Why do I pray for President Donald J. Trump? I pray for him for the same reason I prayed for President Barack H. Obama for his eight years. I pray for him for the same reasons I would have been praying for Senator Hillary R. Clinton had she been elected.
Simply put, it’s what Christians are instructed to do. The Apostle Paul wrote to young Timothy, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (2 Timothy 2:1-2 NIV).
We don’t have kings in the United States, of course, just as they didn’t have presidents in Roman-occupied territory in St. Paul’s day. But we do have presidents and we certainly have men and women who are in positions of authority.
Now, I have no expectation that people who reject the authority of scripture will find it necessary to give heed to Paul’s instruction in this or any other matter. But for those who do wear the label of Christian and who do put their faith and belief in scripture, then one must either comply with, ignore, or actively disobey the admonition to pray for those in authority. And this includes prayer for the President of the United States, whomever he or she may be.
Liturgical/Sacramental believers may have a bit of an advantage over those who are not simply because there are both ancient and modern prayers composed to assist in this, and other, endeavors. For example, there is this from the Episcopal Church Book of Common Prayer:
“A Prayer for the President of the United States
“O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We commend this nation to your merciful care, that, being guided by your Providence, we may dwell secure in your peace. Grant to the President of the United States, the Governor of this State, and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do your will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in your fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.” (Book of Common Prayer 1979, p. 820)
As far back as the 19th century, prayers were being offered for the American President by a Bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church, as this snippet attests: “The New York Times records on November 25, 1870, that ‘services were conducted by Bishop PAUL, formerly Bishop of Alaska, who is on his way to Russia, to assume his new position as Bishop of Siberia. Rev. Mr. BJERRING also officiated. The litany was said by the Bishop, while prayers for the Emperor and Empress of Russian, and for the President and people of the United States were offered by the pastor.’”
Proverbs 21:1 states that, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes” (NASB). Another way of stating this is that God can change the heart of a leader and can influence the leader’s decisions whether or not the leader is even a believer in God.
It is my observation that a leader can either be used to be a blessing to the people and nation or to be a chastisement for the people and nation. More often than not, it takes the passage of time to judge what type of leader – a blessing or a chastisement – the person in office was.
In his own time, Abraham Lincoln was despised and hated by most of the people in the South and by not a few people in the North. History has vindicated him. On the other hand, history has not been kind to President Andrew Jackson, who, though widely admired by many of his contemporaries, is now despised by many who believe that his treatment of Native Americans reeks of genocide.
Thus, since we do not know what kind of leader this person will eventually be shown to be, and because biblical Christians believe that all authority comes from God and is ultimately delegated by God (“For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” Romans 13:1b), believers are to pray for that person who holds the authority.
This may have been a hard pill to swallow for the believers in ancient Rome. After all, the authorities to which Paul referred were the Caesars and those under his appointment. Paul is advocating that Christians pray for the very people who will launch fierce persecution against them. But emotion and even logic are not to rule the believer, rather, they are to be led by faith and obedience.
Three years ago, after the election of Donald Trump, All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Calif. (The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles), announced it was going to suspend prayers for the President by name during Sunday morning worship. Here is the reason they gave:
“Members of Pasadena’s All Saints Episcopal Church have removed the proper names from their prayers for ‘people in authority’ because praying for President-Elect Donald Trump by name might cause trauma to some people,” its Rector said. “We are in a unique situation in my lifetime where we have a president elect whose name is literally a trauma trigger to some people – particularly women and people who, because of his words and actions, he represents an active danger to health and safety,” All Saints Church Rector Mike Kinman said in the church blog … “Whereas before we prayed for ‘Barack, our president,’ we are now praying for ‘our president, our president-elect, and all others in authority.’ This practice will continue for at least the near future,” Kinman wrote.
The rector, in my estimation, robbed his people of the opportunity to grow in grace, to be obedient to scripture, and to trust God in faith. The rector ignored the scripture on his own authority and gave in to people’s feelings — which is always risky business. It was wrong and churches that refused to pray for President Barack Obama during his term were just as wrong.
It doesn’t matter, at least as far as obedient prayer goes, who the President is or what political party he or she represents. Christians are instructed to pray for all in authority, and this is not limited to just the government or the presidents. To do otherwise is something other than Christian.
Is this to say that we must agree with the President? No, certainly not. I was and am strongly opposed to President Obama’s support of abortion. I believe it is a moral issue and not a political one. But I prayed for Mr. Obama, nonetheless.
There is much about President Trump and his behavior that is problematic. But he is the President and I will pray for him. If I have any hope or expectation “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness,” then I must fulfill my part. And so must the rest of the Church. Whatever those outside the Christian faith will do is up to them. They are not the influencers of my decisions and actions. That is why I pray for President Donald J. Trump.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA between Newnan and Peachtree City (www.ctk.life). He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South which consists of Georgia and Tennessee and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at email@example.com.]