Evangelical leaders praying for President Donald Trump

July 21, 2017

Praying with Presidents

North Carolina liberal activist clergyman William Barber is criticizing conservative evangelical supporters who were photographed praying with the President and Vice President in the Oval Office.

“It is a form of theological malpractice that borders on heresy when you can p-r-a-y for a president and others while they are p-r-e-y – preying on the most vulnerable. You’re violating the most sacred principles of religion,” Barber explained.

It’s odd for a clergyman to reject prayers for persons he believes are predators, since a primary purpose for prayer is changed hearts and redemption for the lost. Presumably Barber would not object to a similar prayer session for office holders whose policies are closer to his own. He led prayers at the Democratic National Convention last year. And prayers feature prominently in his regular “Moral Monday” protest demonstrations at North Carolina’s state Capitol.

Responding to criticism like Barber’s, a participant in the Oval Office prayer session explained: “Our mandate to pray for leadership is not dictated by who holds any particular office. We are called to simply pray for all people and all leadership.”

Whatever the intent of the prayer session, the tweets about it by participants further politicized it, as any publicized act with any president automatically becomes political. Over 20 years ago I wrote about a National Council of Churches delegation that prayed with President Clinton in the White House during his early budget confrontation with the new Republican Congress. The visit clearly offered political solidarity at a crucial time, which was why the administration had invited their visit.

Like the conservative evangelicals who laid hands on Trump while they prayed, the NCC group of mostly liberal Protestants laid hands on Clinton, as “guardian of the nation,” while they prayed he would be “strong for the task” of dealing with Congress. The NCC issued a news release about their prayerful solidarity visit, insisting there was no partisan purpose.

Perhaps the best known modern prayer in the Oval Office was led by a young Billy Graham, who with his colleagues prayed with President Truman, then gushed the details to reporters on the lawn, while Graham and his team fell to their knees to pose for photos. Truman privately pronounced Graham a “counterfeit” and avoided contact for many years, a lesson that was instructive for Graham. He thereafter tried to be more publicly circumspect about conversations with presidents, though he controversially became politically intimate with LBJ and Nixon, both of whom genuinely liked and also exploited the celebrity preacher.

Religion permeates every arena of American public life, even in our supposedly increasingly secular times. It’s unreasonable and mostly undesirable to expect or advocate a clear boundary between politics and religious affairs. From America’s start there have always been clergy and religious activists who politically chose sides in a public way. It’s perhaps a calling for some but not for most.

But religion’s public influence and Christianity’s social witness might be better served if religious leaders from across the spectrum were more guarded in their spiritual interactions with public figures. Private prayer, behind closed doors, should perhaps not be photographed, described in news releases, reenacted or tweeted. Such prayer presumably has a primary audience of One, and He will listen without need of amplifying publicity.

3 Responses to Praying with Presidents

  1. Rev. Vaughan Hayden says:

    If prayer is only to show solidarity to those we agree with then we only need to write a column or pose for a photo; but if prayer is to ask the Almighty God to intervene in the life and policies of our leaders then prayer will be effective on those who utter the words as well as those upon whom the hands have been laid. Prayer is not us asking God to come alongside our actions, but asking God to show us the actions to take of which God is already involved. Perhaps Barber should spend more time studying about the reality of prayer before he acts like the pharisee on the corner, saying prayers for everyone to hear, how he thanks God he is not like that other man.
    Have mercy on me, and on everyone Lord Jesus, for we are but sinners trying to do our best.

  2. Richard A Hyde says:

    Well put. Love the last paragraph!

  3. “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” (Proverbs 28:9)

    QUESTION: What law is Trump’s ear attuned to: 1) Some form of his own law, 2) The biblicallly seditious Constitution, or 3) Yahweh’s immutable/unchanging moral law?

    I know which one he swore to uphold at his inauguration:

    “…[I]t must not be overlooked that even if Trump proves himself more of a Cyrus than a Nimrod, but still doesn’t become a David, all the good he accomplishes can just as easily be undone by a future President and Congress. This demonstrates the incredible volatility of the Constitutional Republic.

    “As contrasted with Yahweh’s immutable moral law as the standard for government and society, there’s no enduring continuity in such capricious traditions. They provide a never-ending cycle that invariably will send America over the precipice. Alleged conservative Presidents like Trump periodically keep other alleged conservatives happy just long enough to keep them from searching for the real solutions for society’s woes.

    “America needs more than just a Cyrus. She needs a David who will look to Yahweh as sovereign and His law as supreme. In order for Trump to be a David, he’ll need to give another inaugural speech that includes something akin to the following:

    ‘Today marks the beginning of a return to what made America great: Our 17th-century Christian Colonial roots when they formed governments of, by, and for God established upon His immutable moral law, as contrasted with the humanistic government of, by, and for the people based upon capricious Enlightenment and Masonic traditions, responsible for America’s fall into degradation and disrepair.

    ‘I, therefore, Donald J. Trump, renounce my oath to support and defend the biblically seditious Constitution of the United States Republic, and in its place I now look to Yahweh God of the Bible as the only sovereign per 1 Timothy 6:15, His son as my Savior per John 14:6, and, in turn, I swear to uphold only His moral law as the supreme law of the land per Psalm 19:7-11.

    ‘May America bless God again!’”….”

    For more, see 4-part blog series “Donald J. Trump: Cyrus or Nimrod? Letting Trump Speak for Himself: Biblically Examining Trump’s Inaugural Speech,” beginning at http://www.constitutionmythbusters.org/donald-j-trump-cyrus-or-nimrod-letting-trump-speak-for-himself-biblically-examining-trumps-inaugural-speech-pt-1/.

    If you, prefer a 2-part audio series by the same title can be found on our Audio Messages page. Scroll down to T 1099 for Part 1.

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