Donald John Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday, Jan. 20.
Regardless of who we voted for, it is imperative for people of faith to pray for our new president and for other local, state and national leaders.
Our nation will be recovering for quite some time from one of the most negative and divisive election seasons in history.
However, there are other factors that make this election and forthcoming presidency unique and challenging:
1. Voters from both major parties “lacked enthusiasm” in their support of their party’s candidate.
2. Questions linger about hacking, tampering or outside interference from a foreign government.
3. This election marked the largest disparity between the popular vote and the electoral vote.
I mention this not to question the validity of the Electoral College vote, but simply to point out that neither party can claim that the election was a landslide or an overwhelming mandate.
4. There is, at a minimum, an uncomfortable relationship between the incoming president and key leaders within his own party.
These challenges underscore the reasons we need to pray for our newly elected president.
Praying for a leader is not the same as affirming or agreeing with his or her policies or character. I believe this is true whether we are praying for presidents, governors, mayors or pastors.
To pray for a leader is to affirm the power of God in providing guidance and to intercede for that leader to be receptive to God’s direction, to grow in their moral and ethical conviction and to govern or lead in the best interest of all people.
That is why people of faith from a variety of political perspectives can unite around the common mission of praying for our president.
I believe that the Bible specifically teaches us to pray for those in leadership. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 may be the most direct instruction.
The president needs our prayers, as every leader does.
Campaigns focus on rhetoric. Once a leader takes office, they are confronted with a “sobering moment” when they suddenly feel the weight of responsibility that comes with their charge.
Here are five specific petitions I am including in my prayer for the incoming president:
1. Pray for the president to become grounded in his faith.
Across the years, I have made it a practice to pray for every president to be grounded in his spiritual convictions, primarily because I believe a president will make wiser decisions when guided by his or her faith.
If our incoming president becomes grounded in his professed faith, I think it could revolutionize his leadership style and moral compass and enable him to serve with greater effectiveness.
2. Pray for the president’s family.
Both during a campaign and during a president’s tenure of service, his or her family undergoes an unimaginable degree of scrutiny. The pressure is immense, even for those accustomed to the limelight.
Pray for the president’s family members, and for the president’s family relationships to be fortified by patience, fidelity and discernment.
3. Pray for the president to be wise and discerning in making appointments.
Every appointment the president makes will be significant. Pray for the president to choose individuals of good reputation and moral courage. Many of these selections, especially those appointed to the Supreme Court, will serve for years to come.
4. Pray for the president to be prepared for an unexpected crisis.
Every president in my lifetime has not only carried the daily burden of responsibility of leading our great nation, but they have faced more than one abrupt and unanticipated crisis.
President Carter dealt with the Iran hostage situation. President Reagan survived an attempted assassination. President George H.W. Bush oversaw Operation Desert Storm. President Clinton addressed the ethnic wars of Bosnia and Kosovo.
President George W. Bush presided during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. President Obama served during the sequence of revolts and demonstrations called The Arab Spring.
Pray that the new president will be prepared to deal with any unexpected crisis that arises during his tenure.
5. Pray for the president to grow in his capacity to serve.
I am convinced that no candidate is adequately prepared to serve when they enter public office, especially the office of president.
An effective president must become a student of the office, learning to listen to his advisers, learning the importance of bipartisan cooperation, learning to recover from his or her mistakes, learning when to speak and when to refrain from speaking, learning conflict negotiation and crisis management, and learning to balance confidence and humility.
Obviously, our new president has honed and sharpened his skills in the field of business. I pray that he will likewise sharpen his skills of leadership and diplomacy as he serves as our president.
Almost every election cycle, constituents and candidates from each party make “change” a part of their platform and message. Regardless of one’s political slant, I propose that prayer is the ultimate catalyst for change.
Although I am not an advocate of bumper-sticker religion, I remember an intriguing progression of slogans or bumper stickers from a few years ago.
The first simply read, “Prayer changes things.” The second advanced the idea by stating, “Prayer changes people. People change things.”
I am committed to praying for God to change people and to empower people to enact change – morally, ethically, socially and politically – in all the right places.
Not all followers of Jesus will always agree on who to vote for, but we can agree to pray for those elected.
As we approach the upcoming inauguration, join me in praying for our newly elected president and all of those who are in a leadership role on a local, state or national level.
Barry Howard serves as the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Pensacola, Florida, a leadership coach with the Center for Healthy Churches (CHC) and a board member of the Baptist Center for Ethics. His writings also appear on his blog, Barry’s Notes. You can follow him on Twitter @BarrysNotes.
Editor’s note: This article is part of a series of articles about the inauguration of President-elect Trump, focused on the importance of praying for the new president (and all elected officials), honoring their election and engaging respectfully our representatives.
Previous articles in the series are:
Pastor at the Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Atlanta. He also serves as a leadership coach and columnist for the Center for Healthy Churches. He and his wife, Amanda, live in Brookhaven, Georgia.