Is it OK to pray for President Donald Trump’s defeat?
(OPINION) If someone thinks Trump is a bad president, is it right to pray for his defeat?
Let’s turn the question around. Will it be proper for others to pray for the defeat of the Democrats’ 2020 nominee? Does this change the answer?
The president has provoked the most ferocious pro-and-con political emotions in our lifetimes, so prayers inevitably result. That’s because prayer is a virtually universal phenomenon.
We all know the phrase “foxhole religion” about desperate situations. How many hardened unbelievers find themselves offering sincere prayers when their child is in the emergency room? Even under ordinary circumstances, Pew Research polling shows 55 percent of Americans say they pray every day, while an added 21 percent pray regularly but less frequently. Even one-fifth of those without any religious affiliation or identity pray daily!
There are countless accounts of favorable responses to prayer, yet how do we understand the many prayers left unanswered? Why do bad things happen to good people despite their prayers? Why do good things happen to evil people who never pray? What happens when, as with election 2020, people pray simultaneously for opposite results a la President Lincoln on the two sides in the Civil War: “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes his aid against the other.”
Mysteries abound. A veteran minister’s newsletter says after a “physical breakdown” and full medical testing last year, doctors concluded he was “exhausted by stress and worry.” He indeed faced major difficulties, but the diagnosis surprised him because he was praying so earnestly. He finally realized “I was simply worrying in the presence of God,” which “wore me out.” His health gradually improved after he learned to relax and simply pray for “strength to persevere,” with “peace in the assurance that God has heard me.”
These are among the most complex matters of the human heart, as ancient as the Bible’s Psalms and Book of Job (which provide us no neat formulas). I leave those questions to pastors and philosophers, and merely offers a journalist’s notes on what some have to say.
Prayers about elections during formal church services are usually non-partisan, though a parson may slip in a verbal wink to make sure that the Almighty – and the parishioners – know which candidate or party is preferable. Here are a couple pre-election prayers provided for communal worship:
From the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer:
“Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States (or of this community) in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”
From the U.S. Catholic bishops:
“We pray for discernment so that we may choose leaders who hear your Word, live your love, and keep in the ways of your truth as they follow in the steps of Jesus and his Apostles and guide us to your kingdom of justice and peace.” The full text takes on a programmatic flavor with expressed concern for victims of poverty and for “children unborn,” but without designating candidates or parties.”
The United Methodist Church’s Book of Worship has a post-election prayer that includes this: “Give to the people of our country zeal for justice and strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will. Forgive our shortcomings as a nation; purify our hearts to see and love the truth.”
Noble thoughts, but generalized, whereas some people seek a highly specific outcome and in private prayer.
This piece first appeared at Get Religion.