Sunday, October 6, 2013

Praying for Our Nation's Leaders Today in Church

Dear Leader,

Today in the small village of McDowell, Virginia, we gathered at the usual time for worship.  At the beginning, as is our usual custom, we lifted up our prayer concerns, which included you.  During worship, we prayed our concerns for our nation’s leaders out loud and included our blessings for you in those prayers.  It went something like this . . .

Gracious God, 
We pray for the leaders of our nation.  We ask that You grant them all spirits of honesty. . . hearts of reconciliation and conciliation . . . perseverance in the face of challenge . . . lives lived and decisions made which follow the leading of Your Spirit . . . ears to hear the will of the people and wisdom to know when that will should be ignored in favor of what is best . . . 
And we pray that You grant our leaders showers of Your blessings . . . the blessings of good health and wellness . . . loving family . . . safe haven . . . happy lives . . . love and forgiveness . . . renewed energy for the task at hand . . .and inner peace – that peace which surpasses all human understanding . . . 

This is the prayer I will send to our nation’s leaders from one small congregation in the western mountains of Virginia.

It took some getting to, this prayer.  There were jokes and sarcasm, despair and disgust, prayers for our own individual and particular political agendas, and a very difficult time in naming blessings as we grappled with the brokenness of our political process in this particular season.

The preacher (that’s me) got a little crusty with the congregation (shame on her) in the grappling.

This is at the core of my own preacherly struggle: when is it good, necessary, right, important, to create space for the naming of frustration, anger and just good old-fashioned venting of spleen – especially when it comes to praying?  And when is it time to let go of all that and genuinely pray for the good of the other, even and especially another with whom we are angry, frustrated, etc.?

Can I genuinely pray these blessing prayers equally for Ted Cruz and Barak Obama?  If not, is that about who’s right or wrong?  Or is that just about my own unwillingness or inability to let go of my own judgments even on the holy ground that is prayer?

I tend to think it’s the latter, but then that puts me in the place of judging others who think differently.

Turns out it’s just as hard, if not harder, to pray our politics as it is to live them.

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