THE PRESIDENT AND PRAYER
Ronald Reagan loved the image of Gen. George Washington kneeling in the snow at Valley Forge, when the American cause seemed hopeless. The image, he said, “personified a people who knew it was not enough to depend on their own courage and goodness; they must also seek help from God, their Father and their Preserver.”
Ronald Reagan loved the image of General George Washington kneeling in the snow at Valley Forge, when the American cause seemed hopeless. The image, he said, “personified a people who knew it was not enough to depend on their own courage and goodness; they must also seek help from God, their Father and their Preserver.”
Yesterday, I had the great opportunity to join a conference call with President Trump and other faith leaders from around the country. President Trump began the conversation affirming this week as Holy Week and expressing sadness that we were not going to be able to gather formally in our houses of faith on Easter Sunday. He thanked faith leaders for our focus on scripture, and our commitment to prayer saying, “this is a time to focus on our personal relationship with God and family”. He expressed appreciation that he and his family had been able to worship online the last three Sundays. He quoted Isaiah 60:2: “See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and His glory appears over you”. He underscored that our faith inspires us to care for the vulnerable. He reaffirmed the power of prayer and to “trust the Almighty God, now and forever”.
Vice President Pence called America a nation of faith based on the “Good Book” (the Bible). He thanked the faith community for abiding by the social distancing guidelines, for generosity, and for prayer.
The President then introduced and thanked Franklin Graham for the incredible work of Samaritan’s Purse in New York’s Central Park.
A representative from the Jewish Federation of America admonished that “every generation should consider we each must come out of Egypt”. This was extremely powerful to reflect on, knowing the Jewish faith was commemorating Passover on the very same day of this conference call.
The call was closed in powerful prayer by Franklin Graham, Father Charles, and a Rabbi.
Since the call ended yesterday, here are a few thoughts I have pondered. First, looking back, our most effective Presidents have acknowledged the power of prayer in our nation. For example, President Reagan said, “Through the storms of revolution, Civil War, and the great world wars, as well as during times of disillusionment and disarray, the nation has turned to God in prayer for deliverance. We thank Him for answering our call, for, surely, He has.”
When the coronavirus pandemic hit America, Trump quickly proclaimed March 14 to be a National Day of Prayer. Reminding us that “no problem is too big for God to handle,” the president said: “As one nation under God, we are greater than the hardships we face, and through prayers and acts of compassion and love, we will rise to this challenge and emerge stronger and more united than ever before.”
I am so grateful that we have a President that calls us to prayer rather than punishes us for prayer. As someone who has spent time in multiple countries where there is no religious freedom and after my personal experience of being jailed (twice) for suspected Christian activity, I am truly grateful that our President calls us to prayer to God Jehovah revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. This is a call for each of us to pray to God Jehovah, for whom there is no problem too big for him to handle”. As Jesus shared, “With God, all things are possible”.
Second, President Trump stated that it’s an honor for his administration to work with faith-based communities to help in time of crisis. He pointed to the billions of dollars appropriated by Congress - dollars overseen by his administration – that are meant to help Americans during a time when businesses temporarily shut down. We have differing perspectives about the impact of this economic crisis. Some among us, who are more optimistic speak of a quick rebound. Others predict a slow recovery involving a serious recession. Some even point to an economic collapse. The point is that we don’t know. We do know we walk an economic tight rope for which we need wisdom beyond our own. That wisdom must come from God. As written in Scripture, “the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17) We need to pray for such wisdom, for ourselves, our neighbors, our leaders.
Third, this should be a time of growth and learning in all areas. We would want it to be a reminder of the spiritual basis of life and government. While we are making heroic efforts to save the lives of those infected with and impacted by COVID-19, we are at the same time killing almost a million unborn children a year in mothers’ womb. Might we pray that we are as shocked and concerned about these deaths as we are of hearing of the 100,000 to 240,000 that will die by the corona virus? Life begins at conception and unborn children are certainly a “vulnerable population” that we must protect.
One other thing. This crisis shines light on the importance of who we elect to lead us. Forget about the labels “Republican”, “Democrat”, “Libertarian”, etc. Forget about personality. Rather focus on the policies that the platforms represent. These platforms are based on values that determine how we live now and set direction for the future. For example, in my own district, Gavin Rollins, a UF grad, a teacher, a commissioner, a military veteran desires to carry his Christian faith values and ethics to Washington. Make no mistake our values determine policy. Policy determines how we live. There is a vast difference in candidates for our offices and a vast difference in outcomes.
Freedom, respect for life, moral rectitude, and goodwill is always just one generation from extinction. Perhaps more than ever before, given the tension among the nations, the mammoth destructive power at the fingertip, the global pandemic, the economy on the precipice, we need, and would want, to join our President and millions of people of faith in asking God to do what we ourselves cannot do.
Although it certainly won’t be covered in the media, Christians should understand that the ‘COVID crisis” pales in comparison to the “Christ crisis”. Simply put, the most important question that we must answer is regarding our opinion on the Savior, not a President. How we answer this significant question will of course guide how we live and love now and will determine our eternity, forever. If you aren’t sharing Christ with others during this global crisis, pray for opportunities and boldness to do so.
May this week, above all weeks, as the Jewish community celebrates Passover, the Christian Church celebrates the Resurrection, we, like George Washington, kneel before the “creator of Heaven and earth” and hear the Word of God, “So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So, let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most (Hebrews 4:14-16 NLT).