President Trump visited McLean Bible Church this past weekend in Virginia. According to reports, the church was notified the President was en-route and wanted the pastor, Dr. David Platt, to meet with and pray for him. Dr. Platt prayed for the President, shook hands, and met with him backstage. The event has ignited impassioned opinions and prompted the following question to me from a church member.
Pastor Kevin, if President Trump showed up unannounced to our church service, how would you handle it?
I appreciate the question and think it’s a good one to share and address publicly. Here goes …
Given the level of security prep that has to take place for a President to go anywhere, the idea of him “popping in” or making a “surprise visit” I think is overblown. So, there’s that …
The objection from some people, as I’ve understood from social media, is the idea that to pray for the President is in some way an endorsement of the Presidents’ policies, decisions, and behaviors. Not so. In the Scriptures, not only are we called to pray for leaders and loved ones, we are called to pray for enemies and those who would mistreat us. Is a prayer for an enemy an endorsement of the wrong they are committing? Of course not!
We are called to pray for our leaders whether or not we support their policies and whether or not that leader belongs to the party we support. I’ve worked in churches since 1991 and have been dismayed at the way political identity has eclipsed Christian consistency among those who claim the Bible as their rule of faith and practice. I recall prayer meetings planned to lift up incumbent President George H.W. Bush on the campus of my conservative Baptist Bible College during the 1992 election, but none were held for Bill Clinton. I remember seeing bumper stickers calling on Southern Baptists to pray for President George W. Bush, but where were those stickers during the Obama term?
Speaking of Obama, the moderate/progressive church I served during his first term regularly lifted him up in prayer, but not the state’s Republican Governor. Now I see memes and social media posts from Christians seeking prayer for President Trump, with Franklin Graham even calling for a special day of prayer (something I don’t recall him doing for President Obama). Other professing Christians, according to their own Twitter and Facebook comments, refuse to pray for President Trump, and, as seen in the backlash toward Pastor David Platt, chastise those who do. Regardless of which lever you pull in the voting booth, if you claim to follow Jesus, the practice of selective prayer is an act of disobedience.
We are taught explicitly that to withhold prayer because of disagreement is a sin. 1 Samuel 12 records the selection of Saul as Israel’s King, a decision the Prophet Samuel disagreed with and discouraged. Once the people made their decision, Samuel may have been tempted to do what many of us might do and refuse to pray for a leader we did not want. Samuel, however, says, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. 24But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.” (1 Samuel 12:23-24).
In his book, A Faith of Our Own, Jonathan Merritt wrote of an event in the life of Dr. Billy Graham. A pastor had been asked to meet and pray with a President with whom he disagreed. He asked Dr. Graham, whether or not he should agree to pray for the President. Graham replied, “Son, you are a Christian and a pastor – praying is what we do.”
So, what would I do if the current or a future President came to Calvary (the church I serve) asking for prayer?
We. Would. Pray.
He or she would be just as welcome as every other person attending. With their permission, I would lead our congregation in praying for the President and their Administration.
I think Pastor David Platt was right to pray for President Trump. We as Christians are called to do as much for our leaders. “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
I think David Platt’s prayer was … Samuel-esque; both compassionate and convicting, something I would hope every Christ-follower would want for any leader:
“We pray that he would look to You, that he would trust in You, he would lean on You,” That he would govern and make decisions in ways that are good for justice, and good for righteousness and good for equity, every good path. Please, oh God, give him wisdom and help him to lead our country alongside other leaders. We pray today for leaders in Congress. We pray for leaders in courts. We pray for leaders in national and state levels. We know we need Your mercy. We need Your grace. We need Your help. We need Your wisdom in our country. Help us to trust in Your Word. Help us to seek Your wisdom and live in ways that reflect Your love and Your grace– Your righteousness and Your justice. We pray for Your blessings on our president toward that end, in Jesus name we pray, amen.”
My name is Kevin Glenn, and I approved this message.