This Sunday, hundreds of Christian leaders and congregations across the US will join Franklin Graham in a special day of prayer for President Donald Trump.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association president, who prayed at Trump’s inauguration, said that the president needs prayer to “protect, strengthen, encourage, and guide” him in the face of political attacks.
He cited the call to pray for leaders from 1 Timothy 2:
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (v. 1–4)
Beyond a designated day of prayer, many congregations include political leaders in their weekly petitions during Sunday gatherings. As they pray, leaders often emphasize God’s sovereignty over earthly kingdoms, unity in the body of Christ, and our desire to see goodness and flourishing in our country.
Some US Christians have questioned whether national calls to prayer around certain issues or leaders “politicize” prayer to partisan ends. Each year around holidays such as Memorial Day and Independence Day, leaders caution against conflating patriotism and worship. (This year, the National Association of Evangelicals has focused on the Great Commandment [Matt. 22:37–39] for its “Pray Together Sunday” over the July 4 weekend.)
Many of the president’s evangelical advisers have signed on to Sunday’s day of prayer, including James Dobson, Jerry Falwell Jr., Jack Graham, Robert Jeffress, and Paula White, who also referenced the 1 Timothy 2:2 verse as she invited followers to join.
Though the verse does not appear in the top 100 on Bible Gateway, searches for the passage have spiked along with recent political events, reaching 10 times their average on the day after the 2016 presidential election, according to the popular Bible site, and increased again around the inauguration the following January, according to Google Trends.
CT asked several Christian leaders what it means to pray for our political leaders according to Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 2.
Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee and president of the National Day of Prayer task force:
As a pastor of Southern Baptist churches for more than 40 years, I do not recall a time when there wasn’t prayer for our nation, our president, and our elected leaders during our Sunday services, regardless of which party was in power. Why? We are instructed in 1 Timothy 2 to pray for those in authority—our elected officials at every level of government—to govern wisely that we may lead tranquil and peaceable lives in all godliness and reverence (1 Tim. 2:1–4). Our nation desperately needs a revival of loving one another as Christ loves to impact our own homes and then extend to the church house, to city halls, to state houses, to the halls of Congress, to the White House, and to permeate the halls of justice at every level.