Let Me Get This Right: Partisanship Has Become So Poisonous We Shouldn’t Even Pray for the President Anymore?

Written by Steve Pauwels on June 11, 2019

How about this for a church sign motto: “Come In, Let Us Pray for You — Unless Some People in Our Congregation Object”?

Apparently that’s pretty close to what some congregants would have preferred, as opposed to what actually happened a couple Sunday’s ago at one house of worship.

Two weeks ago, Franklin Graham, globally known evangelist and President of humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse, charged American churches to take a few moments to pray for President Donald Trump during their June 2 gatherings. That very Sunday morning in Vienna, Va. the Commander in Chief unexpectedly visited McLean Bible Church requesting the assembled take a moment to lift him before God. Pastor David Platt obliged, one hand resting on the president’s shoulder, one lifting an open Bible heavenward as he led his flock in heartfelt intercession for the man occupying the highest office in their land.

[W]e stand right now, on behalf of our president, and we pray for Your grace, and Your mercy, and Your wisdom upon him … 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. … [W]e pray that You would give him all the grace he needs to govern in ways we just saw in 1 Timothy, chapter 2 … [W]e pray that you give [his family] clarity, wisdom. … We pray today for leaders in Congress. … in courts. … at national and state levels. … Help us to seek Your wisdom and live in ways that reflect Your love … grace … righteousness and … justice. We pray for Your blessings on our president toward that end.

Initial takes on the moment seemed widely favorable. That changed, of course, rather quickly …

Turns out, not a few folks — including some in the body of Christ — took exception with Pastor Platt’s decision.

Those who know me, recognize I’m not an especial fan of the President — I agree with many of the policies he pushes, but find myself appalled at least weekly by his crude, unpresidential behavior. I’m also convinced the “conservative”/Evangelical church has drastically damaged its reputation by uncritically gushing over the man regardless of what he says or how he conducts himself.

Nonetheless, a gathering of the people of God is handed an opportunity to beseech God’s direction for and personal involvement with the most powerful governmental figure on the planet, and some believers insist they should’ve taken a pass? Come on, is this a spoof? Surely, the reports can’t be serious.

Startlingly, they evidently are.

Talk about missing the point.

Even if some professing Christians hate Donald Trump (and by the way, shame on them; Jesus-followers are not supposed to hate anybody), the Scriptures enjoin “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you” (Matthew 5:44). Strikes me that alone should merit their praying for him — or any human being with whom they differ or clash.

On top of that, the Bible — the church-going gripers take their cues from that book, correct? — pointedly directs: “I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior” (1 Timothy 2:1-3 NKJV).

So there’s that. And, importantly, during his prayer with the president and in a follow-up explanation to his people, Platt cited that scriptural exhortation.

Some people took Franklin Graham to task for his original “Special Day of Prayer” announcement, complaining it was too political. Indeed, I agree initially it was tainted — slightly — by an unfortunate partisan tone. “President Trump’s enemies continue to try everything to destroy him, his family, and the presidency.” A reasonable person could read in that phrasing a pandering vibe; Trump-is-great-and-those-who-disagrees-with-him-are-evil rhetoric camouflaged in religious talk.

Glad to report the sixty-six-year-old Christian leader quickly clarified his rally cry was not and should not be taken as an endorsement of the President.

All that said, Graham’s call has little to do with David Platt’s moment in the spotlight anyway. The spirit and content of the latter’s intercession for DT was perfect. Like all of us, Trump does need a vibrant, growing relationship with Jesus Christ. He does need God’s guidance and wisdom for his duties which impact not only this nation, but the international scene; he does need the fear of the Lord upon him. Shouldn’t disciples of Jesus Christ devoutly desire that God answer these supplications and steer our Chief Executive’s heart to follow Him in every way?

Some knock the incident because they question Trump’s motives: Why did he wander into that assembly? Only a manipulative photo op for his “Christian Right” enthusiasts?

Who knows?

I can’t authoritatively intuit the President’s reasons for showing up on McClean Bible Church’s doorstep, but it was an unmistakable set-up from Heaven for Christian people to have a positive impact on him. I can’t imagine rejecting that plainly God-appointed opportunity.

No denying, there’s lots to criticize about the Trump-worshiping tone which has co-opted hefty chunks of America’s Bible-believing and traditionalist Catholic communities. Our President would be greatly benefited by something more than Scripture-quoting sycophants in the Oval Office. (1 Kings 22 relates a particularly instructive account of a monarch surrounded by fawning boot-lickers on one side and, on the other, confronted by a single, truth-speaking prophet who tells him what he needs to hear even though he doesn’t want to hear it. Guess whose side God is on?)

Clearly, however, some of the Trump-despising set have their own issues to reconsider if they are antagonistic even toward the notion of the church’s publicly “standing in the gap” for him.

Pray for Donald Trump? That’s a no-brainer for anyone who’s convinced when God’s people seek Him together it makes a difference. Moreover, beyond an occasional Sunday AM, everyone ought to continue doing so, in unadorned obedience to Holy Writ.

By the way, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Donald Trump’s legions of official adversaries need our concerned and prayerful attention as well.

Images: Modified from: https://donkpreston.com/christians-need-to-stop-praying/

Steve Pauwels is pastor of Church of the King, Londonderry, NH and host of Striker Radio with Steve Pauwels on the Red State Talk Radio Network. He's also husband to the lovely Maureen and proud father of three fine sons: Mike, Sam and Jake.