President-elect Donald J. Trump and U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi smile for a photo during the 58th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2017. More than 5,000 military members from across all branches of the armed forces of the United States, including reserve and National Guard components, provided ceremonial support and Defense Support of Civil Authorities during the inaugural period. (DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

Can You Honestly Pray for Leaders You Disagree With?

by Marty Poehler

At the recent National Prayer Breakfast, President Trump said, “[I do not] like people who say, ‘I pray for you,’ when they know that that’s not so.”

He of course was referring to Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House Speaker of the House of Representatives which just impeached the President, and which was soon followed by the Senate acquitting him. Mrs. Pelosi has said she prays for the President every day.

Putting aside the question of whether Mrs. Pelosi is lying when she says she prays for the President (which we can’t know) – can we and should we pray for leaders and those that we don’t always agree with?

I’ve appreciated American politics since I was growing up in the 60’s. Dad was a businessman who was a conservative Republican. Mom had been a Republican, but she became a liberal Democrat. For me it was like living with the liberal James Carville and his conservative wife Mary Matalin. I listened, weighed up, and thought about the points they made in their favor around the dinner table. They talked honestly and with fiery conviction, and I think politics works best in just that way -- when it’s fought hard so the fine points come out for us all to see and lead us to have the opinions we wind up having.

A fundamental question about politics is – do we fight each other tooth and nail, even to the death if necessary, thinking it’s a matter solely of a fight between flesh and blood? Or do we think God has a hand in it?

“The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will,” it says in Proverbs 21:1. Based on this point of view, not only are our discussions, voting, campaigning, or even running for office, changing our world politically – but also at the same time God is working to direct and influence rulers for their and our good.

If God has a part to play in the political outcomes, and he influences rulers – we can feel that it isn’t totally up to us to make the thing come out right. We can take our hands off it, so to speak, and believe that not only do our efforts matter to shape things, but God is also in there guiding and counseling our leaders. If this is so – and I believe it is – then “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings  (should be) made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way” (found in the Bible at 1 Timothy Chapter 2: 1-2). We can pray for the others we don’t agree with, without hating them, because we know “the king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord” and he is influencing them. Our prayers can and should be that God would direct them to make the right choices and do the right things - to govern wisely to allow peace to continue in our everyday lives.


2016 Presidential Election Results-By Congressional District (Popular Vote Margin)

Can We Pray for our Leaders and Neighbors We Don’t Agree With?  

I pray for President Trump, even though I don’t always agree with him, and sometimes strongly disagree. I do the same with people I meet who I don’t agree with. Does Nancy Pelosi pray for Donald Trump? We can’t know, but she says she does – and it’s right that she would pray for her leader even if she doesn’t always agree with him. Can our top leaders, even President Trump, pray for others even while he strongly and powerfully disagrees with them? The benefits are great to him and to us if he does.

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