In April of 2017, I shared with a fellow Seattle pastor that I pray for President Trump every morning. He quizzed me, “How’s that working for you?” I replied, “It has nothing to do with me; it’s what I feel called to do.” And so, I’ve followed through on this commitment, praying at least five days a week for Mayor Durkan, our city council, Governor Inslee, the state legislature, the U.S. Congress and, yes, our President. I think my clergy colleague was really asking me “Why? Why pray for President Trump?” Here’s my response to him and any Seattle-ite who cannot fathom praying for this man.
First, I pray for Donald Trump because he is our President, which means he is my President. I know it’s trendy to say, “he’s not my President.” And I get the sentiment, but it sounds so adolescent to me, that when my candidate loses I get to declare my loyalty to my tribe at the expense of my loyalty to the American democratic project. Democracy involves losing but does not sanction taking my marbles and to play somewhere else.
Second, I pray for our President because I think Christians are called to pray for civic leaders as a recognition that we don’t follow Jesus in a vacuum, but only in a particular time and a particular place. The instruction of God in Jeremiah 29 to “seek the welfare/shalom of the city” involves praying for that city and its leaders, and this, by extension,applies to our our country as well.
Third, I pray for our President because he needs it. It is a tough job. No one is thoroughly gifted and equipped to be President in any historical setting. And Mr. Trump, I’m showing my political cards here, does not seem particularly equipped to lead us as a country. He’s equipped to shake things up, to sell an idea, to galvanize economic growth, but in some other areas he needs, not only human help, but divine. I pray for his physical and mental health, for sound voices to have his ear, and that God’s Kingdom would rule in his life and decisions. I believe, and this will shock a lot of Seattle-ites, that the more successful our President is, the better off the country will be.
Finally, I pray for our President because I need to. I’ll be honest, I did not vote for Mr. Trump. He lost my vote the second he launched his campaign with the most racist rhetoric I have heard in a long time. I detest his style of diplomacy abroad and at home. In my opinion, he does not lead, but divides. His inability to weather criticism betrays great weakness at his core. But I know I must pray for our President because if I don’t I’ll become one more casualty to America’s nose dive into tribal dissection and cynicism. Praying for Mr. Trump brings me into the practice of Jesus’ essential teaching on those we oppose, “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). In Ameriwca, we accelerate into hating others too quickly; we need the counter cultural counter move of prayer.
So, how then, is praying for the President working for me? It’s forming me and that’s a good thing.
How’s it working for you? Of course, you first must pray for the President to find out.
But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. – Jeremiah 29:7