Way back in 2007 I wrote Have You Prayed for Paris Hilton? At the time, this celebrity was everywhere in the news and, in fact, in jail. I just pulled my post out of the unpublished archives and republished it because it ties in with what I’m going to say today.
I’d appreciate it if you would take the time to read the older post first in order to understand this one more fully in context. I’m not writing this post today in a politically motivated vacuum and, as you will see, this isn’t the first time I’ve addressed this kind of subject.
Praying for Your Country’s Leaders
I’ve had today’s post about praying for your country’s leaders written in my head for about a month, but hadn’t had time to sit down and type it up while we were doing the website redesign. I realized it was an appropriate time to do so when when I found out about the controversy regarding Pastor David Platt praying for President Trump in church. Now that I’ve quit Facebook and ditched Twitter, I am blissfully unaware of the various controversies du jour that rage with mind-numbing daily (and sometimes hourly) regularity until I happened upon a mention of it on a blog.
If you were busy living your own quiet simple life and were also unaware, here are a few links to check out:
- Statement by David Platt to his church
- On Platt and Priorities from Reformation 21
- Praying for a President Is Not that Radical: Platt, Prayer, and Polarization from Christianity Today
Short story even shorter:
- President Trump stopped unexpectedly at David Platt’s church and asked for prayer.
- Platt had a couple of minutes to decide what to do.
- Platt invited the POTUS onto the stage, prayed Scripture over President, clearly articulated the Gospel, and witnessed to Trump.
- Predictable meltdown ensued on social media because every. stinking. thing. that happens nowadays seems to require massive amounts of fallout.
This is what Platt prayed:
O God, we praise you as the one universal king over all. You are our leader and our Lord and we worship you. There is one God and one Savior—and it’s you, and your name is Jesus. And we exalt you, Jesus. We know we need your mercy. We need your grace. We need your help. We need your wisdom in our country. And so we stand right now on behalf of our president, and we pray for your grace and your mercy and your wisdom upon him.
God, we pray that he would know how much you love him—so much that you sent Jesus to die for his sins, our sins—so we pray that he would look to you. That he would trust in you, that he would lean on you. That he would govern and make decisions in ways that are good for justice, and good for righteousness, and good for equity, every good path.
Lord we pray, we pray, that you would give him all the grace he needs to govern in ways that we just saw in 1 Timothy 2 that lead to peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way. God we pray for your blessing in that way upon his family. We pray that you would give them strength. We pray that you would give them clarity. Wisdom, wisdom, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Please, O God, give him wisdom and help him to lead our country alongside other leaders. We pray today for leaders in Congress. We pray for leaders in courts. We pray for leaders in national and state levels. Please, O God, help us to look to you, help us to trust in your Word, help us to seek your wisdom, and live in ways that reflect your love and your grace, your righteousness and your justice. We pray for your blessings on our president toward that end. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.
We are called to pray for others. We are called to witness to others. We are called to pray for our leaders.
That’s what David Platt did.
How I Pray When I Don’t Know What to Pray
There have been many times I have not known what to pray regarding leadership in my own country, especially the past ten years or so. But I know I can never ever go wrong with these prayers for my leaders. You can always pray the following for your leaders, wherever you live and whoever is in office.
- That they will be surrounded by wise counselors who will speak truth to them
- That they will turn to God and ask for the wisdom only He can provide
- That they will make choices that are best for the country and not their own gain
- That evil will be revealed and truth will triumph
- That evil wrong doers will be exposed and removed from positions of power and influence
- That if a leader does not know Christ as Savior and Lord, that the Holy Spirit will work to open his/her eyes to respond
I will hasten to add that sometimes I don’t even have the first idea what the wisdom, truth, and evil are in different situations. I’m not sitting there praying specific things that I want to see God do because sometimes I realize I have no idea what is going on behind the scenes.
But God does.
And if I am praying for righteousness in our land, I can never be praying wrong.
David and I started praying with Caroline about the 2016 election about a year and a half before Election Day. I had no idea why. I simply felt compelled to pray. I’ve never in my life prayed almost daily about a presidential election for an extended period of time. Ever. I never foresaw the outcome we got when I started praying. But I can honestly say that I prayed faithfully as I felt compelled and we modeled praying for God’s will to be done to Caroline.
We continue to pray because that is what we are commanded to do. When I don’t know what to pray, I stick to the basics – truth, wisdom, evil, and knowing Christ.
I asked people if they were praying for Paris Hilton twelve years ago because she said she was reading the Bible in jail and she had been to church. It doesn’t matter what we thought her motives might be. God is bigger than her motives whether they were right or wrong. She needed our prayers and we should have been praying for her. (I just looked up her Wikipedia entry and she apparently still needs our prayers.)
If it was true of Paris Hilton, it’s true of President Trump.
There were a couple of quotes in the things I linked to above that I thought were excellent. I want to make sure I keep them so I’m putting them here.
From Reformation 21:
But here’s the thing: in the Lord’s house, the greatest priority is to honor Christ, proclaim his lordship and orient the hearts of the congregants towards him. However I feel about a particular individual and whatever I think may have been ill motives on his part, all of that has to be subjected to the purpose for which we are gathered. Yes, Trump crashed a church service and quite possibly for his own political gain and photo op. But that doesn’t take away the priority of prayer and preaching the gospel that obviously took precedence for Platt. In his post-service statement that he issued in response to the pushback, he stated, “In that brief moment, I prayed specifically for an opportunity to speak the gospel to him, and for faithfulness to pray the gospel over him.” Aside from the fact that he was put on the spot (and perhaps we can give him the benefit of the doubt) I’m puzzled why a prayer that was so thoroughly gospel saturated and honored Christ as king would be so upsetting to God’s people, unless of course, our priorities are misplaced.
Sadly, the whole episode of the backlash quite possibly revealed that we have elevated other priorities over Christ’s redemption and kingdom purposes. What does it say that we cannot abide by prayer for a sinner that he would look to Jesus and govern wisely according to kingdom precepts? Have we elevated our disdain for Trump above the cause of Christ and the fact that he can turn the most wretched of human beings, or those we deem wretched, into his followers by softening the hardest hearts? When God gave his commands to Old Testament church in Exodus 20, the very first thing he told them (and us), “you shall have no other gods before me.” (Ex. 20:2). That means we give no other agenda above his and place his kingdom paradigm above any socio-political interest.
I can’t help but wonder if the underlying premise to the criticism is that we really don’t believe that Trump is deserving of God’s grace and mercy. The book of Jonah is instructive here. God told Jonah to bring a message to the Ninevites about turning their hearts towards him. Instead, Jonah did everything he could to avoid such a spectacle and begrudged the fact that God would ask such a thing. Just like Jonah, who qualified who should receive God’s grace and mercy, we might be saying the same thing disguised as anti-partisan interests. But here’s a telling clue: would we have the same reaction if the same situation happened and the same prayer was offered over former president Obama?
At the end of the day, our chief priority is to exalt Christ and his agenda. I believe Pastor David Platt did just that.
May we not be lax in asking God to reveal Himself to our leaders, showing them their need of a Savior and the wisdom that comes from the Holy Spirit.
And if the thought of a celebrity or political leader truly coming to saving knowledge of Christ upsets a Christian, then I think there is some serious soul searching that needs to be done.