Only the most partisan person would begrudge prayers for the president of the United States, but a recent visit by President Trump to the mega McLean Bible Church in Virginia has rubbed some congregants the wrong way.
The White House informed the church with only a few minutes notice that the president would be coming to the service after finishing a round of golf at a nearby course. It was a Sunday on which some Christian leaders had called for special prayers for the president and others wished to pray for the victims and relatives in the recent shooting in Virginia Beach.
The service was already underway when the president arrived. The pastor, Reverend David Platt, invited him to the platform. Platt placed his hand on the president's back and with their eyes closed and heads bowed, Platt addressed God: “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.”
Platt added a prayer for Congress, the courts, state and local governments, which, it should be noted, include members of both parties and a few independents.
The prayer for the president led some in the congregation to complain that Platt was endorsing Trump's policies and possibly his personae. After hearing about the grumbling, Platt issued a statement effectively apologizing to those who felt “hurt.” The problem wasn't with Platt's nonpolitical prayer; the problem was with those congregants who were offended.
Platt was following the commands written by the Apostle Paul: “I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be offered on behalf of all men, for kings and all those in authority ... this is good and pleasing in the sight of God our savior...” (1 Timothy 2:1-3).
This was written at a time when the Roman government cruelly dominated much of the known world. Paul wrote it after the crucifixion of Jesus on orders from Pontius Pilate, an officer of Rome, while he, himself, was unjustly imprisoned under that same civil authority.
If Paul could instruct fellow believers to pray for even despotic dictators, given his circumstances, how can contemporary Christians complain when a pastor follows his instructions?
At my own church in the Maryland suburbs, the president, vice president, Congress and state and local officials are prayed for every Sunday, no matter their party or policies. I once shared that information with President Obama, who responded, “Please, thank the congregation.” If, as Scripture teaches, all authority is from God, then Christians don't get to pick and choose for whom they should pray based on who they voted for, or their policies. All means all.
As Paul wrote elsewhere, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1)
There is no question that faith in some quarters has become too political and government has become too secular with many politicians behaving as gods unto themselves. All the more reason to pray for leaders and for Christians to contemplate what Jesus said as He stood before Pilate: “My Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36)
Rev. Platt did the right thing. He should ignore the complaints and ask those who were offended what they think of the verses cited above. Maybe the grumblers should spend more time in Sunday school, learning the Scriptures in which they claim to believe with no “cherry-picking” allowed.