by Bil Aulenbach

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Do I Have to Pray for Him?

I lived in Paradise—Hawai’i—for twenty years. There I met my Annie, our three daughters were born, and, for fifteen of those years, I served as an Episcopal priest. I still receive that diocese’s church e-mail postings. A week ago, a member asked the bishop, “Do I have to pray for him, and, if so, do I have to use his name?”

I find this an interesting question for a variety of reasons. In my daily early morning quiet time as I pray for others, I always pray for the president of the United States, regardless of party affiliation. I don’t name him because there is only one US president, and I strongly suspect that he and millions of others in the world know his name. I pray because he has a thankless job, and I appreciate his willingness to submit himself to that type of torture. I pity the president as he endures, on a daily basis, the world dissecting him inch by inch. I also pray for myself so that I can stay calm, not use expletives, and love him in an agape way, regardless of his decisions.

I strongly suspect the “him” in the above question is Mr. Trump.

I often wonder if he ever thought that he could win this contest.

Then I wonder whether—after four more years of abuse from most of the world—he will scratch his head, wondering, “Why did I ever subject myself to this?”

I digress. Sorry.

Anyway, this bishop admitted that he prayed, by name, for the president every day and suggested some prayers. The first one was from the 1789 Book of Common Prayer (BCP), the bible for Episcopalians. (Yes, that was 1789, only 228 years ago, in a very different world.) The prayer starts with some very feudalistic and anthropomorphic terminology: “O Lord our heavenly Father.” Now we’re going to put “Father” on his “throne” and demand that he “behold” Donald and “bless him to always incline to thy will and walk in thy way” (“A Prayer for the President of the United States, and All in Civil Authority,” BCP, 1789 edition).

I have a problem with this. We are asking NoOneUpThere to whisper these directives into Donald’s ears, hoping that he will immediately stop the idea of mass deportations, more walls on the Mexican border, alien registries for Muslims, mockery of the disabled, dissing our allies, adoration of a despot, and constant name-calling. There might even be a suggestion about irresponsible tweeting.

Most folks in the developed world know this is not going to happen because most people in the twenty-first century know that there is NoOneUpThere in heaven directing traffic. (If there is NoOneUpThere, he sure is doing a lousy job.)

Regardless of the new president’s politics, I’ll pray for him every day, not by name, and ask myself a series of questions:

  • How did someone who really didn’t want the job get it?
  • Why did some 90 percent of fundamentalist Christians, who consider themselves the moral compass of the world, vote for a man who doesn’t seem to have a moral compass?
  • How do I explain to our children and grandchildren his kind of hateful, vindictive behavior? I can hear them asking, “So Papa, if I behave really badly toward other people who are different, then can I become president?”

When someone asks me, “How in the world could the Washington National Cathedral (Episcopal) host the religious part of the inauguration? Why didn’t church leaders publicly castigate a racist, sexist bigot who is so diametrically opposed to all of the messages of Jesus?” my only answer is, they too have lost their moral compass and want to be Mr. Nice Guys, not an antagonist like Jesus.

I shall also wonder why the new presiding bishop in the Episcopal Church, a black man, even allowed this to happen. I don’t know, but I would expect our chosen leader to refer to his moral compass and act accordingly.

What do you think and why?

 

Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore. CC by 2.0