It’s election season again. During these times, it can be easy for us as Christians to get caught up in the verbal abuse of candidates instead of praying and blessing our governmental leaders like the Bible calls us to.
Here are a few helpful tips on how to better pray for our president.
(Note: I will be writing this article around President Obama, our current president)
Some of my favorite verses in the Bible are Matthew 5:3-7:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
These verses are key to us praying rightly and effectively for our president. These beatitudes are a progression. I talked about this progression before:
Being “poor in spirit” is simply to realize where you would be without the mercy and grace of God. It is a realization that you cannot save yourself and you are forever doomed without God intervening into your life. The next step is to mourn that you are living for far less than what God wants for your life (Matthew 5:4). After that happens, when you realize who you are apart from God and you mourn consistently for all the things you do apart from God…true meekness and humility set in (Matthew 5:5). Something comes over you that you realize that there is no judgment or consequence you don’t deserve. That causes a hungering and thirsting for God to start in your life (note: the true realization of weakness always draws us closer to the Sufficient One) and you start desiring God above all else (Matthew 5:6, 6:33) and then because of the hunger and because of the true humility…you are compassionate towards people. You feel for them. You desire mercy for those in the struggle and you pray and long for mercy for those who don’t want to struggle anymore.
I also stated a huge outcome that comes out of following these beatitudes:
We stop judging and start giving mercy to others (deserving or not) in view of our need for mercy.
I find that many of our prayers and comments that we use towards President Obama come from a place of pride. Somehow, we forget our sinful nature, our helpless state apart from Christ, and start judging the president for his. We become like the Pharisee in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector.
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14 ESV)
God calls us to pray for our president out of humility in view of our (and his) need for mercy.
I am a huge fan of praying the Bible. When we pray the Word (in correct context), we pray the perfect will of God. The problem comes when we start taking verses out of context and twisting their meaning.
I’ll use Psalm 109:8 as a example. This is a verse that is often quoted and prayed about President Obama from many Republicans/Tea-Partiers. Here is what it says:
May his days be few; may another take his office! (Psalm 109:8 ESV)
This, on the surface, looks like a great Biblical prayer to pray for a president you don’t like. There are a few issues with this though. First, this verse does nothing to bless or help our president. It’s the equivalent of praying for someone to get fired. It’s not mercy, it’s judgment. Secondly, and most importantly, it is a verse taken completely (and wrongly) out of context. Let’s look at what that portion of Scripture is talking about.
Appoint a wicked man against him; let an accuser stand at his right hand. When he is tried, let him come forth guilty; let his prayer be counted as sin! May his days be few; may another take his office! May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow! May his children wander about and beg, seeking food far from the ruins they inhabit! May the creditor seize all that he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil! Let there be none to extend kindness to him, nor any to pity his fatherless children! May his posterity be cut off; may his name be blotted out in the second generation! May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD, and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out! Let them be before the LORD continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth! For he did not remember to show kindness, but pursued the poor and needy and the brokenhearted, to put them to death. He loved to curse; let curses come upon him! He did not delight in blessing; may it be far from him! He clothed himself with cursing as his coat; may it soak into his body like water, like oil into his bones! May it be like a garment that he wraps around him, like a belt that he puts on every day! May this be the reward of my accusers from the LORD, of those who speak evil against my life! (Psalm 109:6-20 ESV)
This will not be a popular statement, but if you quote verse 8 towards Obama, you are wishing (consciously or not) this entire portion of Scripture on him. I think we all can agree that this portion of Scripture should never be praying towards another human being before the mark of the beast. Yet, because we don’t strive to be contextual or positive in our prayers, we say and pray things that are totally against God’s heart for the president.
The Bible is not meant to be a weapon used by our anger and self-righteousness. It is a guide on how to effectively touch God’s heart. Let’s remember mercy in all our prayers and use verses that correctly, and contextually, help give words to that end.
Pray more for the person instead of the issue
I fear that many of us tend to focus on a particular issue than about the person who is behind the issue. The reason why this is a problem is because God always cares about the person, but may or may not care about the issue. God cares more about the soul of our president than He does for universal healthcare. We have made lesser things the major things we focus on.
I also think that most of our prayers are about wisdom more than salvation, mercy or revelation. Now I think praying for our president to have wisdom is a great prayer, but it is a short-term prayer. A person can only be president for a decade at the absolute longest. While his position will require much wisdom, those four or eight (or possibly ten) years will be quickly spent. What will happen to him then? What will happen after people stop praying for wisdom for him? What about his soul? Much better is it to pray for him to fall in love with Jesus and fear Him than it is to pray for wisdom alone. So pray for wisdom. Just don’t forget about the eternal.
To help show how these three points work together, here are a few short 15-second prayers for President Obama. These prayers are taken from Ephesians 1:17-18, 2 Peter 3:9, Timothy 2:1-4 and others.
- Father, I thank You for President Obama. I pray that You would give Him a spirit of wisdom and revelation…so that he would know Jesus better. Open the eyes of his heart. Enlighten them to the glory of the cross of Jesus. Make Yourself known to him. Visit him, speak to Him, reveal Yourself to him. In Jesus’ name, amen.
- Father, I thank you that you are as patient towards President Obama as you are to me. You don’t desire any to perish but that all would come to repentance. So I ask that You would draw him closer to You. Convict his heart with Your truth and give him the grace to respond. Continue pouring out your mercy and patience on him. In Jesus’ name, amen.
- Father, grant President Obama peace, both temporally by calming stress and frustration in his life and eternally by leading him to find the peace that Your Son purchased on the cross. Protect him from wicked men. Put godly men of influence (Daniels, Josephs, etc.) in his life and on his staff. Bless his family. Keep them healthy and safe. Use the Obamas to glorify Your Name in the earth. In Jesus’ name, amen.