The Bible doesn’t say “pray for the President”

So it’s the morning after. Like you I watched some of the Beatlemania Obama Inauguration yesterday. As one who is not wrapped around the axle of the current political system (which means I didn’t vote for him/him or him/her), the whole guffaw over the new President is a bit unsettling. I’m not a Presidential historian but I’ve read my share of biographies. The first few guys who served in the office would not even recognize what it has become today (which is not new with Obama but probably with John Quincy Adams who expanded the office powers way beyond what the Constitution allowed). They’ve all done it so it’s really apples to oranges. On to more pressing issues.

I watched Warren offer a homily dressed up like a prayer at the beginning and a fellow Huntsville pastor offer a ridiculous benedictory diatribe/prayer at the conclusion. I wonder if the crowd would respond the same way if one of the pastors would have simply read Daniel’s prayer from Daniel chapter 9. How many blogs have you read that have exhorted you to pray for the President. I agree that we should pray for the President but let’s not pretend that heaven and earth hang in the balance of his every decision. More importantly, praying for the President never was nor is the point of 1 Timothy 2:1-2.

Paul argues that we should not discriminate in our prayers so we should even pray for, by way of example, our pagan Roman leaders (“on behalf of all men”). This leads to Paul’s more pressing point that God is the savior of all kinds of men (Roman, Jewish, etc.). The bottom line coming in 1 Tim. 2:5 that no mere man (Emperor, President, or otherwise) can represent man before his creator except the God-man (see Dan Wallace’s treatment of the special use of the genitive, pg. 135). Only a man can represent us and only God can save us so He gives us the “man Christ Jesus.” So by all means pray for the President but don’t loose sight of the real issue: there is one God and one mediator between God and man. Some trust in chariots but we will trust in the Lord our God.

For additional reading, file this in your “My kingdom is not of this world” archives. Wilson, I believe, is spot on here (full article here).

The over-the-top adulation of Obama that we are seeing is not just silly — it is wicked. When Obama puts his hand on the Bible to take his oath of office, that Bible really should be opened to this text.

“And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king’s chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king’s country. And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. But the word of God grew and multiplied” (Acts 12:20-24).

God takes this kind of thing seriously, and we must do so also. What should Herod have done? What could he do, when all those tee-shirt vendors were so out of control as to be hawking their “Herod is god” wares? Well, he needed to rebuke all of it, and give glory to God instead. One time at an Elvis concert, a row of young girls stood up in the middle of the concert with a long banner they had made which said, “Elvis is king.” Elvis stopped, pointed at them, and said, “No. Jesus Christ is king.” They all sat down, abashed, which several millions of politico-idolaters today need to be taught how to do. And things have gotten pretty bad when Elvis is a model we have to look up to.

9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Vic Robertson on January 21, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    I agree with the facts stated and, for the most part, with the tone. Disgust with the “Obamanation” (why don’t they hear “abomination” when they say that?) is natural for many Christians. Yet I believe that in America, Christians should vote, should be proud to do so, and should take it as a duty of citizenship. It is the way our Constitution provides for citizens to influence the morality that shapes our laws. We are Christians first, but in the U.S. we are also Americans. Voting is important! We now have a Vice President who believes that Supreme Court justices should not bring their Christian values to the bench and a President who has a 100% rating from NARAL–the radical pro-abortion group. I was not thrilled with McCain/Palin, but I am a lot less thrilled with Obama/Biden. I am not wrapped around a political axle. God is sovereign. Just as God feeds the birds but does not throw the food into the nest, God provides ways for Christians to influence their culture–but not without voting and making our desires known in the political process. We know the world will get worse, but it does not have to get worse because Christians quit fighting for what is right. I love you, Paul. I just disagree with not voting.

  2. Vic,

    Maybe I was unclear. I didn’t say that we shouldn’t vote or that I didn’t vote. I’m fairly certain that I went into my local voting station and filled-out a ballot.

    I’m not sure that I agree or that it’s even historically accurate to say we can only influence culture (whatever that may be) if we vote. That would mean that African Americans (before 1871) or women (before 1920) never “influenced culture.”

    My conviction is that the Lord has not given me a commission to “influence culture”. He has called me to reach individuals and nations with the gospel. Whether the culture is reached in such situations is arbitrary at best. In some cases the gospel will bring national reforms and in some cases it will bring a sword.

    thanks for the comments and thoughts,

  3. Posted by Hayden on January 22, 2009 at 9:28 am

    I agree that we are not to exalt any leader and too think this ‘pray for the president’ stuff is over the top but we are told to pray for them. I pray that the new president will be saved (1 Tim 2:4) and that his heart will be changed by the only one that can really change a man, Jesus Christ.

    MacArthur put it this way- But Paul urges believers to pray that these leaders might embrace the gospel, which meant that the Ephesians were even to pray for the salvation of the Roman Emperor, Nero, a cruel and viscous blasphemer and persecutor of the faith.

    I agree that this whole ‘influence the culture’ and ‘pray for the president’ thing is hooey but be careful not to overstate the case on not praying for the president at all (which is my read from your article).It seems that I have read some very good prayers at ‘Pyromaniacs’ ‘Dr. Mohler’s website’ and even ‘Dr. Duncan’s’.

  4. Good thoughts Hayden,

    I genuinely struggle with some of the modern applications of Paul’s exhortation in 1 Tim. Should an evangelical minister pray at any President’s inauguration? Would Paul have prayed at Nero’s, would Daniel have prayed at Nebuchadnezzar’s? Maybe some think they would have. I simply think this has gotten little attention or careful thought.

    Just to be clear, I do believe we should pray for those in public leadership. In my last paragraph I said, “So by all means pray for the President but don’t loose sight of the real issue: there is one God and one mediator between God and man. Some trust in chariots but we will trust in the Lord our God.”

  5. Posted by Hayden on January 22, 2009 at 11:18 am


    Sorry, I missed the last line. I should read more carefully.

    As far as the inauguration question I too am a little uncomfortable with it as well. I think Phil J presented a good case for not and Thabiti gave a good case for it (Pyromaniacs).

    Doug Wilson though is expecting too much from Obama in my opinion. The man is lost! He is a product of our secular culture and his own sinful unconverted heart. Every lost person I know loves the praise of man. Even believers struggle with it. God struck down Herod, but did the Apostles pray for that? Is that how we should pray for our president?

    I disagree with the Obama administration on many fronts, probably most of the same ones you do. The inauguration was silly, which is why I did not watch. Obama’s inauguration was over the top, but my question is, ‘where was all the outrage when people prayed at Bush’s inauguration? Where was our protests when people prayed at his inauguration?’

  6. “but my question is, ‘where was all the outrage when people prayed at Bush’s inauguration? Where was our protests when people prayed at his inauguration?’”

    I assure you if I had this same forum then, I would have said the same thing. I think some of this was even worse during the Bush reign due to the cultural phenomenon that many people think republican=christian.

  7. I share simply an Amen to your comments Paul. “Herod Day” was a bummer… and I’m afraid ultimately “Obama Day” will be seen as the same. Isn’t it indeed God’s amazing mercy that he wasn’t struck down or for that matter any leader who is so overly enamored with himself.

    Thanks for the post.

  8. Posted by Vic Robertson on January 30, 2009 at 12:59 am

    Paul, I’m glad to hear that you voted. I did not mean to imply that we can “only” influence the culture by voting. Providing an avenue for God’s Word to work by biblically counseling one person whose life is then changed is a much greater influence than is my one vote in this republic.

  9. I like your comparison of Obama’s inauguration with that of Acts 12:20-24. I hadn’t thought of that. Very interesting.

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