Thursday, November 06, 2008

Do You Believe in the Power of Prayer?

Just catching up on some pre-election shows on DVR, including The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

Colbert made fun of some clip of a guy praying for a McCain victory and reminding God that His reputation is at stake because members of other religions "for various reasons" are praying to their gods for the other guy to win.

I asked Cindy if she ever prayed for Obama to win. She said, "not specifically."

I thought back and realized that, well, neither did I.

So here's my questions to anyone who wants to answer:

1) Did you pray about this election?
2) What was your prayer?
3) To the best of your understanding, was your prayer answered?
4) What inferences, if any, do you draw from the answer to #3?


lauramorefield2000 said...

Hi Ken,

Yes, I did pray about this election. My prayers mainly centered around safety for Obama...for some reason I was worried that he would be a target for assassination. Maybe it's just that he reminds me of JFK, but it was a worry.

I didn't pray specifically (that I recall) for Obama to win. My prayers on that level (after two elections where Bush won...which sort of beggars the idea of God anointing Presidents, imho) tend to be few and far between.

So far, my prayer for Obama's safety from attack appear to have been answered...but your last question brings me to the topic of prayer in general.

I used to view it as a sort of wish's what I think should happen, God.

As I've grown older (not necessarily wiser) as a Christian, I view prayer less as a request hotline and more as a conversation with God about what's going on in my head and heart...more transformational for me and a way to leave the "big issues" up to God.

The irony is, I think a lot of times he leaves those big issues up to us collectively. We choose the President, imho. God only chooses the President inasmuch as we allow his influence to guide our votes.

Does that make any sense??

Kenneth R. Morefield said...

Yes, lots of sense.

There is an irony to me that some factions of Christendom that promote prayer are the least reflective about it. Given a prayer like the guy made in the Colbert segment, one would have to conclude that God doesn't care about His reputation as much as we do, or doesn't care about it in the same way.

Once I get to the point of excepting that I can't understand everything from God's point of view, I pretty much stopped asking Him for certain outcomes and just started telling Him what I wanted. Seemed like for years every prayer was couched in the "if it be your will" language that always made me feel like, well, if that's the case, why not just make it understood that that is a universal stipulation on every prayer?

I didn't pray for an Obama victory. I did pray at times when I was busy for strength or stamina in the work I was doing. I thought about praying for rain (or sun) on the election day (in part in response to Focus on the Family's smug, "Is it wrong to pray for rain in Denver" campaign--which didn't seem to be answered) but then I couldn't figure out if rain helped (b/c of lead in early voting) or hurt (b/c high turnout overall helped) and I certainly didn't want to pray for the wrong thing--by which, I mean of course, not the thing that might be wrong to pray for but the thing that might result in an outcome other than what I really wanted.

Doug said...

Yeah, I wonder where all the "God anoints our authorities" rhetoric is now? Palin told Focus on the Family that her lower poll numbers "strengthens my faith because I know at the end of the day, putting this in God’s hands, the right thing for America will be done, at the end of the day on Nov. 4.” Dobson announced he and his wife were praying "for God's intervention" on election day.

I remember an interview I heard by Terry Gross with Jimmy Carter in the early '90s, and she asked him if he ever prayed while he was in office. He replied that he prayed many times for wisdom and strength, but that he never prayed, say, to win an election. That certainly seem self-serving or even worse, presuming to know the best thing for God to do.

John said...

This is a great question, Ken.

I prayed for this election. In these kinds of situations, my prayer tends to echo the Lord’s prayer—that God’s will be done. The funny thing about offering such a prayer is that I never had any doubt His will would be done. I believe my prayer was answered, because I believe He works out His will however He sees fit, regardless of my understanding or lack thereof. Therefore, uttering such a prayer for me (whether in this situation or others) becomes less a matter of trying to squeeze out of God what I want or tell God what He wants, and more an opportunity to reflect the acceptance and appreciation I should have regardless of the outcome. As Laura said above, it’s more transformational for me. I see this kind of prayer then as an opportunity to grow in my trust of God as He works out His will in the world. Kind of like, “I don’t know His will, but will I accept it when it happens?”

I’ve known far too many people who wanted to invoke prayers in the lead up to the election (esp. when “God’s man” was trailing), and then come away silent in the days and weeks after their man lost the election. I always thought that was ironic, since if “God’s guy” didn’t win, wouldn’t the country need even more prayer? Ugh.

Thankfully, this isn’t everywhere. I have to admit I was pleased that my pastor encouraged our church this week to pray for Barack, though I know most of the people didn’t vote for him. I’m not going to have much time for incivility from professing Christians the next four years. It’s fine to disagree with the guy, but my prayer going on is that Christians who didn’t vote for him will be civil in their disagreement and above all, pray for Barack to do well and lead our country with wisdom for the next several years.

Kenneth R. Morefield said...

Hi, John, thanks for your comments.

I remember several years ago when we were in Illinois, we had a Sunday School class after Clinton was elected and there was a lot of gloom and doom talk until one of our missionaries on leave said, "You know, either God is in control or he isn't."

I don't even mind much people praying for a certain outcome. It is when that outcome doesn't happen that I become puzzled by an unwillingness to question their own assumptions about what God must want. It's almost as though it is easier to doubt whether or not God is capable than whether He might want something different from what we want or be willing to allow things to happen contrary to His desire in the service of a greater good.

John said...

Well said, Ken. Every semester I seem to run into at least a couple of students (all Christians, in a seminary setting) that have this very problem--unable to call their own ideas into question. At least it's in a classroom setting, and there's some opportunity to offer guidance when the time is right. It's when they get out with that attitude that scares me.