Proverbs 14:15 MSG
For whom should we pray? And how should we pray? And for what?
As Christians we believe in the efficacy of prayer. We believe that prayer changes people and things. That is to say God changes people and things and sometimes those changes happen in response to our prayers. And we believe that no one stands outside the transformative grace of God, so we pray for all to receive, be touched, and be transformed by that grace. We pray for God’s grace to reach into every aspect of their lives.
That, as they say, goes without saying.
Grace is unconditional love, forgiveness, and acceptance. Sometimes it is affirmation. Sometimes, not.
If someone we love is addicted to drugs, we can love, accept and forgive them. We can even affirm them as children of God and people of infinite worth. But we cannot affirm their behavior when they are using and doing those things which enable their addiction. Neither would we pray for them to succeed in those endeavors. Indeed, we might rather pray that they fail, for their own sake and the sake of all who love them and even those who don’t.
If we know someone is going to commit a crime we pray for them but we do not pray for them to succeed. Indeed, we pray that they fail. It is the loving thing, the only loving thing for which we can pray.
If we believe that the leader of our country is going to do things that are contrary to the ethos upon which our country has been built, things that will destabilize our country’s standing in the world that will hurt many people, those we love and even those from whom we are estranged, then we pray for him. We pray for him whether his name is Trump, or Obama, or Churchill. We pray for him whether his name is Hitler, or Pol Pot, or Pinochet, or Mao. We allow that no matter what his name, he stands within the reach of God’s infinite grace and we pray for him.
But we do not pray for them to succeed.
At the very least, we pray that those who are liable to be harmed by the actions or inactions of their country’s leaders will be protected or given the strength to endure through the injustice that is done to them. And, if we are confident in our view, to the degree that we are confident we have no moral or ethical choice but to pray that those leaders fail.
God is, after all, greater than our prayers. If those prayers are misguided or in error, God will correct them and, in his grace and love, forgive us for our mistake. God will know and allow that those prayers, right or wrong, were offered from a sincere attitude of love and a deep desire for the greater good and God will take that into account.
This is the assurance that comes to us in Jesus Christ and as Paul said, it is, “Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.” (Ephesians 3:1)
Dean Feldmeyer is the author of 5 novels, 4 non-fiction books, three plays, and over 100 essays, articles, poems, and short stories, some of which can be found on this web site.