Episcopal News Service (ENS) posted “After presidential power shifts, Episcopalians ask: How should we pray” on January 23, 2017. It had the subtitle “Debating purpose, intention of praying for Donald Trump in church.” As internet posts go, this is a long post. It presents reasoned answers for both “yes” and “no.” What follows are a few quotes from the article. I encourage you to read the entire article here.
- Since Trump’s election in November, many Episcopalians have asked what it means to pray for the 45th U.S. president during public worship, how to do it, and, for some, even whether to offer such prayers at all.
- For some Episcopalians, there is no debate: they will pray for Trump whether they are happy to have him as president or not. While some congregations that are in the habit of praying for the president by name might end that practice; for others, it is a foregone conclusion that such specificity will continue.
- The Rev. Devon Anderson, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Excelsior, Minnesota, told ENS that … “When we come to the altar to pray on Sunday morning, we pray with one voice. We pray the same words, we sing the same hymns, we cup our hands and receive the same bread. Most importantly, we pray for justice,” Anderson said. “Even the prayers that pray for our elected leaders by name have within them prayers for justice.”
- Curry told ENS that praying for leaders and challenging them to change are not mutually exclusive. “I grew up having to pray for leaders that were encouraging Jim Crow segregation and I was the one being segregated, but we did it anyway,” he said. During the civil rights movement, Curry said, people “prayed and protested at the same time.” “We got on our knees in church and prayed for them, and then we got up off our knees and we marched on Washington,” he said.
- A recent discussion on ENS’ Facebook page exemplified the division this question raises. For example, Judy Schroder Niederman wrote that, because of how she said Trump “ridicules and bullies others, how he lies, how he threatens,” she “cannot and will not utter that man’s name. Not yet emotionally able to pray for him. I will pray for the office of the presidency.” Alynn Beimford replied, saying for eight years she could not invoke Barack Obama’s name during worship but will “joyfully” use Trump’s.
- Curry told ENS “to pray for those who are in leadership is to actually unleash energy that absolutely has its source in God and that may touch the human spirit in some way.”
- The Rev. Kim Hobby, pastor of Christ Church Episcopal in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, was among those commenting on the ENS website about the nature of prayer. “Prayer changes things, and the first thing it changes is the one who prays,” she wrote. “True prayer changes our hearts of fear and hatred to hearts of courage and love, despite our human instincts. I pray that the hearts of all our leaders, including the president-elect, will be opened to see, hear, and respond compassionately and respectfully to all people at all times and in all places.”
- In an interview with ENS, the Very Rev. Randolph Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral, said Episcopalians “don’t look at prayer as magic.” “Our prayers are our way of trying to align ourselves to God and to focus ourselves a little bit more into what God may want for us,” he said. “If I believe that God loves every human being to their core; that God loves every human being infinitely, then how can I just pray for those people I agree with when I know that God loves that person I disagree with to a depth I can’t even understand?”
For further reading
- Statement of Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Curry regarding prayers for the President
- Time magazine has published Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s “Why We Must Pray for Donald Trump.”
- Diocese of Vermont Bishop Tom Ely has issued “A Statement in Support of Prayer & Reconciliation.”
- Diocese of Missouri Bishop Wayne Smith has written a blog post “Praying for a president by name.”
- The Very Rev. Michael Sniffen, dean of Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, New York, has written “Prayers for the President: What’s in a Name?”
- Mark Silk in his column for Religion News Service adds a Jewish perspective “Should we pray for President Trump?“