Several readers wrote to criticize last week’s editorial, “Practicing faith in the Age of Trump,” for failing to call people to pray for President Donald Trump. Excellent point. The president needs our prayer, and we should lift him and his administration up to God every day across the coming four years.
Those criticisms prompted me to question why I failed to mention prayer for the president in that editorial. A couple of reasons have come to mind.
The first is because praying for the president seems obvious; I didn’t suppose I needed to tell Christians they should pray for the president. If we care for what happens in this world, then we definitely should pray for the most influential person in the world.
On top of that, the Bible tells us to pray for our leaders. The Apostle Paul admonished: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior” (1 Timothy 2:1-3). So, praying for our leaders is a Christian obligation.
No easy way out
The second reason I did not request prayer for President Trump is a personal aversion to offering an easy way out of hard situations. Sometimes, Christians treat prayer as their get-out-of-jail-free card for difficult, uncomfortable or otherwise challenging circumstances. We say, “Let’s pray about it” and move on, without ever getting involved in the issue and expending our own time, energy, talent, money or other resources to do something about it.
A light example: As a young man, I served as a deacon at our small church. When tension arose during a meeting of the seven deacons, one fellow always called for prayer. Then the meeting would move on, and we never would deal constructively with the important issues facing our church.
A heavier example: When Christians encounter injustice and unrighteousness, we often agree to pray. Many times, we fail to do anything else. Perhaps we believe God will intervene miraculously without requiring us to put ourselves at risk of engaging hard challenges. Such a view contradicts the examples of the prophets, Jesus, the apostles and the early church, all of whom in numerous situations not only prayed, but also worked diligently to restore justice and righteousness.
God requires more
So, while prayer is great, it may not be all God requires or even prefers.
That’s why Christian action also is important. And that’s why last week’s editorial urged Christians to care for the poor and weak, support absolute religious liberty, repudiate racism, affirm sexual equality and protect the “other.” Throughout the 2016 campaign and across the arc of his life, President Trump has not represented those values and, in fact, often has contradicted them. Given his presidential authority, those values need extraordinary protection from Christians in the coming years.
Talking about all this is agonizing, isn’t it? Our nation is divided, and almost every public issue has become politicized. Amazingly, since the inauguration, we’ve even endured a debate regarding facts and “alternate facts,” and a doubling down on support for falsehoods that are easily and overwhelmingly demonstrated to be false.
So, Christians also must be vigilant to demand truth—from government, from media, from one another. Truth and facts should not be political tools. They should be fixed points of reality, upon which we base our decisions and expect lawmakers and other leaders to base their decisions.
Jesus said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). He referenced the truth of his own teaching, which leads to ultimate freedom, salvation. But his statement bears weight in a larger context as well: Truth—any and all truth—is liberating.
Christians should not fear knowing the truth—whether it is about government actions, climate change, the relationship of vaccines to autism, scientific research, immigration, the faith of others or any other topic. We should demand truth and examine its verification to be precise and accurate.
Whichever our party or political persuasion, race, ethnicity, gender or any other qualification, we must not accept falsehood and call it true in order to advance our own political power or ideological agenda.
If we claim falsehood as truth and accept such claims as the norm, then language will become meaningless. And a 241-year national legacy of freedom will be endangered to a degree we never could have imagined.
Pray. And act.
Follow Marv on Twitter: @marvknox