As a blogger, I tend to avoid politics like it’s radioactive. Not because I don’t have political views (I do, and they’re rather strong), but because of my conviction that contemplative prayer is for everyone — not just people who hold the same political views as I do. Unfortunately, the way the Internet echo-chamber works, far too many readers tend only to read writers with whom we agree (and ignore, or argue with, those with whom we don’t). Since my goal is to promote silent prayer, if I started spouting off on this or that controversial issue — well, let’s be honest: the silent prayer would quickly get lost in the shuffle.
Dear reader, I want to encourage you in your prayer life.
With this in mind, sometimes it makes sense for me to write about current events, and today is one of those days.
As we sit on the eve of the Iowa Caucus, I have a simple request of all my readers (yes, that includes you). Will you join me in praying for all the presidential candidates?
Yes, that’s right. I said all of them. Even the ones with whom you profoundly disagree.
Pray for them anyway.
Do not speak evil of one another, brothers. Whoever speaks evil of a brother or judges his brother speaks evil of the law and judges the law.If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.
— James 4:11
I’m asking you to pray for all the candidates. Without exception. You don’t even have to name them by name, since there are third party candidates and minor candidates that no one can keep track of. I mean really pray for them, as in “ask God to bless them.” I’m not telling you to pray, “Dear God, will you please zap so-and-so!” That’s not what I’m saying. Yes, of course you (and I, and everyone else!) think certain candidates just need to get on their knees and repent. But the last time I checked, Catholicism (and orthodox Christianity in general) teaches that everyone is a sinner, and therefore everyone stands in need of repentance. Again, without exception.
So here’s what I’m asking you to do, every day between now and election day: pray for all the candidates. Ask God’s blessing on them all, and ask God to lead all of them to conversion and repentance. And while you’re at it, pray for all the voters too, since we are the ones with the unenviable task of choosing who our next president will be.
A Sample Prayer
Beloved and Holy God, it is our presidential campaign season. Politicians with various ideas, values and ideologies are campaigning. I have many different feelings about the candidates. But I know that one of them will be our next president.
Today I pray for all of the candidates, that you may bless them according to your will; that your will may be done in their lives; that where they are in error, you may guide and correct them, and that where they are wise, you may strengthen them. Stir in each of their hearts a love for truth, for liberty and justice, and for the common good.
Heavenly God, I also pray for the millions of men and women who will be voting for our next president. Guide each one of us in discernment and knowledge, so that we may vote wisely, and in so doing, that your will may be done. Turn our hearts from fear to hope, from hatred to love, from indifference to compassion. Lead us to be true to our conscience without holding in contempt those with whom we disagree.
Christ, you commanded us to love our enemies — make us mindful that this extends to our political opponents as well. Give us the faith we need to trust in your love and your will, and the grace to act in accordance with your truth, your mercy, and your boundless compassion.
Humbly we pray in your Holy Name. Amen.
Of course, feel free to put the prayer in your own words. If you do, pray with these principles in mind:
- Pray for God’s blessing on all the candidates: even the ones you don’t like;
- Pray that each candidate may be strengthened where they are wise, and corrected where they are in error;
- Pray that each candidate may be stirred to more closely conform to God’s will in their lives;
- Pray that God’s will be done throughout this election campaign;
- Pray that God’s love and wisdom will guide the voters (that’s you and me, folks);
- Pray that we are given the grace to choose love over hatred, hope over fear, compassion over indifference;
- Pray that we may all grow in trust and hope that God’s will shall be done.
Why should we do this?
If you feel resistance to this, that’s fine. Our worldly values are simple: love our friends, and hate our enemies. That’s our “default” setting. But that is not the way of Christ.
The way of Christ is to love our friends, and love our enemies. That does not mean we treat everybody the same, or that we throw our values and standards out the window. Christ didn’t say “pretend your enemies aren’t your enemies,” he said love your enemies. Which means that even though we may strongly disagree with them, even though we may actively work against what they stand for, we are still mandated to treat them in a loving way. Even if they don’t love us back.Currently their are two presidential candidates, one in each major party, that it is fashionable to hate. Please, friends, no matter how vehemently you disagree with one (or both) of them, I beg you in the name of Christ not to hate them. And if you do hate them currently, then I beg you to turn to Christ in prayer, pleading for forgiveness and for the grace to stop hating.
We need to be praying for all the candidates as a way to shield ourselves from the worldly temptation to hate. We need to pray for all the candidates because one of them will be our next president — and all the others aren’t going to magically disappear; they will still be public leaders in our country. God loves every one of them, Jesus Christ died for every one of them, and every one of them has been created in the image and likeness of God (and every one of them fails to live up to that, in some or many ways). We need to be praying for them all, because that is the Christian thing to do.
A Few More Thoughts
Please take the campaign seriously. Inform yourself about where all the candidates stand, on all major issues (we all have a “pet” issue, and of course you need to be informed about that one, but stretch your heart and mind to be informed about other key concerns). Prayerfully reflect on which candidate most fully embodies the values and priorities you believe our country needs. No candidate is perfect, and it’s foolish to think otherwise. Your job is to choose the better candidate, acknowledging that there’s no such thing as a “best” candidate.
Work hard for the candidate you support. Participate in your state’s caucus or primary. Donate time or money to the candidate you support. If your candidate eventually drops out of the race, then start over again and prayerfully consider who you now can support.
Eventually there will be two major party nominees and a handful of independent or minor-party candidates. Once again, support the one who you believe is the better choice. But through the whole process, keep praying for all the candidates.
Why I’m Posting This
As I said above, I don’t like to write about politics: I’d rather write about contemplation. But eight years ago, during the 2008 Campaign, my wife and I were both struck by how virulent the campaign had become. It seemed every day the airwaves and internet were filled with more vitriol about how awful Obama, or McCain, or Palin, or whomever was. As Catholics, we were heartsick over it all. And finally one morning, as we were praying, I felt a nudge to pray for both candidates and their running mates. I shared this with my wife, and she agreed to do the same. Trust me, we had strong political opinions of our own, and it was hard to pray for the candidates with whom we disagreed. But we did it. And it transformed how we saw the race, and how we saw our own responsibilities as voters.
So then I shared this “prayer challenge” on my blog (you can read the original post here). Back in ’08, it was a simple prayer: I prayed for the conversion of all the candidates, and for God’s blessing on all the candidates. As you can see, over the past eight years the prayer has grown, but the same basic intent: to ask for God’s blessing, which includes the call to repentance — remains at the heart of the prayer. The biggest expansion, of course, is now I pray for the voters as well as the candidates, since we are all in this together.
I was truly blessed by how many people joined me in my prayer commitment in the past — so I want to invite everyone to join with me again this year. Pray for all the candidates. Pray for God’s blessing on us all.
I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.
— Matthew 5:44-48
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