Today is a day of action and waiting—of voting (after waiting in line for hours in some cities) and then waiting to find out the results. Once we've cast our vote, our part in the election is seemingly over; we've done our duty and played our part in electing the next president of the United States.
As followers of Jesus, however, voting isn't the last act, or the only way to participate. We're called to a broader, even more powerful, ongoing action with regard to our national leaders: we're called to pray.
I admit, it feels like such a small thing to do for an election that will affect nearly every other country in the world. Even voting sometimes feels that way. (As a friend lamented to me, in a broken system can my one vote really make any practical difference for people in need? Will broken, sinful people in power really act out of the best interests of others?) But prayer can feel even a step further removed from Washington, D.C., than voting: If I throw up this prayer for our leaders, will God really hear? Will my prayers for our president and other leaders really bring about change in them, in this country?
Many days, if I'm honest, it doesn't feel like a prayer will affect national and global affairs. But I'm often struck by what a dangerous position the president of the United States is: in our post-Fall world, few men or women can handle that much power and not fall into sin or greed as a result. So even when we feel like our prayers won't make a difference, I'm convinced we must pray for our leaders.
If Paul Could Do It from Prison . . .
We're commanded to, for one thing, in 1 Timothy 2. And prayer moves our focus away from the little power we have to the power of the One we pray to: the only true God, the only all-powerful One who really does hold the kingdoms of the world in his hands. If Paul can exhort others to pray for their leaders while imprisoned by members of his own government, surely we can put his words into action.
Here a few suggestions for prayers you can pray for our leaders, whoever wins.
Pray for grace to handle the power of their position and wisdom to use that power for the best interests of others, particularly the poor and oppressed. Pray that God would turn their eyes and hearts to the most vulnerable, and that their actions would come from an authentic desire to help others, not out of a desire to increase their own power.
Pray for humility to surround themselves with wise people who will help them handle the power—for Cabinet members and advisers and friends who will speak truth to them, give them perspective, encourage them, and turn them toward God.
Pray that they will be good listeners to all kinds of people, across all ethnic groups and religious groups and classes.
Pray for their family life, that God would strengthen and protect their marriage and grant them wisdom as parents, grandparents, uncles, sons, brothers.
Pray for a heart that is compassionate, that longs to see justice done and that values all people: rich and poor, male and female, foreign-born and U.S. citizen.
Pray for protection from those who would harm them and their families, whether physically or emotionally.
What prayers would you add? What do you want to see God do through the next president of the United States? And are you willing to pray consistently for our leaders?
Who knows? As we pray, God may do a might work in our hearts too, and empower us to act in some of these areas—to make a difference not for our country or our glory, but for his kingdom and glory.
The danger of labels on both sides is that we end up pitting ourselves against other Christians, seeing our political identity as more defining that our shared identity in Christ. Instead, we need to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, especially when they are opposite of us.