Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pastor's Perspective

Praying for our President, Barack Obama

It was my joy to sit with my dear friends, Al Mohler, C.J. Mahaney, Mark Dever, Thabiti Anyabwile and John Piper in Louisville, Kentucky this morning, watching the inauguration of our new President. One of the things we talked about was how to pray for him. Al Mohler has some brilliant guidance here. I also want us, as members of First Presbyterian Church to think Christianly about how to think about and pray for our new President.

As Americans, I suspect that none of us can fully appreciate the far-reaching significance of this event, though our nation and much of the rest of the world are electric with the inauguration of Barack Obama as the new President of the United States of America. To say that this is historic, is a gross understatement.

Many are rejoicing at this very visible public realization of the ideals of the Declaration of Independence at the very pinnacle of our civic life. In the ascendancy of an African-American from less-than-privileged circumstances to the leadership of the free world, we see the fruit of aspirations of the Founders: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” You don’t have to read far in the newspapers of the world to see them marveling at yet another astounding accomplishment in the great experiment that is America.

Do you realize that our republic has now enjoyed 44 peaceful transitions of power in our two-plus centuries of existence. There is no parallel for this in human history. And we need to thank God for his singular blessing in bestowing it upon us, undeserving as we are.

But I said I wanted us to think about all this Christianly (and not just as grateful or concerned Americans, much less as giddy Democrats or grumpy Republicans!). And this presents us with some challenges, doesn't it?

As much as we may feel "this is my President and I want him to succeed," as much as we may feel sympathetic joy with millions who watched President Obama's inauguration with tear-filled eyes and hope-filled hearts, feeling themselves a part of the American story in a way they've never felt before, there lingers a question as to how to think about our leader in areas where his views and policies conflict with biblical conviction.

Many Christians find themselves profoundly conflicted because of some of the moral positions and social policies that Mr. Obama espouses. So how do you pray for your President when you disagree with him?

Thankfully, the Bible is not silent about such a question. After all it commands us to pray for all in authority (1 Timothy 2:2), no matter their party, policies or religion (or lack thereof). It is vital that we think Christianly, which is to say, biblically, about this issue (and not just as Democrats or Republicans who happen to be Christian). So, back to the question. How do we pray for Mr. Obama? Here are some ideas (and I want to thank Al Mohler and Justin Taylor for many of these thoughts and words) for praying for our new President, Barack Obama.

First, it needs to be said, that we ought to commit ourselves to pray for our new President, for his wife and family, for his administration, and for the nation. We will do this, not only because of the biblical command to pray for our rulers, but because of the second greatest commandment "Love your neighbor" and what better way to love your neighbor, than to pray for his well-being. Those with the greatest moral and political differences with the President ought to ask God to engender in them, by His Spirit, genuine neighbor-love for Mr. Obama.

We will also pray for our new President because he (and we) face challenges that are not only daunting but potentially disastrous. We will pray that God will grant him wisdom. He and his family will face new challenges and the pressures of this office. May God protect them, give them joy in their family life, and hold them close together.

We will pray that God will protect this nation even as our new President settles into his role as Commander in Chief, and that God will grant peace as he leads the nation through times of trial and international conflict and tension.

We will pray that God would change President Obama's mind and heart on issues of crucial moral concern. May God change his heart and open his eyes to see abortion as the murder of the innocent unborn, to see marriage as an institution to be defended, and to see a host of issues in a new light. We must pray this from this day until the day he leaves office. God is sovereign, after all.

For those Christians who are more concerned than overjoyed about the prospects of an Obama presidency, there should be a remembrance that as our President, Barack Obama will have God-given authority to govern us, and that we should view him as a servant of God (Rom. 13:1, 4) to whom we should be subject (Rom. 13:1, 5; 1 Pet. 2:13-14). Thus, again, we are to pray for Barack Obama (1 Tim. 2:1-2). We are to thank God for Barack Obama (1 Tim. 2:1-2). We are to respect Barack Obama (Rom. 13:7). We are to honor Barack Obama (Rom. 13:7; 1 Pet. 2:17).

For those Christians who are more overjoyed than concerned about the prospects of an Obama presidency, there should be a remembrance of our ultimate allegiance: Jesus is Lord (and thus, He, not we, decides what is right and wrong), we serve God not man, and the Lord himself has promised to establish "the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him" (Malachi 3:18). Thus, where our new president opposes or undermines biblical moral standards in our society, fails to uphold justice for the unborn, undermines religious liberties or condones an ethos that is hostile to the Gospel, we will pray for God's purposes to triumph over our President's plans and policies.

Without doubt and whatever our particular views may be, we face hard days ahead. Realistically, we must all expect to be frustrated and disappointed. Some now may feel defeated and discouraged. While others may all-too-soon find their audacious hopes unfounded and unrealized. We must all keep ever in mind that it is God who raises up leaders and nations, and it is God who pulls them down, and who judges both nations and rulers. We must not act or think like unbelievers, or as those who do not trust God.

So, now, Christian. Let’s get to work. And pray.


Anonymous said...

Good Luck to Obama, and the country. He had a great Speech.

Honey said...

Good luck would go to one who didn't need a sovereign LORD at a time like this. Every president needs the divine protection and guidance of the ULTIMATE KING. After all, the king's heart is in the hands of the Lord. HE (the LORD) turns it however He wants. We need DIVINE protection from our ULTIMATE KING and JUDGE and SAVIOR, the LORD JESUS CHRIST. May President Obama have that!

Roscoe Washington said...

Let us pray for President Obama, his administration and our nation and to God be the Glory.

jazzycat said...

How exactly should we pray FOR a leader who is in favor of so many ungodly and unrighteous policies such as abortion and the homosexual agenda? Do we pray that his administration is successful in furthering and strengthening these policies? Or, do we pray that God will either change his mind or raise up leaders who will oppose and fight such policies? Shouldn’t we remember to pray and encourage others to pray for the ever-dwindling number of leaders that do stand for freedom and the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as expressed in our Declaration of Independence?

We see the right to life of the unborn totally disregarded by this new president and his party. We see a daily assault on religious freedom where the name of Jesus has become politically incorrect to be spoken in public events. The list goes on with the homosexual agenda and many other leftist oppressive liberty destroying policies.

Let us pray for Godly leaders to be successful in thwarting the ungodly and unrighteous policies that are increasing on a daily basis in our country.

Justin Nale said...

Thanks for the post, Dr. Duncan. 1st Timothy 2:1-2 not only tells us to pray for our leaders, but tells us what to pray FOR: that the church of Christ would be able to live in peace and dignity under their rule.

Everything on this earth is passing away, including our nation and its leadership. This earth is the workshop in which Christ's bride (the Church) is being formed, and once the Church is completed, the workshop will be destroyed. When we pray for our leaders, we should pray with this eternal perspective. We should pray that the policies and decisions of our political leaders will be of the sort that protect the Church, that preserve her freedoms (both here and abroad), and allow her to obey her Head without obstruction.

We should pray that the leadership of President Obama and his administration will allow God's people to lead "a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way." (1 Tim 2:2)

Anonymous said...

Whether in family life, political life, or Chruch life, it is important to honor the role or office whether the holder of that office proves to be honorable or not.

Thankfully, we live in a democracy, where we can remove evildoers from office. As Christians, wherever Obama or any president pursues a course of evil, we have a duty to oppose him.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the essence of what this pastor has said, however, he has not recognized the past failures of republican presidents who continued the practice of abortion in this country. For over 40 years abortion has been on the books and numerous "Christians" have held the office of president, senator, Supreme Court judge or representative.
I highly doubt that Barack Obama would encourage one of his daughters to have an abortion. I am sure he is in agreement with most Christians on a personal level. Perhaps his public opinions are not in congruence with his personal opinions. Maybe we should start there in prayer. We should also pray that his Christian faith, which his has claimed, would guide his decisions. Pray that the Holy Spirit would guide him into all truth.
Many republican Christians view the President as an enemy of Christianity or even stupidly calling him the antichrist. This will do nothing for cause of Christ.
I am sad to see that there have been "Christian" presidents in the past who claim Jesus as Savior but have not lived with integrity and ruled with Christ-likeness. Abortion is not the only issue on the table here. Gay-marriage is not the only issue on the table. Poverty, racism, healthcare, elder-care, the environment, and the war are all issues that Jesus was concerned about too. Even if Mr Obama supports abortion and gay-marriage, I hope he will address these other issues Christianly.
In case you are wondering, I write this as a conservative Christian (non-emerging) who voted for John McCain. I will be on my knees for our new President!

jazzycat said...

As to your following speculation:
"I highly doubt that Barack Obama would encourage one of his daughters to have an abortion."

We have the following quote by Obama that sheds light on this speculation:

“Look, I got two daughters — 9 years old and 6 years old,” he said. “I am going to teach them first about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby."

These times call for one to be informed and discerning.

J. Michael Matkin said...

This is a very good reminder to all of us. Thank you.

It should be pointed out, in all seriousness, that many of us have already had eight years experience praying for a president whose policies run counter to biblical precepts. It's good that all of us are being reminded once more that, in the words of Derek Webb, "we've never had a Savior up on Capitol Hill."

christopher said...

Could you please explain how we Christians should go about determining which public policy positions of an American President merit specific reference in a prayer of invocation and a petition that his or her mind concerning the aforesaid public policy positions be changed so as to “conform with Scripture”?

And how is it that to give thanks to God that a man whose father would have been treated as less than the imago Dei as *required* under the laws of this country just 45 years ago is to “think as a grateful…American,” but to pray that God open Obama’s eyes and change his heart concerning abortion, homosexual civil unions, and a “host of issues” is to “think Christianly about how to think about and pray for our new President”? What is so “uniquely Christian” about abortion, civil unions between homosexuals, and the unspecified “host of issues”?

christopher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
firstwife said...

"King David prayed for the confusion of his enemies, Let God arise, as a judge to pass sentence upon them, and to take the field and do execution upon them; and let them be scattered. and the children of darkness shall be scattered, as the shadows of the evening flee before the rising sun. Though we are to pray for our enemies as such, yet we are to pray against God's enemies as such, against their enmity to Him and all their attempts upon His kingdom. Lord rebuke them abate their pride and confound their devices, till, conquered by the convictions of their consciences. Many, by being rebuked, have been happily saved from being ruined." Matthew Henry Commentary on Psalms 68. Any persons who do not uphold life is against God who is the creator of life. Also the heavy burden of taxes on families is unlawful and we should oppose those who support more taxes. Childers1

Dawg Doc said...

Thank you Pastor Duncan for once again offering wise counsel to all who claim the name of Christ. Too many of us are tempted to pray only for leaders with whom we share a political ideology or worldview. The Bible commands us to pray for them all, including President Obama.

Anonymous said...

First and foremost we should pray for President Obama's conversion.

Interestingly, in 1645 the Turk (Islam) was a concern of the church as was also the King's reign and the conversion of the Queen.

In The Directory for the Publick Worship of God (1645) in the section entitled Of Public Prayer before the Sermon, is established the following:

After reading of the word, (and singing of the psalm) the minister who is to preach, is ...

To pray for the propagation of the gospel and kingdom of Christ to all nations; ... and the hastening of the second coming of our Lord; for the deliverance of the distressed churches abroad from the tyranny of antichristian faction, and from the cruel oppressions and blasphemies of the Turk; ...

To pray for all in authority, especially for the King's Majesty; that God would make him rich in blessings, establish his throne in religion and righteousness, save him from evil counsel, and make him a blessed and glorious instrument for the conservation and propagation of the gospel, ... for the conversion of the Queen, ....


Anonymous said...

Oops, let try this again.

Anonymous said...

"Those do well that pray morning and evening in their families, those do better that pray and read the scriptures, but those do best that pray and read and sing the psalms." - Philip Henry, Matthew Henry, The Life of Philip Henry, p. 75


Psalm 2

1 Why do heathen nations rage?
Why do peoples folly mind?
2 Kings of earth in plots engage,
Rulers are in league combined;
Then against Jehovah high,
And against Messiah's sway,
3 "Let us break their bands,"
they cry,
"Let us cast their cords away."

4 But the Lord will scorn them all;
He will laugh Who sits on high,
5 Then His wrath will on them fall;
Sore displeased He will reply:
6 "Yet according to My will
I have set My King to reign,
And on Zion's holy hill
My Anointed I'll maintain."

7 His decree I will make known:
Unto Me the LORD did say,
"Thou art My be-lov-ed Son;
I've begotten Thee this day.
8 Ask of Me, and Thee I'll make
Heir to earth and nations all;
9 Them with iron Thou shalt break,
Dashing them in pieces small."

10 Therefore, kings, be wise,
give ear;
Hearken, judges of the earth;
11 Serve the LORD with godly fear;
Mingle trembling with your mirth.
12 Kiss the Son, His wrath to turn,
Lest ye perish in the way,
For His anger soon will burn.
Blessed are all that on Him stay.

Tune: Hintze

Trinity Psalter
Publisher: Crown & Covenant Publications

jazzycat said...

While the Bible exhorts us to pray for our leaders, that does not mean praying for the success of their agendas and policies when these policies are unrighteous and ungodly. In such cases we should pray for such polices to fail and oppose them with all of our strength.

I have been dismayed to hear Christians state they were praying for Mr. Obama to be successful in all that he does. That is absurd! Where Mr. Obama pursues Godly and righteous policies, I will support and pray for him to succeed. Where he pursues ungodly, unrighteous, and liberty busting big government solutions, I will oppose and pray that he fails. To state that more positively, I will pray that the leaders who oppose him will succeed.

Dawg Doc said...

No one has said that we should pray for the success of ungodly policies. But let us keep in mind that the vast majority of President Obama's policy preferences are NOT ungodly. We should pray FOR the success of those policies while praying that God will convert and change his heart on the others.

I think much of the "how are we to pray" stuff is coming from bitter "republichristians" who cannot separate their party ideology from their duty as Christians. The Bible does not tell us only to pray for our leaders if they are Godly...it says to pray for ALL of them because God has put them where they are.

jazzycat said...

Dawg Doc,
"republichristians" ?????

I have to leave for a little while. I will respond to this charge on your blog when I return. This blog is not the place to confront you on this.....

Anonymous said...

I posted a blog the other day in response to reading his book the "Audacity of Hope". It has really helped me keep my perspective on this one.


Egy Azziera said...

First off we would like to congratulate you on your fine public speaking skills. It looks like those who said the Obama Administration would strike while the iron is hot may have been correct, and the Administration may be doing it in a way that does not require them to even get a vote in Congress.

kashi chavis said...

My question to all present in this congregation is where was the zeal of looking for the wickness under President Bush 1 & 2, under Reagan & when the least of these ( the poor, children (born), visible racial oppression, and the silence of "conservative evangelical" world.

President Obama, has shown more of the fruit of the spirit than the previous leaders. And being articulate is not a sin; but can be presented as mentioned here as a "black man" speaking well.

Pray for The Holy Spirit's quickening to reveal your own dark attitude as well as pulling down strongholds that hinder souls being saved and holding up blesses for those in our lives.

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