Cover Story

Sidebar: Presidential Prayer -- How should we then pray?

Issue: "Question of Faith," April 5, 1997

When an evangelical encourages another evangelical to "pray for President Clinton," he usually does so after the other expresses some criticism of the president. The unspoken assumption is that there are only two legitimate courses of conduct and that they are mutually exclusive: supplication or reproof. In fact, the two are complementary. Yes, the Bible demands that we pray for our leaders as well as for other men.

But how do we pray?

In the case of this president, we have the word of church leaders who have met with him that Mr. Clinton is a conflicted believer in Christ. As Tony Campolo puts it, Mr. Clinton is "a man struggling to figure out, do I play the game according to the Democratic Party or do I live out my commitments to the kingdom [of God]?"

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Here's a good place to begin a prayer. Because God's word has already resolved this struggle for Mr. Clinton, Christians can pray that God would grant the president a repentant heart, that he would understand the kingdom of God is immensely more important than the Democratic Party (or the Republican Party, for that matter).

Second, we can pray that God would grant Mr. Clinton the ability to govern with biblical wisdom and justice. That, for instance, would clearly resolve the question of whether to veto the partial-birth abortion ban. Godly wisdom would dictate signing the bill.

Third, there is nothing wrong with asking God to bring justice--through impeachment--if the president does not repent. Promoting immorality is not an impeachable offense, but gross acts of corruption involving foreign influence may be. It does seem that God often uses extraordinary human error to bring down those who think they are above laws human or divine.

Fourth, we can pray that the president will receive wise counsel concerning the biblical case against his administration. That case is not limited to the so-called moral issues, but involves government action regarding education, taxes, welfare, and many other issues. The Bible does not designate a few areas as God's and then leave the rest to man's discretion. We should not go further than the Bible does in our public policy advocacy, but the contemporary tendency is to stop well short of what God would have us do.

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