Last week, Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi was asked by a reporter the question “Do you hate the president?”
Her response was passionate, knowing that her motivations had been misconstrued:
“…as a Catholic, I resent your using the word ‘hate’ in a sentence that addresses me. I don’t hate anyone. I was raised in a way that is a heart full of love and always pray for the president. And I still pray for the president. I pray for the president all the time… So don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.”
The speaker prays for her political opponent. And this made me reflect on my life.
How many times in the past year have I prayed for those who I politically disagree? Even more importantly, how many times have I prayed for people who have knowingly hurt others? I know the answer.
I don’t want to spend my time in prayer for this person! There are so many more deserving people who need my prayer!
What if our leaders lack integrity at every turn? What if they capture refugees and keep them in cages? What if children are separated from their families? What if disabled people are mocked and women are dehumanized and the Powers laugh about having their way with them?
Do I still have to pray?
What if they brag about what they can get away with, stating they can do what they want and have evidence building that they extorting another country?
Do I still have to pray?
Scripture gives us little wiggle room on this topic. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Jesus explicitly states the following:
“‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
We are given no exception – we must pray for our leaders whether we agree with them or not and whether or not they are just and loving leaders.
Admittedly, as a Christian, I am torn in how I send this energy to the president. I am angry at unjust actions and attitudes. And yet, I know that he is a child of God, made in the image of God, and because of this, he needs our prayers too. While he does not yet see how others are children of God, I must recognize this about him and pray that he can awaken to God’s call in his life. And I repent that there have been times I have not wanted to pray for the leader of my country.
Growing up in the Episcopal Church, praying for the president was always a piece of the weekly liturgy. The president was indicated by his first name as we prayed for a number of people in power.
The Episcopal Church has provided this prayer on their online Book of Common Prayer site:
O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We
commend this nation to thy merciful care, that, being guided
by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant
to the President of the United States, the Governor of this
State (or Commonwealth), and to all in authority, wisdom
and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the
love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful
of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus
Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the
Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
Fellow RevGal and member of the United Church of Christ national staff Rev. Rachel Hackenberg wrote this prayer in her January 4, 2019 UCC Daily Devotional:
“We pray for rulers and royalty, for presidents and parliaments, that those in leadership might love the work of peace more than the work of war.”
And in her January 3, 2017 UCC Daily Devotional, Rev. Talitha Arnold reminds us the Psalm 72 gives us a prayer for those in power: “the Psalmist encourages the people to pray for the leader: ‘May prayer be made for the ruler continually, and blessings invoked all day long.'”
People of all traditions, theologies, and political perspectives pray for the Powers That Be. While the prayers may sound a bit different and our hopes focused in different ways, most of us dream of a country which is healthy and just for all.
And in the process of praying for the Powers That Be, we hope for the transformation of our hearts as well. May we stand firm in our work for justice, and may we pray for the shift in mindset for the ones who do not stand for justice for all.
The Rev. Michelle L. Torigian is the Senior Pastor of St. Paul United Church of Christ, Belleville, Illinois. Her essay “Always a Pastor, Never the Bride” was in the RevGalBlogPals book There’s a Woman in the Pulpit. She also has chapters in the books Sacred Habits: The Rise of the Creative Clergy and A Child Laughs: Prayers for Justice and Hope. Torigian blogs at http://www.michelletorigian.com.
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