|How I Pray for the President
From Pastor Chris
When Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world,” he affirmed that he is a political figure while relativizing the politics of his day. Whether Pharisaical scuffles or Roman intrigue in high places, Jesus refused to get sucked into the whirlpool of outrage and dissent. Like the parent whose answer to “whose block tower is better?” is “I have to make lunch,” Jesus transcended the squabbles. He had bigger fish to fry—a divine, eternal kingdom to display and declare.
As Jesus’ followers, we are called to maintain this kingdom vision as we navigate the increasingly chaotic waters of American politics. With the ascendency of our new president, the whirlpool has never been broader or more forceful. The waters of social media, political outrage, social displacement, and the choice between two deeply problematic presidential candidates have converged to create a vortex that is difficult to avoid. Whether we feel outrage toward President Trump or his opponents, how can we follow our Lord above the fray?
My answer is nothing novel: we pray. We obey Paul’s command to pray “for kings and all who are in high positions” (1 Timothy 2:2). I cannot dictate how all Christians should do this, but I will share how God has convicted me to pray for President Trump.
My starting point is not President Trump’s politics but his character. To cut to the chase, Donald Trump is a proud man. One journalist who spent time with the candidate during the Republican primaries wrote, “Trump might be the single most self-involved yet least introspective person I have ever met in my life, in or out of politics. I’m guessing he would say this is a good quality in a president. It spares him unglamorous dilemmas. But it’s unsettling to encounter a prospective leader whose persona is so conspicuous and well defined and yet whose core is so obtuse.”*
This description has been borne out in President Trump’s speeches, tweets, and interviews. He is the personification of self-aggrandizement. He is the brand. He has marketed himself to the American people as the supreme negotiator who alone can drain the swamp and fix the Washington political system. His persona and his promises are captured in his favorite word, “Huge.”
To be clear, a proud leader is nothing new to human civilization. From the Tower of Babel to Pharaoh’s face-off with Yahweh to Nebuchadnezzar’s “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power?” human rulers have believed their over-inflated PR. Yet these accounts share a theme. God shows up to display his power and puts the leader in his place. The tower project is abandoned, the Egyptian army is drowned, and the Babylonian dictator is off chewing grass in a field.
So my prayer for my president is simple: “Lord, humble him.” The longer version goes something like this: “Make yourself known to him and lay him low. Transform this Saul into a Paul. Grant him to know his spiritual bankruptcy. May he see in the crucified Christ the punishment his sin deserves and the divine love he does not. May he repent and receive forgiveness and eternal life. Change his tone from brash to broken. Would the whole world that has seen his self-importance be shocked when they see his humility. Exalt the power of Christ to save and use our president as a force for justice and mercy in our world.”
The funny thing about praying for God to humble the pride of another is that the Spirit turns a spotlight on my own pride. As Paul asked the Corinthians, “Who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7) And I am back on my knees, this time for myself.
I do not know what the next four years will hold politically. But I do know that in four million years God will still be on his throne, his praises alone will be sung, and this period in American politics will be a faint blip at best. Let us make the best use of the time and pray that God would bring about a transformation of eternal significance in the life of our president and our nation.