It can be an awkward moment, depending on the situation. Perhaps you are at a family gathering, where some are Christians, some are the kind of Church people who don’t pray out loud, and others are not either. But the Turkey must be prayed over, so you get called on, because everyone in the room assumes you’re the praying type.
Those of us who are pastors get called on to pray all the time at such events. Birthday parties, funerals, weddings. I’ve been called on to pray at Christmas carry-ins & St. Patrick’s day potlucks, to bless horses and houses, to comfort dying pets and dying parents.
But sometimes we get called on to pray for public events for government and even political events. We are oft asked to pray an “invocation” or a “benediction”, in one case we “invoke” our God to be present and influence the event. In the other we bless what has happened, and bless those who are “going and doing” after the event. These make a ton of sense in a worship setting, perhaps less so in a politically rally.
Have you ever been asked to pray at something that was awkward? Have you been asked to pray for something that had political motives or overtones? How might we communicate effectively and with integrity at such events?
Jen Andarella was asked to pray at a political rally once upon a time, and I’ve put the text of her prayer below. Is this the kind of prayer that it makes sense to pray at an awkward event? I’ve removed some of the specific references of her prayer, so as to pull out the context — so we can look at this more generically, rather than factionally.
Here’s what Jen prayed. What did she do that you would do? What would you add that she left out? What would you subtract, and why?
“God, I stand before You and ask that the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing unto You.
I pray for our President… May he know Your presence, oh God, as he continues to serve as a leader of this nation, as a husband…, and as father to his daughters. Help him to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with you.
I pray as well for [his opponent]. May he know Your presence, oh God, as he continues to serve as a leader, as a husband…, and as a father to his children and their families. Help him to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with you.
I pray for our country in the… weeks leading up to this election – for those of us meeting here and for our fellow citizens who met last week. May we make our children proud of how we conduct ourselves. We know our human tendencies toward finger-pointing and frivolousness. Our better selves want this race to be honest and edifying rather than fabricated and self-serving.
Give us, oh Lord, humility to listen to our sisters and brothers across the political spectrum, because your kingdom is not divided into Red States and Blue States. Equip us with moral imagination to have real discourse. Knit us, oh God, as one country even as we wrestle over the complexity of how we ought to live and govern. Give us gratitude for our right to dissent and disagree. For we know that we are bound up in one another and have been given the tremendous opportunity to extend humanity and grace when others voice their deeply held convictions even when they differ from our own.
And give us wisdom, God, to discover honest solutions for we know it will take all of us to care for the widow and the orphan, the sick and the lonely, the downtrodden and the unemployed, the prisoner and the homeless, the stranger and the enemy, the thirsty and the powerless. In rural Africa, I am witness to thousands of HIV positive mothers, fathers and children who are alive today because Democrats and Republicans put justice and mercy above partisanship. Help us keep that perspective even as we debate one another.
God, I thank you for the saving grace of Jesus and for the saints who have humbly gone before us. I thank you for the words of St. Francis of Assisi whose prayer I carry with me both in my home in East Nashville and in my work across rural Africa.
As we enter this election season, I pray St. Francis’ words for us all.
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.”
So what’s your take? What did she do that you would do? What would you add that she left out? What would you subtract, and why?