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Opinion

In Theory: Is it blasphemous to pray for President Trump?

Donald Trump, Melania Trump, Franklin Graham
First Lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump and Franklin Graham pray during a ceremony honoring Rev. Billy Graham in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol building in February 2018. Some commentators have said Graham’s call for a “special day of prayer” for the president was political in nature.
(Evan Vucci / AP)

A syndicated Washington Post columnist recently wrote that Rev. Franklin Graham’s declaration of a “special day of prayer for the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump” was an abomination.

Michael Gerson doesn’t take issue with the idea of praying for the president but the reason behind the prayers. Asking God to guide the president toward the greater good is one thing, he argues, but it’s quite another to “pray in his political favor.”

Gerson isn’t alone in his belief that Graham has crossed a line in his support for the president. An article by David French in the National Review called Graham hypocritical for condemning Bill Clinton 20 years earlier but for turning a blind eye to Trump’s alleged peccadilloes and even rationalizing them.

Advocates of the day of prayer say they’re fighting “the devil and the kingdom of darkness,” but Gerson wonders whom the kingdom of darkness represents. “They are using Christian theology as a cover for their partisanship,” he writes, revealing their own priorities and not those of God.

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Q. Are those who pray in favor of Donald Trump and his politics guilty of hypocrisy and blasphemy?

To “blaspheme” someone means to slander them, to speak in a manner that is injurious to their reputation. Applied to God, blasphemy is “impious and reproachful speech injurious to divine majesty” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary). Jesus’ claim to be the son of God was deemed blasphemy by the High Priest, his claim to have the authority to forgive sins was deemed blasphemy by the Pharisees. Had he not been divine in nature, their claims would have been correct.

American Christians are in fact commanded by God to pray for President Trump.

Prayer offered to President Trump would be blasphemy. Prayer for President Trump is not blasphemy. American Christians are in fact commanded by God to pray for President Trump, as Michael Gerson himself references from 1 Timothy 2:1-2: “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”

It wasn’t blasphemy when Pastor Rick Warren gave the invocation at President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009, even though that President’s policies outrageously and blatantly defied God’s clearly revealed principles of the sanctity of life in the womb and the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Rick Warren was simply obeying God’s command to pray for our leaders.

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Yes, Christians can and do, in my opinion, get too involved in and overly zealous for causes and candidates that are essentially political and not moral in nature. Billy Graham himself came to the realization that his political ties with President Richard Nixon were too close. We have a king, the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom we owe the highest allegiance. We are citizens of an eternal kingdom, established by our Father in Heaven, who has made us heirs of it. Christian prayer for our very human and fallible political leaders must always be tempered with, and guided by the utmost devotion to the glory of God, the Word of God and the cause of God until Jesus Christ comes to rule the Earth he created.

Pastor Jon Barta
Burbank

Michael Gerson cites “The Book of Common Prayer” from Henry VIII’s England and still widely used in Protestant denominations worldwide, which tells believers to ask that God “Grant to the President and all in authority wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will.” Gerson’s objection is that Graham and other reactionary religious supporters of the current White House occupant promote praying instead for Trump’s political success, while ignoring the part about exhorting leaders to know and do the creator’s will.

President Trump shows no evidence of possessing anything like Christian values.

I am in total agreement with Gerson that President Trump shows no evidence of possessing anything like Christian values. He lies with almost every utterance, has a deep streak of crass and prejudicial meanness, honors no vows marital or otherwise, and has even stooped so low as to openly lust after his own daughter.

But Gerson says it more poetically than I: “Who would possibly believe that the uncreated creator, the ground of being, the source of justice, the great “I am” could be at Graham’s beck and call in the defense of Trump? It is both an absurdity and an abomination.”

I have no opinion about blaspheming nonexistent gods or God, but will take my miracles anywhere I can get them. If you pray, by all means please do pray for “45” — that he have an insight into his true self, admit that even his way of being president is too much work for him, and return to reality TV.

Roberta Medford
Atheist
Montrose

The Bible teaches, ergo Christ/God teaches, that we should regard our land and its governors with respect and with concern enough to work and pray for their well-being. Let me quote a couple of passages, then I’ll comment on their application to our question. In the Old Testament, God’s people were displaced to a pagan land and were instructed to “Pray for peace in Babylonia and work hard to make it prosperous. The more successful that nation is, the better off you will be” Jeremiah 29:7 (CEV). As well, in the New Testament via the Apostle Paul, “I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority [President Trump], so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior” (1Ti 2:1-3 CSB).

Today, in America, we have opportunity to speak into government.
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God is clear about us praying for the good of the country in which we find ourselves and about working for the good of it as our home. Today, in America, we have opportunity to speak into government, and we have some influence with bringing Christian sensibilities into what would otherwise be a completely secular venue. In ancient times there was no freedom to vocalize disdain for immorality within a system that didn’t value biblical morals, nor where godless despots dictated what everyone shall embrace or die. So, should we now support and pray for the flawed leader of the Free World, especially when he favors biblical values? I think so, but I say that understanding that not everything in any political administration that serves our pluralistic society will align totally with our values. We have no idea what real spiritual life resides in our politicians, but we can judge a tree by its fruit, or rather, we can judge fruit by its fruit, and commend the purveyor of that particular offering.

Look, we Christians are citizens of two worlds: Heaven and Earth (and for us specifically, the United States). Our greatest allegiance is to God, and our God tells us to look to Uncle Sam’s welfare. So, when our president is who he is, and we pray for him – regardless of his antics – we do a right thing. “Blasphemy” is a direct rail against God, and no true Christian intends that. We pray for our President, we laud him when he does good, we pray God correct him in his errors. This is obedience.

Rev. Bryan A. Griem
MA, MDiv
Tujunga

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