have failed to do the one thing that I can and should do consistently to help our nation heal and move forward.  This morning it became clear to me as I opened my Bible at my desk, like I've done for so many years, and read these verses once again with fresh (and sleepy) eyes.

I urge then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings 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 Savior who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
I Timothy 2:1-4

Clearly, there is much that we can and must do as citizens, and we dare not abdicate our responsibility for complacency.  And yet there are things that we cannot do at all, things that are beyond our ability to influence, layers and layers of power and influence and corruption and greed that we couldn't hope to ever change as a mere voting citizen.  In other words, there are things that only God can do and situations that only God can change.  You and I may never be able to get in Donald Trump's ear, but God can get in his ear, and his mind and his heart.  That is why Paul encourages Timothy in these verses, and us by default, that we must pray.  God's ultimate goal, according to Paul's words, is that all people are saved.  Isn't it interesting that we're told to pray for kings and leaders specifically because it pleases God when we do?  And why does this please God?  Because our prayers somehow affect not only the leaders who rule over us, and not only the immediate well-being and flourishing of the lives of people around us, but the eternal destiny of all humanity that God desires to redeem and save.

On the way to the gym this morning, I shared some of these thoughts with my 14 year old son.  I confessed that I complain more than I pray and that I intend to change that.  Then my son and I grabbed hands and we prayed out loud for our nation, for Hillary Clinton, for Donald Trump, and for the people of this country whose lives will be shaped by the leaders we've elected.  We prayed for healing, unity, protection, forgiveness, equality, prosperity, and opportunity.  But most of all we prayed for salvation...the ultimate win, the eternal victory, and the one thing that a Prince or a Prime Minister or a President can never give us.  Only God can save.  Only God can bring about spiritual change and true healing.  So in the days ahead, I will be talking to God a lot more than I will be talking about our President.

Learn more about Clayton King.