Prayer for a President
When Christian prayer is neither an attempt to proselytize, nor a veiled demand that God share someone's particular opinion, it is an excellent exercise in both trust and humility. Every person who prayed publicly with the President during these last few celebrative days, did so standing squarely within his own Christian experience. But each man also acknowledged in different ways the fact that this is a nation of Americans who worship within many different religious traditions. This conscious inclusion of all our people may not be wholly unprecedented, but it has not been common. President Obama's decision to include pastors as different as Gene Robinson, Rick Warren and Joseph Lowery reflects his own experience of a Christianity that is neither dogmatic nor doctrinaire. Whether we are easy with this or not, here is a liberal Democrat, who also happens to be a believer in Jesus Christ. And the ones who prayed, his friends across the denominational spectrum, did so with full awareness that this new president of the US is himself a Christian, but that he was not elected to be an evangelist. President Obama was chosen by the people, to be a political leader for all the "polis", for all the citizens of this nation, only some of whom are Christians. Those men prayed for him as his friends and fellow believers, although they do not all agree with him, or with each other, on every issue facing our nation.
And they prayed with humility, remembering all of our checkered history, in which Christians imported slaves and caged them by night as they constructed the White House by day. They prayed, remembering also our more recent history in which Christians struggled, suffered imprisonment and sometimes death, in order to bring segregation to an end. They prayed for our whole nation, remembering that Muslims as well as Christians, and Jews as well as Hindus and unbelievers died in the attacks of 911. They prayed for him, too, aware that the American president is not like a king of ancient Israel; he is not chosen by God to preside over a monocultural religious people. They simply asked God, in the name of Jesus, to give President Obama the wisdom, patience and courage to uphold the Constitution, and to serve this country well. That kind of prayer does not try to determine God's agenda, but invites God to do as God chooses in this time, in this place, and with this man as our president. And if that is a stance of humility, it is also a stance of faith.