Joe Biden was sworn in as our forty-sixth president yesterday. In his inaugural address, President Biden testified: “My whole soul is in this: bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause.”
Earlier, President Trump released a video farewell address in which he stated, “We inaugurate a new administration and pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous.”
All Christians, whatever our political beliefs, are called to join him in that prayer.
God’s word commands that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions” (1 Timothy 2:1–2).
- Supplications refers to petitions based on deep spiritual need.
- Prayers refers to general and specific petitions.
- Intercessions points to confidence in the One to whom we pray.
- Thanksgivings calls us to pray for what God can do out of gratitude for what he has done.
Let’s use this fourfold model as a template as we pray for our new president and our country, today and across the days and years to come.
One: Pray for spiritual renewal.
As we pray for our president and nation, let us begin with “supplications” for spiritual renewal.
According to Pew Research Center, 468 members (88 percent) of the 117th US Congress identify as “Christian.” However, as you and I know, a Christian is not defined as a person who claims to be a Christian. According to the word of God, a true Christian is a disciple of Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 11:26), a person who trusts and follows him personally as Savior and Lord (cf. John 3:3; Ephesians 2:8–9; Titus 3:5).
Only 65 percent of adult Americans identify as Christian. We cannot know the number of these who actually have a personal, saving relationship with God in Christ. Every American who does not have such a relationship should be the object of our prayers and personal ministry.
If you had a cure for COVID-19, cancer, and heart disease, would you not be morally responsible to share it with everyone you could?
America needs nothing as much as we need a spiritual and moral awakening. Every other challenge we face is related to this. Please join me in praying daily for a transforming movement of God’s Spirit in these days.
Two: Pray for specific needs.
Second, we are taught to offer “prayers,” a reference to specific requests. Scripture is clear: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).
This Wall Street Journal article lists some of the challenges we face: unity, the coronavirus pandemic, China, debt and the deficit, and climate change. Last year, the US broke the record for billion-dollar climate disasters. We also face the continuing threat of infectious diseases and political violence. And I am deeply concerned about assaults on the unborn and religious liberty in the coming years, issues about which I will be writing next week.
Please join me in God’s word commands that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people as we face our issues together.
Three: Pray with confidence in God.
“Intercessions” is the Greek word in Hebrews 7:25, where we learn that Jesus “always lives to make intercession” for us. The Son could pray in confidence, for he was praying to his Father.
We can pray for spiritual awakening and for divine provision because the One to whom we pray is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving. He brought transforming spiritual and moral renewal to his people in a time of grievous sin and an uncertain future (Nehemiah 9). He moved at Pentecost to begin the greatest spiritual movement in human history (Acts 2).
America has seen great awakenings in 1734, 1792, 1858, and 1904–5, each a time of deep national crisis. We can pray for another great move of God’s Spirit with confidence in his power and grace.
We can also bring him our specific needs as a nation and as individuals, claiming the fact that he hears us and will do what is for our best and his glory (cf. Matthew 7:7–11). All that God has ever done, he can still do (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8). Nothing about our circumstances changes his character.
What is true in the light is also true in the dark.
Four: Pray with gratitude to God.
Yesterday witnessed the fifty-ninth presidential inauguration in American history. Since 1789, across 244 years of democracy, during war, depression, and pandemics, our nation has gone on. Many of the countries to which I have traveled over the years cannot imagine such a peaceful, democratic transfer of power.
I am grateful to live in a country where Protestants and Catholics can be elected president and where a Black and South Asian woman can be elected vice-president. I am grateful to live in a nation where I can speak biblical truth to cultural issues. Most of all, I am grateful to know and love the God of the universe, secure in the knowledge that “we love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Garth Brooks asked those at yesterday’s inauguration and everyone watching across the country to join him in singing, “Amazing grace / how sweet the sound / that saved a wretch like me / I once was lost, but now am found / was blind, but now I see.”
Let’s pray for the day when every American can sing these words from eyes and hearts opened by the saving grace of Jesus, to the glory of God.
NOTE: For my first thoughts upon watching yesterday’s ceremony, please read “My response to the Biden inauguration.”