Recent headlines in the news show a group of pastors praying and laying hands over President Donald Trump. I was not present and do not know their prayers; they were not praying to me. In a more recent headline, the Reverend William Barber calls their prayers “heresy,” explicitly saying that it is heresy to pray for one who “preys” on the most marginalized among us. Truthfully his statement strikes me as a little pot and kettle proclamation.
It is one thing to speak justice into injustice and righteousness into wrongdoing in another person’s actions and policies and perhaps even politics. It is quite another to name call, smear, call others evil and take a self-righteous stance that pits people against one another, increasing bunkers of suspicion and hate.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus, gathering crowds around Galilee is teaching the ways of the kingdom to eager listeners. They follow him to the mountain coming from different places – locations around the region and locations of the heart. From Jesus’ mouth they hear a call to prayer. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be called children of God.” Jesus reminds the people that God makes the sun rise on the evil and the good; God sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
My prayers for the leaders of the world, including President Trump, are for God’s inclined ear only. I understand that God does not play politics, but speaks into a political world in acts of kindness, mercy, love, and grace. Name-calling does not influence for good; it divides and does not lead to reconciliation or righteousness.
I doubt my prayers would sound like those of pastors who want God to act according to their will whichever side of the aisle they pray from. I pray God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. I pray my prayers voice the hope God has that we can be one people in Christ and that we can learn to listen to one another with grace.
Gracious God, fill my mouth with praise that even in the thick of acrimony and judgment, You are with us. Give me great wisdom and humility and charity for those whose opinions differ from mine. Lead me in ways of justice, kindness and mercy that divisions may end and I – and all of us – will be the beloved of your creation. If this is heresy, count me a heretic. Amen.