Carolyn’s Online Magazine
NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER 2015
IN LIGONIER, PA.
The Rev. Monte W. Holland, Guest Writer
Retired United Methodist Church Pastor
…maybe that’s the greatest power of prayer: It winds around our world like a billion skeins of ribbon, binding people who have never met, linking cultures that otherwise have no hope of understanding one another—and then it shoots heavenward like a spiritual supernova, joining all of humanity in an instinctive reach for eternity.*
On National Day of Prayer, Ligonier (Pa) held a prayer breakfast, with speakers presenting parts of a Concert of Testimony and Prayer in the areas of government, education, media, family, business, military and church. My husband Monte, a member of the Laurel Mountain Borough council, was invited to speak on “government and prayer.”
Please keep in mind that this time is centered on prayer and faith witness, and is not for speeches or political commentary. (That was my directive from the planning committee.)
I find myself in an unusual place—I’m a preacher being told not to preach or say anything political about a subject that is inherently political—government. The first problem could have been solved by not bringing in a preacher, but how would anyone else speak about an apolitical government?
My faith says that all aspects of life are directed by basic guidelines:
- love God, neighbor and self;
- do unto others as you would have them do unto you;
- love your enemies.
In the case of government, Paul reminds us Obey the rulers who have authority over you. Only God can give authority to anyone, and he puts these rulers in their places of power—you should obey God’s rulers because you know it is the right thing to do, and not just because of God’s anger.
We sometimes wonder about God’s choice of leaders—but I console myself by saying, “Democracy is a messy business.”
I serve on the governing council in Laurel Mountain Borough, where party affiliation means little. The Borough seeks live bodies willing to serve—to serve all people regardless of political vintage.
This brings me to my prayer focus for those in government, and my expectation of those in government:
- To serve all the people.
- To honor all, not disparaging certain groups of people.
- To look to their God (not necessarily God the way I see God) in prayer, truly seeking guidance.
- To accept their God as their principal lobbyist.
- To not use religious beliefs to enhance self or demean others.
- To interact with others in government as a means of finding ways to meet the needs of the people in the best way.
- To never settle for stalemate and never resort to name-calling.
The key verse assigned to this day is 1 Kings 8:28: But I ask you to answer my prayer.
Certainly we all pray seeking answers. My prayer here may mean little to you, particularly if you don’t agree with what I believe God wants government to be about.
On the other hand, your prayers are very meaningful to you, and you want them answered.
We want people in government to pray and expect answers. We focus on prayer because prayer changes lives—our own lives, as we pray for government; and the lives of government officials, as they speak to and listen to God.
We pray not for specific results, but instead for a government whose officials are actively seeking God’s help. In a cliché: In God we trust.
A PRAYER FOR GOVERNMENT
Gracious God, we believe that government is in place by your will to serve according to your will. This country is your Creation, God, and people in government are officially your stewards.
Government officials are in place to do your will whether they acknowledge you or not. We pray that each government official may come to sense your presence, and be prompted to call upon you and rely on you as they carry out their appointed duties.
We realize that some of the most deadly sins infest the lives of many government officials—greed, pride, envy, sloth, wrath, lust, and even gluttony. We pray that our government officials may be filled instead with virtues—humility, kindness, patience, diligence, charity, temperance, and appropriate sexual behavior.
Praise God for all who serve you in government—in lowly positions up to some of the most power-filled in the world. The key word is servant—servants of you, O God, leading the way that we all may live in the peace and justice that the world hungers for. We pray that a key element of their service is setting the example of their love of you, God, of all neighbors and of themselves.
Thank you, God, for the opportunity to live in this world and be a part of your Created Order. Amen.
* The Paradox of Prayer, Bill Newcott, AARP The Magazine, Feb/Mar 2015, pp 41 . —The Paradox of Prayer, Bill Newcott, AARP The Magazine, Feb/Mar 2015, pp 41