When we pray for this electionJuly 27, 2016
The past two weeks have been a window into American democracy. The two party system, warts and all, has been on full display for all the world to see during the party conventions. Opportunities to learn include party platforms, the candidates and the internal power dynamics of the R’s and D’s. This year, we learned that neither party is particularly authentic in the public practice of prayer.
It is important to note that neither the Republican nor Democrat party are religious institutions. But both continue the custom of inviting religious leaders to provide prayers and benedictions during the event. This year, prayers at both conventions made headlines for reasons that cause people of religious conviction to cringe.
For the opening prayer at the Republican convention, the pastor called on attendees to join him in prayer to victory because: “Our enemy is not other Republicans, but is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.”
Then, a week later at the Democratic Convention, Bernie Sanders supporters interrupted the the opening prayer with boos and chants at just the mention of Hillary Clinton:
Both are irreverent, but for differing reasons. On the one hand, prayer was used as if a weapon of attack to be wielded against a person. On the other, the prayer offering was disregarded and the time usurped by those seeking to advance their own cause.
Both occasions provide reason to pause and ask: Is prayer seen as a way of garnering the support or swaying the will of a sovereign God and if so, who is seen as the more powerful in that relationship?
What kind of prayer do we need?
If we’re going to pray – which is the first question to be answered – then we need prayers from an eternal perspective, focused on God’s ultimate objectives for the world. It’s not about what or who we want, it’s about what God wants and how He divinely plans to get from there there.
We know God’s will is for His glory. We cannot presume to know how God would use the next President of the United States and we certainly shouldn’t presume that the glory for our party is equivalent to the glory for God.
Humble prayers capture God’s heart and seek God’s purpose. So while we ask God to provide for our protection, healing, blessing and benefit, we must submit and trust Him even if… (Finish this sentence with the election outcome that scares you the most.)
Prayers that please God start and begin with Him: God’s attributes, God’s character, God’s will, God’s way, and God’s timing. Not because God is an ego-maniac or needs stroking, but because we need to be reminded of who God is in order that we can rightly see ourselves and our circumstances from His divine perspective.
As situations make us feel more out of control, the answer is to submit to the only One who actually is in control. In times that we may perceive as perilous, are we willing to acknowledge God’s ultimate sovereignty, seek God and wait for His answers, follow His counsel and His leading wherever that may lead – and whomever may be elected by the will of the people to lead us?
We can be Biblically equipped to pray.
The most often-heard Bible verse referenced in prayer for our nation is from II Chronicles. Too many times it is taken out of context and applied as a promise for America, not a call of repentance for God’s people.
But I want to direct our attention to a different passage from the same book. In Chapter 20, God’s people find themselves under threat and on the verge of war with an overwhelming enemy force. What then are godly leaders to do when they honestly don’t know what to do?
Jehoshaphat calls the people together to pray. In total submission to the Lord he prays:
“For we are powerless… we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
We don’t know how much time passes after that. What we do know is that all the people prayed– men, women and children. And they waited on the Lord.
This example is in such contrast to political prayers of our day. It is marked by a humility toward and reverence for God that submits our will and ambitions to Him.
What would it look like for that kind of God-centered prayer to be offered over, during and on the stage of the national party conventions? What would it look like for religious leaders to use that stage to call our hearts in submission to God’s will, rather than to seek to co-opt God to our will?
In this election cycle we must pray. As we pray, rather than seek our own outcome and ask God to bless it, let us seek God and submit our plans to Him. As we are instructed in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”