When I first arrived at my current church there was no established tradition of praying for the President by name, or praying for the President at all on a regular basis. It was put back into the Prayers of the People in 2009 because so many people were excited and proud to see Barack Obama in the White House, and it gave people genuine joy to say: “We pray for our President, Barack, and our Governor, Deval.” When Deval Patrick stepped down after two terms as governor, we just switched to praying for “our Governor, Charlie” without any complaints or even comments.
But over the first few weeks of this year, several people asked, some with voices trembling, whether we would pray for the new president by name. Many said they did not want to. Some outright refused to pray for him or even SAY his name, such was the depth of their aversion to him.
It is my call to decide what will be in the Prayers of the People, and I did not hesitate. I immediately expressed my dissenting view. The congregation will pray for the current occupant of the White House by name every Sunday.
And this is why.
First of all, we who are authentic Christians cannot shy away from the hard parts of what Jesus has asked us to do, and Matthew 5:44 and Luke 6:27-28 are both pretty clear: Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If those are the criteria that describe whom I need to pray for, DJT fits every single one of them.
I began praying for my political enemies under the Bush Administration, when I was becoming so consumed with anger toward the policies of Dick Cheney and John Ashcroft and John Yoo and the like, it was tearing me up inside.
So I started praying for them. Every single day. But first I found a way to pray for them that did not feel like lying. It allowed me to fulfill the scriptural commandment and make my political point at the same time.
Mostly I prayed for them to want to seek and speak the truth. I prayed for them to become aware of the evil they had done. I prayed for them to be drawn toward repentance and a desire to make amends to the country and the world.
Sometimes my prayer became filled with invective, as I began with a long list of crimes they committed, rights they violated and heartless acts they seemed to engage in with glee. I was able to get it all out in standard lament format, moving from the litany of wrongdoing to a plea that God’s presence would provide reassurance in the present and somehow right these wrongs in the future. But I always ended by praying for their hearts (and the hearts of their supporters) to be turned, and make their talking points about compassionate conservatism turn from lies to reality.
It didn’t work. Not yet, anyway.
That brings me to the current occupant of the White House.
Sweet Jesus, there are so many obvious reasons why he needs prayer.
DJT has the impulse control of a two year old. The Snowflake in Chief gets his fee-fees hurt at the drop of a hat and lashes out like a bull in a china shop. He has no concept of diplomacy and could easily bumble his way into an international incident or even a war before his closest advisers even become aware he has sent the tweet or made the phone call. Now that he has the nuclear codes, his next temper tantrum could cause injury and death on a massive scale. So I pray that cooler heads will keep an eye on him, for public safety’s sake, since I see little likelihood that he will suddenly develop the ability to keep himself in check.
He is either full of hate, or enjoys pretending he is full of hate (who *does* that?), or seeks the approval of people who are full of hate (who *DOES* that?) but either way he is surrounded by a haze of hate like Pig Pen’s ever-present cloud of dirt and dust. It is so much a part of him he does not even notice it any more. He even seems to think it is normal, as if he expects everyone to operate at the same level of knee-jerk unthinking lizard brain bigotry. So I pray that somewhere inside him a spark of compassion might be lit. I pray that a dying ember of empathy might catch the breath of the Spirit and glow into warmth in his cold heart.
I also pray for him because on one level I actually almost feel sorry for him. He’s really a sad man. He never smiles. He never laughs. The only time he looks happy is when he is putting someone down, hurting someone, or talking about taking advantage of women. He has no friends. Usually in a campaign there are all kinds of human interest stories—this person who was his roommate in college who always thought he’d run for president some day, or his long time friend who always believed in him. Did you see any stories like that throughout the entire campaign? Ever? Did you see anyone say a nice thing about him who wasn’t trying to suck up to him to get something from him? How isolating. How deeply, deeply sad.
Keith Olbermann did a great job at highlighting this.
I join KO in wondering in a serious way if something is actually wrong with DJT. If he is “not all there”. Like a man who can’t read keeps an assistant around to handle any printed material he might come across, I wonder if DJT keeps Jarvanka at his beck and call because he isn’t capable of understanding anything more complicated than a half page of bullet points written in elementary school vocabulary.
He has just taken a job he knows he can’t do. He must be terrified at being found out to be a fraud. He’s not rich, he’s not smart, he’s not a good businessman, he’s not a winner, he isn’t anything he claimed to be. The spotlight of the presidency is about to shine a very harsh light on that. The whole house of lies on which he has based his fragile self-esteem is about to come crashing down in a humiliating way from which he will never recover. The bigger they are, the bigger they pretend to be, the harder they fall. It’s almost enough to make me feel sorry for him.
Last but not least, I pray for my enemies because it is good for ME. It has nothing to do with whether DJT is “worthy” of my prayers. I pray for my political enemies because that’s what keeps me calm and centered and helps me not to fly off the handle when the situation gets intense. I pray for the worst of the Republicons because that’s what keeps me from sinking down to their level—I refuse to hate them just because they hate me. Returning hate for hate, trying to match hate with greater hate, just destroys the world faster. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.
I don’t love DJT. But I refuse to hate him. I refuse to avoid saying his name as though he were Voldemort or Candyman or had some other kind of special powers.
I pray to keep from hating him, or his spokesbots, or his followers, or his apologists, or people who voted for him who should have known better.
I pray for him to outgrow the terrible twos and learn that he can’t have everything he wants exactly how he wants it exactly when he wants it.
I pray for him to learn to control his temper and stop getting his feelings hurt so easily.
I pray for him to realize that the job is too much for him. Maybe he will resign early (not that Pence is any better). Maybe he will resign early out of sheer boredom. When he was watching the gawd-awful pre-inaugural concert he looked like he wished he was anywhere else in the world.
I pray for him to have people around him who can stop him if he decides to destroy the world in a fit of pique.
I pray that there is nothing seriously mentally wrong with him, and that if there is, that someone will make sure he gets treatment for it and take the reins of power from his hands as they did with Reagan’s dementia.
And I pray for him to want to seek and speak the truth. I pray for him to become aware of the evil he has done. I pray for him to be drawn toward repentance and a desire to make amends to the country and the world.
If you are a praying person, I hope you will pray for him also.