Praying for Leaders With Whom You Disagree
So how do you pray for those in power when you didn't vote for them?
Leaving all politics aside, it helps to remember that in any contested election, there will always be winners and losers. Someone is bound to be disappointed. In 1884 Democrat Grover Cleveland defeated Republican James Blaine in one of the closest elections in American history:
That's a difference of 25,685 votes. Cleveland carried 20 states, Blaine 18.
If you voted for Blaine, you probably walked away angry and frustrated by the close loss. It was an ugly campaign, with accusations of influence-selling by Blaine and the shocking admission by Grover Cleveland that he had fathered a child out of wedlock. Some Republicans who ended up supporting Cleveland were called "mugwumps." They are credited with delivering New York (and thus the election) to Cleveland. Some Blaine supporters whispered that Cleveland might be the Antichrist. In the final week of the campaign, a Protestant minister identified the Democrats as the party of "rum, Romanism, and rebellion." If that's not enough, there was man named John St. John of the Prohibition Party, who campaigned against Blaine in New York, thus helping ensure Cleveland's victory.
It was all a sordid, tangled mess. Reading about the ugly mudslinging in the 1884 campaign proves that there truly is nothing new under the sun.
I mention that because on this National Day of Prayer, we do well to remember that when we pray, we don't pray as Republicans or Democrats or Independents. The command to pray for those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-2) was given when pagan Roman emperors were in power. The Christians in Asia Minor and Greece had no say in electing Nero or any other Roman emperor. It would be a long time before a Christian came to high office anywhere in the ancient world. Under those distinctively unfavorable circumstances, where Christians were either ignored or despised, God called the early Christ-followers to demonstrate their faith by praying for those in authority over them.
Prayer has always been intertwined with politics, and in another sense it always transcends it. We don't have to like every decision made by our leaders in order to pray for them. When we get on our knees, politics takes a back seat to the call to intercede for those whom the Lord has placed over us. When we finish praying, we can get back to politicking if we want to. But when we pray, our prayers matter more than our votes, and that's a big part of what the National Day of Prayer is all about.