In the days before the presidential election, countless Christians throughout the country prayed about the election. Some (like me) prayed prayers of avoidance, asking that Christ would spare us the whole fiasco by returning before Election Day. Some prayed broad and unspecific prayers, asking God that his will simply be done and that peace might follow no matter what the result. But countless others made very specific requests.
Some prayed for God to send them a mighty orange elephant to crush the braying donkey in their midst. Others prayed that God would grant them a mighty mare to trample the bones of the repulsive pachyderm beneath her hooves. Only one of these groups, however, got what they asked for.
So what should each side do next? The answer is quite simple: pray again. What should each pray for? Well, as faith would have it, exactly the same things.
1. Pray for President-Elect Donald Trump
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-3).
Pray for our new president-elect and all others elected into office. Whether you wanted him in the White House issuing executive orders on immigration or back in Manhattan firing Screech on a new season of “Celebrity Apprentice,” pray that Trump may fulfill his God-given duties of preserving for us a peaceful and quiet life, and that he may use the power of the presidential office to faithfully serve those entrusted to his care, both young and old, rich and poor, black and white, born and unborn.
2. Pray That You May Love God With All Your Heart
The greatest commandment, Jesus says, is to love God with all your heart. As Martin Luther implies in his “Small Catechism,” love is always joined by fear of God and trust in him. Whenever we fear and trust God above all things, there we will also love him above all things. But whenever our fear and trust are aimed in different directions, we pledge our love to the idols that have captured our hearts.
So if God didn’t answer your prayer to keep the politician you fear out of the White House, pray that God fills your heart with a greater fear of himself and his wrath against sin. After all, when we fear politicians more than we should, we end up trusting in ourselves to yield the protection that God supposedly failed to provide us.
This is often why we lie about politicians and those who support them. It’s why we slander them, and put the worst construction on everything that say. It’s why some of us go so far as to fake hate crimes and justify all these sins every step of the way. We do all of this because we fear men and their policies more than God and his judgment and because we trust our own governmental wisdom more than the One who instituted earthly governments.
Likewise, if you prayed for a Trump victory because you feared a Clinton presidency, pray the same prayer. You’ve probably spent the last eight years doing the same thing with regard to the Obama administration and you’ll likely do it again whenever the Democrat Party retakes Congress, the Senate, or the White House. Regardless of whether you got what you prayed for on November 8, pray that God would preserve your love for him by keeping your fear and trust aimed in his direction.
3. Pray that You May Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
The second great commandment, Jesus also says, is to love your neighbor as yourself. Regardless of how God responded to your election day prayers, you should now pray that God would fill your heart with love towards your fellow man, especially those fellow men who are having a far different reaction to the election results.
If you’re heartbroken over Hillary Clinton losing, pray that you may understand the mindset of those who aren’t. Pray that God may keep the words “bigot,” “misogynist,” and “homophobe” off your lips and open your ears to hear your neighbors tell you why they felt Clinton was neither concerned about them nor worthy of the presidency, and why their commitment to issues like religious freedom and the defense of the unborn led them to hold their nose at the odor of Trump’s public sins and give him their reluctant support.
Similarly, if you’re elated because God gave you the president you wanted, pray that you may love those who didn’t have their prayers answered. Pray that you can understand the mindset of those who couldn’t look past Trump’s reprehensible comments about women, even if you weighed the political scales differently. If you have no trouble understanding the anger of rural white voters who despised Hillary Clinton for showing no interest in them, pray that you can understand why black voters have a hard time giving Trump the benefit of the doubt when the Republican Party has spent decades showing precious little interest in them.
If you’ve been guilty of insisting that President Obama was coming for your guns because you read a couple out-of-context quotes on www.right-wing-slander-rag.net, be a little patient with those on the Left whose own partisan periodicals filled them with the fraudulent idea that President-Elect Trump is going to tear down their mosques.
In other words, if you’re convinced that God spared America from the irreparable disaster that Hillary Clinton would have been, don’t gloat over those who are disappointed over her loss. Instead, pray for the strength to treat them the way you’d treat a friend who was stood up at the altar by the worst woman you’ve ever met—with compassion, empathy, and enough patience to wait a few weeks before mentioning this might be for the best.
4. Pray that You May Repent of Your Own Sins
One of the most annoying things that human beings do in times of discord (political or otherwise) is repenting of someone else’s sins. Natalie Main of the Dixie Chicks famously repented of George W. Bush’s foreign policy sins at a 2003 concert, saying “We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.”
In 2009, President Obama told an audience in France, “There have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive,” something that roughly translates out of Smarm into English as “George Bush and the Republicans were arrogant and dismissive.” I can only imagine we’ll spend the next four years watching American celebrities put on sackcloth and ashes and tell the world how sorry they are for Trump’s xenophobia and racism.
A much better approach to political division, however, is to repent of your own sins. This approach is certainly fitting in the days after an election.
So if you think Trump’s election is the worst thing to happen in the history of U.S. politics, remember that God let it happen, which means Trump must be an instrument of God’s wrath against sinners, which means that Trump is an instrument of God’s wrath against you. Remember that nobody ever escaped the wrath of God and found peace in the forgiving arms of Christ by repenting of his neighbor’s sins.
Apologizing for your neighbor’s bigotry won’t put you at the foot of the cross, but repenting of your own sins will. Asking Christ to forgive you for what your neighbor has done won’t take away your transgressions, but having your actual iniquities washed away in the blood of Jesus will, so ask him to do precisely this. He will, just as he already has. While this won’t necessarily give you the president you want, it will place you into the arms of the King whose rule will never fail you.
Likewise, if you think America just dodged the deadliest bullet ever fired, keep in mind that warning shots tend to be followed by actual shots, and that you won’t dulcify the judgment that just whizzed past your ear by obsessing over the sins being produced by someone else. Pray for the humility to remember that, when God punishes a nation for its love of abortion and sexual immorality, he will also punish it for sins identical to the ones pumped out by your own heart. Pray for the faith to remember that the sins of Democrats and Republicans drown at equal speed in the merciful blood of Jesus.
American Christians may not be united in their response to Trump’s election. I imagine we also won’t be united in our response to his presidency. But we can and should be united in our prayers for and about President-elect Trump. May God bless him to be of faithful service to our nation. May God keep us faithful to himself and to our neighbors. And may our first concern always be the plank in our own eye so that we may see the cross more clearly.