I get asked to pray for people all the time.
I am asked to pray for upcoming surgeries, for those about to interview for a new job, for those headed to the doctor for a diagnosis, for the improvement of a parent’s health or the sobriety of one’s spouse.
I am asked to pray for people in our churches; those whom I know only through the internet; for people in far-away places and for people who spot my purple shirt, big cross and collar and come up to me on the street, in the grocery store and in restaurants.
I gladly add these names to a running list that I keep in my binder and remember these people at least once, daily, in my morning prayers but usually, again and again during the day, as I go about from meeting to meeting, from place to place.
Praying for others is part of my Christian life- the life that is outlined so succinctly in the Baptismal Covenant and in which I have vowed to continue praying and to work at loving my neighbor (among other things), with God’s help. Praying is an act of love and so, when I get a request, I gladly receive it and strive to honor it to the best of my praying ability.
There’s been a lot of hubbub this week about the prayer service for the President-elect that will be held at the National Cathedral, as is the custom, on the day after the Inauguration. There are those who are vehemently opposed to opening the doors of this (Episcopal) Cathedral to the in-coming President who, in many ways and on many occasions, has spoken with vitriol and violence and who has demonstrated his ability to demean and take advantage of those who are weak and vulnerable. There has been a rally cry for the Cathedral, its Dean, the Bishop and the Presiding Bishop to say “no” to the service and to keep the doors of the cathedral locked tight against the new President.
There’s been a parallel story about including the name of the President in the Prayers of the People during our (Episcopal) Sunday celebrations of Holy Eucharist. (Rite One Prayers of the People offers an option to include the names of “those who bear the authority of government in this and every land…” (BCP 329). In Rite Two, Form I invites Prayers for “the President,” Form III includes prayers for “those who govern and hold authority…” and Form IV has an option to name persons who are “in positions of public trust.” Forms II and VI are silent on naming the president or civic leaders specifically, but invite prayers for “goodwill among nations…” and “for all who work for justice, freedom and peace.” (BCP 383-393) There are those who, opposed to the election of the new President, recoil at the thought of hearing his name uttered in church and have asked that these petitions be withdrawn from our services during the next four years. In our diocese, I have had more than one conversation about this.
There is a call for the prophetic voice to bring change. Do away with the custom of the Inaugural Prayer Service on this occasion, drawing a line in the sand about what the Church will or will not tolerate in the arena of civility, respectable conduct and the use of power.
There has also been a call for praying even harder– on Jan 21st as well as throughout the next four years in our churches- and pouring the anger, fear, anxiety and discontent that some feel into the stream of Christian prayer that has been offered to God for millennia, knowing that God will accept these prayers- and all others- with graciousness and love. There have been comments that when we name our fears and the sources of our anxiety – out loud, in prayer- that we claim some power over them and become less vulnerable.
I do not pray because I believe that my tiny voice can turn God’s heart.
And I do not pray (or withhold my prayers) as an act of conscience.
I pray, because it is how I am in relationship with God. As a God-lover, follower of Jesus, it is what I know to do, a profound means by which my relationship with the Holy is lived-out, in the quiet corner of my living room as I pray each morning, swaddled in a blanket, a single candle glowing on the table nearby. It is an important meeting-place for me as I begin my day and come to terms again- with the understanding that the One in Heaven is the one in whom I put my trust, who orders the Universe, in whom I find my Way, my Truth and my Life and in whom I live and move and have my being.
The prayers that I offer for others? I do not offer them to God expecting that the weight of my purple-prayers will reach the healing-power-of-God faster or deeper than others, but because bythem, I live out an important part of our Christian tradition which is to honor the Incarnation, and to know that in offering the prayers of others, I am drawn closer, ever, to the Christ in our midst; the Christ who suffered on the cross and whom I see in the suffering hearts of those who bid my pleas for their improved health or welfare. By praying with them, I am brought more deeply into relationship with them, with God and with Jesus and, I believe that it is in the dark folds of these relationships that holy strength is kindled and healing is forged.
So, my dear friends, I am praying for Donald Trump. Because I believe that it can effect the healing of him (for we are all sinners and have fallen short of the Glory of God); because from prayer, I believe we can derive the strength that we,and our world, so sorely need; and because it is the way in which I gather my own fragile needs and make them real, offering them to God. And, honestly, I pray- for Donald and for others- because I cannot imagine any other way.
My prayer is the way that I live my life with God and the soil in which all of my relationships are planted and grow.
I pray for you, too. Every day. For our diocese and the work that we do as people on God’s mission, for our dear congregations who support each other with Christ-like acts of love and service, for those in our communities who receive the outreach of our parishes, and for those who linger, yet, on the sidewalk, who need God’s love and our invitation to Come, Taste and See.
Our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, has offered a word on this subject of prayer, as well.
Here is a link.