Thursday, February 08, 2007

How Christians Might Think About the 2008 Presidential Election, Part 7

We come now to the most important way in which Christians can think about the election in 2008, the seventh "lens": We can see it as an opportunity to pray that God will guide the next "decider" of the United States.

I first ran across the name of Frank Laubach when I read Norman Vincent Peale's classic, The Power of Positive Thinking some years ago. From an acquaintance who once directed the work of a local literacy agency that bore Laubach's name, I later learned that the one-time missionary who died many decades ago, had been inspired during a time of prayer to begin a movement to teach illiterate adults to read. I figured that such a man could teach a lot about prayer, but for a long time, I couldn't track down any of Laubach's books.

Then one day, as I sat in a neighboring church's library, I caught sight of the 1960 paperback edition of Laubach's Prayer: The Mightiest Force in the World. I almost jumped on the book and checked it out immediately! Originally written right after World War Two, Prayer: The Mightiest Force in the World urges people to pray for the United Nations, for world leaders, and for peace.

One of Laubach's most important suggestions in this terrific little book is that we pray during the "chinks" that happen in all of our schedules: while stuck in traffic, doing mindless chores, standing in lines, and so on. Lengthy concentrated prayer time is good, Laubach asserts, but if we are to follow Saint Paul's admonition to "pray without ceasing," we need to cultivate the habit of offering up prayers all the time. Laubach is especially urgent in commending prayer for the leaders of all nations. (This is a suggestion that the New Testament authors, who even urged prayer for Roman emperors who persecuted the Church, would readily endorse, I'm sure.)

I keep a file of meaningful quotes drawn from the books I read. Prayer: The Mightiest Force in the World is full of great quotes. In the current international crisis though, several stand out:

"Most of us will never enter the White House and offer advice to the President. Probably he will never have time to read our letters [or our e-mails, I thought, as I read this]. But we can give him what is far more important than advice. We can give him a lift into the presence of God, make him hungry for divine wisdom...We can visit the White House with prayer as many times a day as we think of it, and every such visit makes us a channel between God and the President."

He also says that in our praying for the President and other leaders, "[w]e do not 'persuade God to try harder'...; it is our world leaders, our statesmen and church men [sic] whom we persuade to try harder. We help God when we pray. When great numbers of us pray for leaders, a mighty invisible spiritual force lifts our minds and eyes toward God. His Spirit flows through our prayer to them, and He can speak to them directly."

But one passage of Laubach's book struck me as more meaningful than anything else he wrote there. I laughed out loud the first time I read it:
We can do more for the world with prayer than if we were to walk into Whitehall, London, or the Kremlin in Moscow, and tell those men [sic] what to do---far more! If they listened to our suggestions, we would probably be more or less wrong [emphasis mine]. But what God tells them, when they listen to Him, must be right. It is infinitely better for world leaders to listen to God than for them to listen to us.
These lines made me laugh because I thought how right Laubach was. I remembered the many times I held doggedly to an opinion about a political matter only to learn how misguided and wrong my view had been. How much better it is to humbly and trustingly place matters in God's hands, confident in His infinitely superior judgment. And how much better it is to put frail human leaders in God's hands than trying to manhandle them with my very fallible opinions and judgments!

Jesus promises that when we approach the Father in His Name, submitting to His will, God hears and answers our prayers. I believe that Christians need to pray now about the 2008 Presidential election. I'd like to suggest a few of the things we might pray:
  • That God will open the wills of the American public and that God will show them His will as to who to vote for in 2008.
  • That the candidates' wills will be open to God and that God will go to them as well, giving guidance.
God is wiser than we are. And He's anxious to share His wisdom with us. In the New Testament, James writes:
If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. (James 1:5)
I believe that the wisdom that God wants to offer our leaders and all of us is just what we need as we look ahead to the 2008 election, coming at a time when America may be divided in many ways. James later describes what God's wisdom can bring:
...the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. (James 3:17)
Those would be great attributes for Presidential candidates and all of us to exhibit.

[THANKS TO: Mark Olson for linking to this series at both Pseudo Polymath and Blog Watch.]

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