I have a knack for picking losers in presidential elections. In 2012, I voted for Mitt Romney and most recently, in 2016, I voted for Evan McMullin. I voted for these men, not because I necessarily thought they were certain winners (they obviously weren’t.) I voted for them because I thought they best reflected my values. Needless to say, you could probably guess that I find neither Barack Obama nor Donald Trump particularly stellar choices for the office of president. Indeed, I have had a number of disagreements with our current president (on issues like abortion, the deficit, and defense) and I have had a number, though fewer, disagreements with Mr Trump (ala defense, trade, and his defense of his complicated and sordid moral past) But, the American people have cast their votes and what’s done is done. At this point we need to be asking what is our responsibility as Christians towards our elected (and newly elected) officials.
In 1st Timothy 2:1-4, the Apostle Paul writes these words to his young protégé and pastoral associate Timothy- “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” In light of other topics, the scriptures don’t have a great deal to say about political issues but here and there we receive poignant advice. In this passage, we are told to pray for all who are in power. No matter who they are, or whether we agree with them, or ever like them! We need to pray for them. We need to be praying that they will make wise decisions. We need to be praying they will make decisions that are pleasing to God. We need to pray that they will be blessed by God. Why? Because no one wants to live in a land wracked with strife and gross misrule and those in authority have the ability to make our lives very difficult if they wish.
I think this verse has a manifold number of practical implications for our day and age but I will only mention three. Firstly, we need to be praying for Barack Obama as he is entering his final two months in office. Oftentimes, presidents will use their final days in office to issue up to hundreds of executive orders and presidential pardons. With no fear of having to justify controversial decisions to an angry electorate, presidents often feel unchained to do what they wish in their final days in office. We need to pray that the President uses his power judiciously as his time in the White House draws to a close.
Secondly, Donald Trump will desperately need our prayers come February as he will enter the presidency facing many incredible challenges. He will not only have to figure out how to deal with an increasingly unstable and violent Middle East, but he will also have to grapple with the challenge of uniting a deeply divided nation. With these issues to deal with, not to mention the economy, immigration, and our national debt, Donald Trump will need all the prayer we can possibly give him. We also need to pray that Donald Trump, who was for a long time staunchly pro-choice, remains committed to creating a culture of life in this country. He has promised to appoint conservative judges to the bench who will review Roe v. Wade. As Christians, we must pray that Mr. Trump will not waver on his promises on this issue.
Thirdly, we must pray for our leaders because the proclamation of the Gospel depends on it. As Americans, we are blessed to live in a free and (mostly) tranquil society. We have an untold number of opportunities to share the Gospel every day without fear of reprisal. We also have the freedom to coordinate international mission work on an incredible scale. Despite the decline in Christian culture in the United States in recent decades we still send more missionaries abroad than almost any other nation. While it is absolutely true that the church is thriving in countries where it faces persecution (particularly China) Christian communities are also being obliterated in places like Syria (that not incidentally, has terrible leadership). Good leaders who foster the development and preservation of free and open societies are a boon to the proclamation of the Gospel.
For these reasons, we need to earnestly pray for President Obama and President-Elect Trump, not to mention the many other people in elected office in our country as well as abroad. Although people in power can often seem unmovable and set in their (sometimes wicked) ways, we must not shirk the command of our Lord and we can always draw inspiration from the truth that “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. (James 5:16)”