It’s election time. That means it is also time for followers of Jesus, taking Paul’s advice, to pray for our elected officials and our electoral process. It is also time for us to discern how, and if, we will engage in the electoral process. So in the spirit of a call to prayer, let me offer these guidelines…
- First, only pray for God’s guidance if you are truly open to such guidance. Too often people say they are praying for God’s guidance when they are really asking God to confirm their preferences. If you are not open to changing your mind, you are not truly praying for guidance – it’s that simple. If you are an Obama supporter, are you truly open to pulling the lever for Romney? If you are a Romney supporter, are you really open to pulling the lever for Obama? How about one of the third party candidates that most of us have never heard of? If God tells you to, will you vote for the socialist party candidate? If not, there’s no sense in asking God for guidance.
- Second, only pray that God will deliver us from the wrong leaders if you don’t already have in mind who those wrong leaders are (and you are willing to accept the losing candidates as the wrong leaders). This is similar to point one. Too often people ask God to deliver us from the wrong leaders. Then, when their guy loses, they conclude that their prayer wasn’t answered, people aren’t faithful enough, not enough people prayed, or we’re just too wicked as a nation to hear God clearly. Unless you are ready to accept that a possible answer to this prayer is that “your guy” is the wrong leader, don’t pray this prayer.
- Third, only pray that our nation will listen to the truth and not be led astray if you haven’t decided who is already telling the truth (and who isn’t) and which path we should be walking down. This is a lot like points one and two. Too often, people already have their minds made up as to what they believe the truth to be and which way we should go as a country BEFORE they ever pray. When that is the case, prayer becomes an exercise in asking God to agree with you (which, coincidently, God often does). Truly trusting God in this prayer means being open to the possibility that “your guy” isn’t telling the whole truth and “your path” isn’t the path that is best for most. If you can do that, then by all means, pray away!
- Fourth, please pray that those who trust in the Lord will not have that trust shaken. OR, put another way, PLEASE PRAY THAT PEOPLE OF FAITH WILL KNOW THAT GOD IS GOD NO MATTER WHO IS ELECTED PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. It’s pretty arrogant to think that our trust in God – GOD! – could be shattered because our preferred political candidate didn’t get elected in what is, by all accounts, a pretty messed up electoral process. Please tell me you haven’t placed all your hopes in God’s ability to rig an election?
- Fifth, please only pray that God would defeat those who have no regard for him in this election IF…you guessed it…you haven’t already decided in your mind who the godless candidate(s) is(are). The problem with most of these requests isn’t the request themselves, it is that people already think they know the answer before the prayer is even offered. Do you want God’s guidance or do you want your already held beliefs confirmed? If it’s the first, then pray away, if it’s the latter than realize your prayer for guidance isn’t really a prayer for guidance.
- Sixth, I don’t even know what to say to those who believe God chooses presidents. If that is the case, and God’s vote trumps all others, isn’t it logical to conclude that whoever gets elected is God’s choice? If that is true, shouldn’t Christians be supportive of whoever wins? And don’t quote Daniel 2:20 – 22 to me – that says that God sets up kings and deposes them, it doesn’t say that he sets up EVERY KING and deposes them. If it did then we’d have God to thank for Stalin, Pol Pot, Hitler, Hussein and so on and so on.
- Seventh, this is what I’d pray: Pray that God’s people will be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Pray also that God’s people will enter the political fray with the good news of the kingdom of God and not become blinded by partisan loyalties. God’s people are only salt and light when they proclaim – in word and deed – the good news of the kingdom of God which was taught and modeled by Jesus of Nazareth.