When Franklin Graham originally pitched the idea of a National
Day of Prayer for Donald Trump, he did so with a partisan bent. However, when the
president walked into a Virginia church on Sunday morning, the pastor there
delivered a perfect nonpartisan prayer for Trump and congressional leaders.
on May 26 contained a video in which he said, “I don’t believe any
president in the history of this nation has been attacked more than Donald
Trump… If he succeeds, we all benefit, but if his enemies are allowed to
destroy him and pull down the presidency it will hurt our entire nation.” The
implication from Graham, who has warned that impeachment could spark a civil
war, was that Christians should pray for Trump to triumph over his enemies
although he did later tell the Christian
Post, “My prayer is not an endorsement of the president.”
Imagine then, the pressure that a pastor would feel if the Trump,
clad in a sport coat over golf attire, walked into his church on a day that was designated
as a day of prayer for the president. The tension and awkwardness would be
especially bad if said president visited a church in a state that he had lost
and where he remains unpopular. Trump’s approval
among evangelicals remains higher than with other Christian groups, but a
large minority is critical of the president. Introducing politics into churches
is a recipe for division and distraction from the true mission of the church,
that of spreading the gospel and saving souls.
That was the case when President Trump visited the McLean Bible Church just outside of Washington, D.C. It would have been easy for Pastor David Platt to flatter the president by beseeching the Almighty to smite his enemies and bestow a second term upon him. Alternatively, he could have used the opportunity to slam the president with a prayer like the one many evangelicals prayed for Barack Obama that cited Psalm 109:8. Either course would have reflected poorly on the church and introduced unnecessary conflict within the church.
What Pastor Platt did was to embrace the spirit of what a presidential day of prayer should be. Despite Graham’s overtly partisan tone in announcing the day of prayer, subsequent advertisements referenced 1 Timothy 2:1-2, in which Paul instructed Timothy, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
That is what Pastor Platt did. With one hand on the president’s back and the other holding an open Bible, here is what Platt prayed:
“Oh 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. Your name is Jesus and we exalt you, Jesus.
“And 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 we just saw in 1 Timothy, chapter 2, that will 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 give them clarity, wisdom.
“Wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Fools despise wisdom and instruction. Please, oh 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 at national and state levels.
“Please, oh 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’ name we pray. Amen.”
Platt’s prayer was Biblical and nonpartisan. It would be
difficult to find fault with his request that the president be blessed with wisdom,
grace, and divine guidance. It was a unifying, non-political prayer of the sort
that could be prayed in good conscience by any American Christian, regardless
of political affiliation.
Post reports that Trump mouthed the words “thank you” and left the stage
without giving a speech after the prayer.
All in all, Platt’s moment with the president was a
much-needed respite from the neverending world of politics. His prayer accepted
that, for good or bad, Donald Trump is the president and is in need of God’s
help. We are left with no idea of the pastor’s political views. And that is as
it should be.