First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.
1 Timothy 2:1-2
In 1981, James Hinkley, Jr., attempted to assassinate President Reagan in an effort to impress Jodie Foster, the actress about whom Hinkley was obsessed. Although Reagan survived, his Press Secretary, James Brady, was shot and paralyzed. In 2014, he died from causes related to the shooting over thirty years prior. After the shooting, Brady and his wife became activists for gun control. At one point, Brady’s wife was struggling with her anger at the press for what she was as mistreatment of her husband in newspaper articles. She struggled with her anger, not knowing how to get over it. A wise pastor counseled her to begin praying for reporters, and not just praying for some amorphous group, but to pray for one or two by name as individuals.
In the beginning Mrs. Brady struggled to pray anything meaningful, but she kept at it. Day after day, she asked God to bless and support specific reporters who had been especially harsh in their words about her husband. Her prayers were half-hearted at first, praying because she had to, not because she truly wanted the object of her prayers to be blessed. She reports that it took quite a while, but at last she began to pray in a new way. She discovered that the act of praying for someone had, over time, opened her heart to care about them and to want what was best for them. Her prayers became genuine expressions of care and concern.
In the letter to Timothy, Paul reminds us that we are not invited to pick and choose for whom we will pray. God expects us to offer prayer support to all of our leaders. If you’re a Republican, that means praying for President Obama and Hillary Clinton; if you’re a Democrat, it means offering prayers for Donald Trump and Paul Ryan. At first those prayers may be half-hearted and elementary, but if you stick with it, praying regularly for the leaders with whom you disagree as well as those you support, you may find, over time, that your heart opens to care for them as God cares for them. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with their policies or support their positions, but it does mean that you and I can learn to exercise that love for one another that is God’s expectation for all people.
When we move beyond simplistic prayers to truly seeking the good for another person, we discover that they are a whole person, not just some demagogue. We are reminded that each of us needs forgiveness, grace and love. And we may learn that the ones we like are as flawed as those with whom we disagree. Furthermore, whether we support a particular leader or not, they are often in a position where their words and actions can have tremendous influence in our world. Should we not keep them in prayer, asking God to help their words and actions build people up rather than tearing down and destroying?
So I invite you in the campaign season to begin a discipline of prayer, asking God’s blessing not only on the candidates you support, but on those with whom you disagree. Let us love one another, showing that caring spirit in our prayers, as we lift before the Lord all “who are in high positions.”
Prayer: Gracious God, you have called us to love one another and to seek the good for each other. And so today I lift up to you (name of politician you do not support). I pray that you will bless them in their life. In this campaign season, give them strength and stamina, clarity of thought and insight into the needs of your people. Help me to care about them as an individual even when I disagree with their policies. Open their heart to your love, that they may lead in ways that offer life and love to the world. For I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.