How to Pray for America on Election Day–And the Days That Follow

Today, millions of Americans will go to the polls for what both leading candidates–sitting President Donald Trump (Republican, conservative) and former Vice-President Joe Biden (Democrat, liberal)–are calling the most important election in a generation. From a broader Christian perspective, I have written about political moments before, reminding readers and voters about:

I have also written “A Plea to American Christians on Election Day” in 2012 and 2016–ideas that also appear in a Pints with Jack Podcast that coincidentally releases today, looking at the fifth chapter of The Screwtape Letters.

In each of these conversations, I have chosen not to share a particular political persuasion or support a political party–though I have critiqued leaders on various parts of the left-right spectrum. Indeed, personally, I wouldn’t fit very well on a simple right-left political map. I care deeply about what happens in the United States in this season because, as the most wealthy, innovative, and powerful nation on earth, the outcome of this election has an enormous local and global consequence. I care about freedom, justice, truth, equality and human rights, and the alleviation of suffering and harm. So of course I care about what happens.

But as a Christian theologian, I have also been trying to awaken Christians in America and readers throughout the world to the deeper roots of our faith, founded in the self-sacrificial, redemptive death of Christ and the hope of his resurrection. As a theologian, I am concerned that Christians in America–as well as in Canada and Britain–have sometimes gotten lost in the local concerns of their culture rather than the deepest truths of the Gospel (Romans 12:2).

So, in a practical way, how do Christians in America and throughout the world pray on election day? Here are 5 ways to bow the knees of our hearts with the political moment in America in mind on this day (Prayer of Manasseh 1:11).

1. Root Prayer in Neighbourly Love

America is deeply divided–a crack in the community that goes deeper than traditional divisions of right and left, religious and non-religious, young and old, rich and poor, North and South, Black and White, Christian, other, and “none of the above.” Beyond the walls of America, there is fear, sadness, and sourness toward the country that is both the economic giant of the world and the self-appointed political leader of the globe. There is a lot of anger within the US and toward the US.

Although it isn’t always clear how prayer changes the world, it is entirely useless unless it changes our own hearts.

In prayer, we should set aside bigotry, offence, moral arrogance, pettiness, and feelings of hatred in our hearts. It is true that we may be experiencing righteous anger on occasion. Regardless, our prayer must be an echo of the cross, joining God’s heart of love toward our neighbours within the nation and across the world–even when we disagree deeply with one another. Prayers for others to be “correct like me” are bound to grate against the melodies of heaven. Instead, with humility and in friendship, we pray in love for brothers and sisters, for our neighbours, friends, and enemies.

2. Turn our Hearts toward Peace

America is, I believe, the greatest and grandest of all political experiments. But it is an experiment founded on human thought and built on blood-soaked land, always transforming and renewing, and crucially, critically flawed even in all its productivity and creativity. It is an experiment that faltered before and may falter again, as images of the Confederate flag or memories of Texan succession movements remind us.

Moreover, there are doubts about this election that have emerged, including voter suppression, foreign interference, and concerns about the quality of voting systems. On top of this, there is an incumbent has not yet clearly and unconditionally affirmed a peaceful transition of power if he were to lose (let me know if he has done so since the time of this writing)–and as he has some legitimate pathways to winning, also cast doubt upon that outcome. As the President of the US is the head of the Executive Branch and civil administration, as well as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the National Police and the national security agencies, this could be a concern.

I believe that American conservatives and Republicans, even if they are in a situation where they must mourn a political loss, would not support political or military maneuvering that rejects the will of the people. But peace remains a point of prayer, as revolution rarely occurs without great bloodshed and heartache. There are dangerous, illegitimate, and unstable regimes throughout the world where we pray for peace and prosperity. So peace is what we pray for America as the election is decided in the days and weeks to follow–not least because many Americans are afraid.

3. Pray for the Healing of Christian Witness

While this is not a unique problem to America, as the only Western superpower with a large, vibrant Christian community with political sway, the United States stands out for its religious points of view. This has sometimes been a case where progressive and liberal Christians have aligned themselves with political movements that have failed to deliver on what they promised. Christian progressives have at times been shockingly quick to jump into bed with political solutions to social problems and to name people who disagree with them as “enemies” or even people who should have a right to speak, which dims the light of their Christian conviction.

Most recently, though, the concern is the conservative Christian alignment with President Trump. This is not just a reluctant or pragmatic acceptance of his faults in the longer journey to a conservative or Republican or capitalistic vision of a good society. Rather, some Christians have honoured this man because he eschews truthfulness, uses mockery as a weapon, winks at racism and sexism, and refuses to listen to his counsellors. Conservative Christian credibility is at Scopes Monkey Trial levels from the 1920s, a moment in history where Bible-believing Christians look foolish in the national eye. And this current folly may cause a complete transformation of the community, as it did a century ago.

And, frankly speaking, the greatest barrier I have when talk about Christian faith is American Christians. Perhaps we all disagree on moral issues. But the degree to which the Christian community in America on both sides has lost its historic, self-critical ability to distinguish itself as a moral leader as it trades faith for political power and love for social shaming is a great sadness to many within and without America–and a great confirmation to anti-Christians, who have always said that our religion was really about power and control.

Do American Christians right now look like Christ dying on the cross, taking the world’s sin upon himself in an act of transformative love? Or do they look like the Romans who put Christ on the cross? Our prayer must be that Christians can be a light to the world again and that the street-level, fence-sharing, neighbourhood-changing, cross-inspired love of normal American Christian life may one day displace these troubling and cartoonish images of greed, power, and hatred.

4. Trust in Providence and Act in Faith

I understand that this is a terrible thing to write down. Ultimately, though, we must trust that God is strong and continues to guide the world.

A trust in God as provider–Providence–is not fatalism or an excuse to inactivity, but is a call to action. Our prayers must still be “Thy Will be Done”–even if we are sure in our hearts what we believe the best thing to be in this situation. Even Christ surrendered his will for God’s plan at his point of greatest anxiety. Frankly, our viewpoint is limited by time and space, and we must trust in our prayers to One who sees beyond the little corners of our world.

This prayer is, as well, a call to action–to live out the image of community and culture that we want our political leaders to shape. If we are waiting on people on Fox and CNN–the commentators, the politicians, or the everyday folks featured in news clips–to change the world, we have misunderstood our role. It is up to us to shape our physical and virtual neighbourhoods into places that reflect the heart of Christ–places where there is freedom, justice, truth, beauty, and goodness. Immigration policy, economic shaping, foreign developments, overhauling systems, revolutionizing technology, framing for the future–none of these political actions prevent you from being a neighbour in your time and place.

It is here that we rise from prayer and turn to our neighbour and our neighbourhoods.

5. Remember that Praying Doesn’t Begin or End Today

Because of COVID-19, political uncertainty, and a changing sense of what an “election day” is, most people will not actually be voting on election day. A week before the election, more than half of those expected to vote had already done so in advanced polls or by mail-in ballot. In a very real sense, praying for America on election day is too late. The die may be cast–at least in terms of political outcomes, though not in a million other ways.

But this reflection only serves to remind us of a responsibility that we have to pray for the United States of America as a normal, everyday, prophetic, sacrificial, and loving Christian duty. Election day is one day of many–one day of most days, honestly–where the fate of the world is in America’s hands. Prayer for the United States, its leaders and its peoples, is a simple generosity–a few moments each day or each week where we lift up America to God. I don’t know if this will change America in any measurable way, but it will transform our hearts.

And, in our economy of the Spirit, any single prayer or pray-er could be world-changing. As all the other powers of the world come and go with the restorations and radical changes, this is one revolution for which the blood is already shed, and all that remains is hope.

Artwork by Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez, known as Diego Rivera.

About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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10 Responses to How to Pray for America on Election Day–And the Days That Follow

  1. river42song says:

    I agree that all Americans need to trust and participate in the electoral process and accept the outcome with grace and peace and show acceptance and willingness to peaceably and patiently speak and listen to others with differing viewpoints. No riots, no lawsuits, no violence. Lord please heal our land -2 Chron 7:14.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, healing is a good prayer for sure. I would note, though I am sure everyone has thought of it, that in Chronicles (as quoted), Israel has a covenant promise from God about healing and restoration, whereas modern countries like ours don’t have that promise. We do have hope, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. robstroud says:

    Thank you, Brenton, for your well-reasoned words. Your recognition of the United State’s import on the world stage (in terms of its actions influencing nearly every corner of the globe) is accurate. You need not pray for the “blessing” of America, of course, but everyone in the world would benefit from praying that our leadership would be ethical and honest. Ideally, that they would be peacemakers–rather than warmongers–as well.

    You clearly recognize the complexity that is this country. And, on many issues, our citizens appear almost evenly split. This can create an emotional tinderbox which anarchists (e.g. antifa) have recently fanned into flames. I fear that the disappointment and anger a large minority of our populace will feel after this election. I anticipate it will linger for a long time.

    God willing, Christians will not contribute to this… and on the contrary, by God’s mercy alone, that we will offer a healing balm to our fellow citizens.

    Like

  3. Wonderful piece, Brenton. Thank you!
    “Be not conformed to this world…but be transformed”—Rom. 12:2. Yes! I also think of the admonition to “not be carried away by meaningless arguments.” Love. Pray. Remember, there is always hope.
    Romans 15:13
    Lori

    Like

  4. Sandicomm says:

    Hi Brenton,

    I read this post while I was volunteering at the polls and I teared up. Maybe it was because I had been up since 3 in the morning (;-)), but I was so moved by your kindness and graciousness. I’ve said in previous comments on your blog that I’m not Christian, and as someone who lives a block away from Trump Tower, I have very little love for my neighbor. Pity, yes, but I find it hard to love someone who consciously allowed hundreds of refugee children to get lost in our bureaucracy, probably separated and lost from their families forever. My only hope, now that the results are becoming clearer and the popular vote count is well-established, is that most Americans have chosen to reject fearmongering and bigotry and understand that even if someone who inflamed political extremists all along the political spectrum leaves the White House, there will still be a lot of psychic and spiritual healing work to do.

    Demographically speaking, Christians, particularly evangelical Christians, have been supporting Trump, which implicitly supports the many decidedly un-Christian things his administration has done. Let us hope, or pray, as you and so many of your commenters are so graciously doing, that all Americans, no matter their beliefs, remember the core values of goodness and kindness. Thank you for being a role model.

    –Ceci/ Sandicomm

    Like

    • Thanks so much for this meaningful response, Ceci. I still want to give you all best wishes and safety and goodness in the days to come.
      I hope that evangelicals deepen in their understand and grow in faith. I also hope that liberals and democrats aren’t smug. Biden did not win the confidence of everyone–far from it. There is doubt that he will protect rights and peoples’ sense of humanity. CNN and other left-leaning organizations that lack a self-critical instinct have done a lot of damage for progressive politics in the last 4 years.
      Best to you all!

      Like

      • Sandicomm says:

        Thank you, Brenton!

        The area around Trump Tower was already cordoned off because of a crane accident in the area (so fun knowing that the 85 story tall crane catty-corner from your apartment is unstable!), but I really think that the worst thing that will befall the neighborhood tonight is a giant dance party that’s probably going to make its way up from downtown Manhattan.

        After reading your blog and listening to the Marion E. Wade Center podcast, which I discovered through the release of the Lost Lewis Tapes, I am really learning a lot about modern North American Protestantism, and there is so much to respect and admire. It’s not the spiritual solution for me, but the universal message of grace, truth, charity/selflessness and self-sacrifice are necessary for all to hear, and central to all of humanity.

        As for Uncle Joe, I don’t want to get too off topic and turn this into a political post, but it must be noted that not only has he received the most popular votes in history, but is also winning it by a very wide margin. Recent polling suggests that a majority of Americans do not want to outlaw abortion (I am assuming this is what you mean by “rights and peoples’ sense of humanity”). Frankly, even if we lived in a far left, sex-positive paradise where IUDs and prophylactics were handed out like candy, we as a society would still need to make abortion available, lest we relive the horror stories of the pre-Roe v. Wade days. Respectfully, it would be best for the Christian right to return to the position that most Protestants, including, I believe, Lewis, from what I’ve been able to gather, believed before the 1970s: abortion regulation and reproductive healthcare in general are state issues, and the church should be kept separate. People on the far end of the “pro-birth” spectrum think that we want to create laws forcing people to have abortions, but outright banning them isn’t so much different in terms of government overreach.

        My biggest hope is that in this new political era, all sides of the political spectrum can unite around one issue: climate change and the threat to our planet’s biodiversity. In the U.S., there is a nascent conservative climate action movement (if you’re interested, here’s a really great podcast episode: https://gimletmedia.com/shows/howtosaveaplanet/5wh357n/how-2020-became-a-climate-election). I’m sorry that I’m not familiar enough with Canadian politics to know if there is a similar movement growing there. I dispute that CNN and the three main news networks (ABC, NBC, CBS) are especially left-leaning (if you really want some spicy left wing takes, check out Democracy Now), but I do think that their reporting skews to urban interests and culture, since we are the target demographic for their advertisers, which is why so many people who identify as conservative feel ignored and even neglected. Let’s hope that this period of history has illustrated to everyone in the industrialized world just how easy it is for democracy to slip away and how important cooperation is to preserve it.

        But anyway, back to Lewis and Narnia, hmm? Thank you for letting me share my thoughts.

        P.S. My dad went on a tour of PEI and the rest of Nova Scotia this past summer and really loved it. The pictures are beautiful.How lucky that you get to live in such a special, unique place. I hope to visit one day!

        Like

  5. Pingback: A Prison of the Mind: The Skeptical Dwarfs, Conspiracy Theory Thinking, and C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle | A Pilgrim in Narnia

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