One of the Most Political Acts Christians Can Do: Pray for President-Elect Biden

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It is (not officially) official: Joseph Biden will be the next president of the United States. Some celebrate the Democrat’s victory—or, perhaps, simply President Trump’s defeat—and the election of the first woman (let alone South Asian, African-American woman) to the office of Vice President. Others cry foul, lamenting the commander-in-chief’s loss and fearing what the future may hold with the incoming administration.

As Christians, called to seek first the Kingdom of God and not worry about tomorrow, how do we react to all this? How do we move forward after a presidency marked by fear mongering, hate, civil unrest, and dubious leadership during the current pandemic? How do we respond to the adulation of an incoming president whose platform champions numerous policies conflicting with Creation order and God’s Word (not to mention theological concepts of sphere sovereignty and subsidiarity, but I digress…)?

A right response begins with knowing what we believe and why we believe it. Every election cycle, I find myself turning to the Belgic Confession, a familiar text written long ago by Guido de Brès, a persecuted preacher who was martyred under the oppressive rule of the Roman Catholic Spanish authorities in the 16th Century Netherlands (yet another story in the grand, unfolding tale of redemptive history). In Article 36, de Brès writes the following on civil government:

We believe that
because of the depravity of the human race,
our good God has ordained kings, princes, and civil officers.
God wants the world to be governed by laws and policies
so that human lawlessness may be restrained
and that everything may be conducted in good order
among human beings.

For that purpose God has placed the sword
in the hands of the government,
to punish evil people
and protect the good.

And being called in this manner
to contribute to the advancement of a society
that is pleasing to God,
the civil rulers have the task,
subject to God’s law,
of removing every obstacle
to the preaching of the gospel
and to every aspect of divine worship.

They should do this
while completely refraining from every tendency
toward exercising absolute authority,
and while functioning in the sphere entrusted to them,
with the means belonging to them.

They should do it in order that
the Word of God may have free course;
the kingdom of Jesus Christ may make progress;
and every anti-Christian power may be resisted.

Moreover everyone,
regardless of status, condition, or rank,
must be subject to the government,
and pay taxes,
and hold its representatives in honor and respect,
and obey them in all things that are not in conflict
with God’s Word,
praying for them
that the Lord may be willing to lead them
in all their ways
and that we may live a peaceful and quiet life
in all piety and decency.

I believed this statement in 2016 when Donald Trump became president, and I believe it today, as we prepare for the Biden administration in 2021.

So, returning to the question of what Christians should do, my answer is: Engage in the political act of prayer. Give thanks for the freedoms we enjoy and lament the sin, injustice, and oppression experienced by others.

Pray for president-elect Biden, vice president-elect Harris, and for all our leaders from the national level down to city and village councils. Pray that they might work to protect the rights and freedoms of individuals, as well as groups and institutions so that they can fulfill the roles given them for the good of our communities. Pray that they would protect children and the elderly—those who often suffer abuse and are vulnerable to exploitation within the fallenness of our systems—bring justice to the poor and oppressed, facilitate ways to better care for our world, and work for peace, reconciliation, and restoration.[1] Pray that they would lead humbly, signified by a willingness to accept the wisdom of others and to take responsibility for not only the successes but also the failures of their leadership.

Such prayers transcend the idolatry of the peoples by appealing to an authority greater than those on earth (and in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue), an authority that reminds us that our citizenship in the United States is secondary to our citizenship in heaven: the Triune God. As Christopher Wright puts it:

Prayer appeals to a higher authority. Prayer is, in short, a political act. It affirms that all human political power is subordinate not ultimate, relative not absolute–to be obeyed so long as it is consistent with obedience to the living God…[2]

Prayer witnesses to our great God, to His Kingdom, and to a hope that does not wax and wane on the whims of sinful people and fallen structures and the powers therein. Prayer helps to orient our hearts towards the end (telos) to which all things are moving—the consummation of the Kingdom of God and the renewal of all things—moves our hands to live (now) in ways that reflect this end, and calls others to join us. Prayer is a powerful and effective act. We have only to look to the stories (testimonies) of Moses, Daniel, Peter, and James to remind us of this. And so, as election season subsides, as the pandemic persists and as we go about the routines of daily life—working, worshiping, loving, playing, and resting—will you join me in prayer?

[1] These petitions are drawn from a Christian Reformed Church document entitled, “Our World Belongs to God,” a contemporary testimony to the Christian faith originally written in 1986, with a second edition approved in 2008.

[2] Wright, Christopher, The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 256-257.

Originally posted on my blog From Balaam's Donkey at the Areopagus Campus Ministry website. 

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 I agree.  Scripture mandates us to pray for our leaders and the BC you quote give good reasons to do so.  Still, prayer should not be a way to duck another responsibility; namely, that Christians are also called to be the nation's and leaders' conscience.  It won't do that so many Christians are silent when the people they voted for now refuse to accept the results of the election and jeopardize the wellbeing of the country by blocking a peaceful transition and fomenting dangerous civil unrest.

Hi Bill & Ginny. I am one of the Christians who voted for Trump. If we are going to be a nation of laws, then we must make sure all the election laws were properly followed, correct? From the Belgic Confession:

God wants the world to be governed by laws and policies
so that human lawlessness may be restrained
and that everything may be conducted in good order
among human beings.

Let the process play out. Do not be whipped into a frenzy by the media. We as believers ought to remain calm and let the allegations of fraud be investigated based on their merits, rather than wishful thinking.

If the investigations reveal that all votes for Biden were legitimate, and the states certify those results, then Christians like me will absolutely speak up in favor of Trump exiting office and transitioning the Executive Branch peacefully to Biden. We are not being "silent" as you say. We are being respectful of our laws.

Had it occurred to anyone to pray for our current, actual, president?