Sunday, September 18, 2016

Year C, Proper 20, 1 Timothy 2.1-7, Praying for the President

"First of all, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity."  1 Timothy 2:1

"Preserve our nation in justice and honor, that we may lead a peaceable life of integrity.  Grant health and favor to all who bear office in our land especially to the President of the United States, the Governor of this State, and all those who make, administer, and judge our laws and help them to serve this people according to your holy will."  (Lutheran Book of Worship, page 52)

This is one of the petitions of "The Prayer of the Church" that used to be offered every Sunday in our congregations.  If I recall correctly from my youth, the variation used at that time specifically named the President and the Governor.  There is something to be said for this discipline of prayer that the Church used to observe.

Today, I miss that discipline.  I fear our partisan politics have crept into our worship such that to even offer prayers for the President by name would be considered a political statement and unwelcome.  Worse yet is a sentiment that causes us to be hesitant at times to pray for the "health and favor" of the President, and that he/she might "serve this people according to your will".  This is true, I believe, of both sides of the isle.  Liberals are likely to be as hesitant to offer prayers for Donald Trump, as conservatives will be to offer prayers for Hillary Clinton.  

Shame on us.  

The historical backdrop of the early Christian Church was that of persecution from the State.  Imagine the early Christians following this mandate from 1 Timothy and lifting up the Emperor Nero in the midst of the first persecutions of the Christians.  There would have been a self serving motive:  We pray for them, that WE may lead a quiet and peaceable life. .  ."  And we might add, not be subject to death by lions in the coliseum.

That said, I wonder if one of the most important public ministries that we have as a Church is the prayers we offer on behalf of our President and our nation.  And yes, I believe that even the  most conservative among us should pray fervently for President Obama, as the most liberal among us should have prayed for President Bush.  

It is for the sake of the office that they hold, that we lift them up in prayer, not because of our agreement or disagreement with their political positions.  In offering our prayers, we do so remembering also Paul's word to the Romans:  "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God."  There are Presidents, because it is in accord with his will and by his institution.  They serve a divine purpose.  And our prayers are that they may be effective in carrying out that purpose.

In this Spirit, our prayers should be that each President be as effective in office as they can possibly be, for the sake of the nation, without regard to our personal political positions.  This runs entirely counter to the partisan politics of today, where every effort is made to thwart and impede the work of an opposing party President.  And again, I am convinced this is true of both sides of the isle.  

We are in an election year and many across our land despair regarding the choices.  For the Christian this concern ought to motivate us to be even more fervent in prayer on behalf of whomever is elected.  Again, it is our ministry to pray that they may "serve this people according to your holy will".  

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