This past Sunday, a church was surprised to have the President of the United States show up during one of their services. David Platt, Pastor Teacher at McLean Bible Church, wrote in a letter to the church about the circumstances of this unusual situation: “At the end of my sermon at the 1:00 worship gathering, I stepped to the side for what I thought would be a couple of moments in quiet reflection as we prepared to take the Lord’s Supper. But I was immediately called backstage and told that the President of the United States was on his way to the church, would be there in a matter of minutes, and would like for us to pray for him.“ (The complete text of his letter to the church can be found here – https://www.mcleanbible.org/prayer-president )
I admit to you that I have never had this happen to me before! Few pastors have. Certainly, I have had elected government officials attend a service. Unlike the stop-in visit from President Trump, all of those who visited the churches I’ve pastor have stayed for the service. I have typically acknowledged their presence, thanked them for their service, and encouraged the congregation to pray for them, their families, and all our elected leaders. Since these elected leaders are often in the public eye, if they visited more regularly, I try not to highlight their presence to allow them to participate in the service without distractions. I cannot even imagine being told off-stage that THE President was on his way and requesting prayer!!!
With his Bible in his right hand and his left hand on the President’s back, David Platt offered a prayer for Donald Trump. The link above also has a video that shows the entirety of Trump’s appearance and Platt’s prayer. Please take a moment to view it. I think you’ll find that the prayer was politically unbiased, saturated with biblical truth, and fitting to the moment.
I do not know David Platt personally. I have read his books. I have heard him preach in person. I have viewed videos of his teaching. And I supported his efforts while he served as President of the International Mission Board. I respect him as a person, as a brother in Christ, and as a fellow pastor. My impression of what took place this Sunday is that David Platt did exactly what I hope I would do. He successfully avoided making Trump’s appearance a political rally, and offered a thoughtful, meaningful prayer for the leader of the free world — at the request of the President.
This nation is deeply divided in its opinion of our sitting President. Some see him as a man who can do no wrong. Others see him as a man who can do no right. And still others are willing to acknowledge that he’s a human being who is not always right and not always wrong – in other words, he’s a mixed bag like the rest of us – with the exception that he serves in the highest office in the land. Praying for President Trump SHOULD BE what we are doing regularly, just as we should pray for whoever the President is regardless of whether we agree with his or her political stances or not. This is our biblical mandate – “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
You may question President Trump’s motives for dropping in unannounced and requesting prayer. You may believe it to be a calculated tactic to endear himself (or in some cases to further endear himself) to the evangelical community. Perhaps, you’re right; but the criticisms (some of them quite harsh) of David Platt are short-sighted. This was one of those unexpected “opportunities” that pastors often have to face on Sundays, although, admittedly, his was an unexpected opportunity on steroids. He wrote about that in his statement, as well – “Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that we didn’t see coming, and we’re faced with a decision in a moment when we don’t have the liberty of deliberation, so we do our best to glorify God. Today, I found myself in one of those situations.”
His written statement to his congregation has been labeled by some as an apology. He does acknowledge that some may have been hurt by the choice to pray over the President, but he also goes on to state that what he did was non-political and thoroughly biblical. Although my opinion may not rate high, I commend David Platt for doing what he did and how he did it. In my view, he handled it with grace and truth.
If you agree with President Trump’s policies and positions, pray for him. If you disagree with the President’s policies and positions, pray for him. If you have mixed feelings about the President’s policies and positions, pray for him. But what if you (as many evidently do) have intense feelings of dislike for the man who currently holds the office of President? What if you think he is the embodiment of everything you despise? Well… pray for him. Did not Jesus instruct us to love our enemies and to pray for even those who persecute us?