The Kiddy Pool: Prayers for the Nation

Every week in The Kiddy Pool, Erin Newcomb confronts one of many issues that parents must deal with related to popular culture.

In the excitement leading up to the Super Bowl (expected to draw its biggest audience ever and banking on 30-second ad slots worth $3.5 million) and Punxsutawney Phil’s unsurprising prediction of more winter, most people probably missed any news related to the National Prayer Breakfast. Granted, the breakfast is essentially a series of political meetings, but the keynote event features a speech by the president and a noted figure. This year President Obama shared the spotlight with author Eric Metaxas, who has written biographies of both Dietrich Bonhoeffer and William Wilberforce. I’m not going to address the theological content or political implications of Obama’s remarks, because what learning about the National Prayer Breakfast did for me went beyond partisanship, and I think that’s precisely its point.

It’s easy in an election year that almost guarantees ugly campaigns from all contenders to forget that God doesn’t officially endorse Republicans or Democrats. I know people make decisions about which candidate’s and which party’s values and statements best align with Christ’s teachings, and that, to me, seems like thoughtful voting. But the National Prayer Breakfast, established in 1953 by the prayer groups in Congress, reminds me how much our political leaders need our prayers on a regular basis. That’s not something I currently do, and it’s not something I’ve taught my daughter to do either. We thank God for our blessings and raise petitions for our family and community, for the hungry and cold throughout the world—those of us in the so-called 99%.

Those are important prayers, too. Yet in a world where so many things divide us, from socioeconomic status to political affiliation to football fandom, we all share the need for prayer. It seems like those points of disagreement, so easy to find in examining our political leaders, make a good starting point—to pray that all of us can come to agreement in Christ. Bonhoeffer outlined the true cost of discipleship in opposition to the Nazi regime, Wilberforce employed God’s amazing grace to battle British slavery, and it seems like the least I can do is teach my child to pray for those who make decisions—like them or not—for all of us every day.

About Erin Wyble Newcomb

Erin Wyble Newcomb earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction and Women's Studies from Penn State University. In addition to parenting her daughters, running marathons, and making things with glitter, she teaches in the English Department at SUNY New Paltz. Follow Erin on Twitter @ErinWyble or at http://phdmama.com/.

  • joel

    ridiculous-
    ly right on!

  • Matthew

    I can assure that not everyone feels the need for prayer. I myself, for one, do not. Actually I find a National Prayer Breakfast a perfect example of the intertwining connections politics and religion have in the usa. State and church should at the very least be separated, in my opinion.

  • Jeff

    @Matthew – how, exactly, is this a failure of church and state separation? This is a private event put on by religious members of Congress and others. It’s not sponsored by a church. It’s not sponsored by the state. Last I checked, freedom of religion applied to those who hold political office, too.

  • Matthew

    @Jeff. My apologies than, I was ill-informed. I didn’t research this but I deduced (wrongly) from this article that this was an yearly event that congress held. Seems I am wrong then…

  • http://stormman.blogspot.com Stormfield

    In a lot of churches–Roman Catholic, liturgical Lutheran, Episcopalian, pretty much anyone who follows a historic liturgy–prayers for the president and other political leaders are raised weekly (right after the prayers for the poor and other members of the 99%).

  • Matthew

    Let me put it this way then. I do not condemn the idea but it simply won’t help.


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