“What Should Christians Do About President Biden?” I hear that question, though perhaps in a less respectful form, regularly. It is more like, “What about Biden?” or “Did you hear what Biden’s done now?”
Most of my friends are Christians who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020. In conversations about politics I, who did not vote for either of the major candidates, generally find myself on the outside. I sometimes try to reframe, or perhaps enlarge the frame, of such conversations to include God’s plans for the church and the world and Christian responsibility within those plans.
What is that responsibility? What should Christians do about Biden? The biblical answer is that they should pray for him. St. Paul urged “that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority…” As the Bible scholar Christopher Wright put it, “Paul commands all kinds of prayers for all kinds of rulers.”
How should we pray for rulers like President Biden? We should make requests for him – his health and his relationships, for example. We should pray for him to have wisdom and discernment, protection him from error, and from deceitful people. We should ask God to give him success in every undertaking that promotes justice and the common good.
My friends might say, “But his policies are destroying democracy.” I would counter: He is in authority and Christians are directed to pray for him. Christians were under that same directive when Donald Trump was in office. And Barak Obama. We pray for our leaders, whether we voted for them or not; it is the Christian thing to do. It is worth noting that Paul issued this directive when Nero, the persecutor of Christians, was in power.
In praying for our leaders, we can ask God to give them a “discerning heart to govern … and to distinguish between right and wrong,” as King Solomon prayed for himself. We can pray for God’s good purpose to be advanced through them, which according to the Apostle Paul, is why God “established” them in positions of authority the first place.
We can pray for leaders to have “discernment in administering justice” so that we may live “peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” This is God’s revealed desire for rulers and the people they govern and is thus an important prayer for our country’s leaders.
There is, however, another side to all this, one which my friend’s might enter into more eagerly. We should not only pray for those in authority over us; we should pray against them when that becomes necessary. There is plenty of support for this notion in the Bible.
Christopher Wright describes Psalm 10 and other psalms like it, with their lament and protest, as “prayers in the political realm that God has actually given us in Scripture…” He adds, “I see no contradiction in both praying for our rulers and yet also praying against them.”
Consider what a prayer against our rulers might sound like if we incorporated the language of Isaiah 10: “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.” Biblical praying for and against rulers is clearly more nuanced that an anemic and oversimplified prayer for blessing.
But is it really possible to pray for and against our leaders? The Bible gives us an example to follow. The prophet Daniel was exiled to Babylon, where he eventually became a high-ranking government official, seeking “the peace and prosperity” of the land to which he had been deported.
It is obvious from Daniel’s writings that he understood the evil nature of the kingdom he served, and yet his personal communications with the king show that he wished him well and wanted him to prosper. I think there can be no question that Daniel, who was well-known as a man of prayer, both prayed for the king’s good and against his wrongdoing and injustices.
That is an example we should follow.
(Here is a resource about which I have just become aware: The Presidential Prayer Team. It looks pretty good and may be a help for those of us who obey Paul’s command to pray for those in authority. Hope you will check it out.)
(First published by Gannett.)