I am not one known for being particularly #woke. Following the news is (for me) a low-priority necessary evil. There’s a lot of distraction out there, far too much commentary posing as facts, and let’s not even talk about the Comment Sections on news-related websites and social media. Except this blog; comments here are pretty sparse and polite… thanks for that! For the politeness I mean, I wouldn’t mind if they were less sparse. Not that I’m begging.
Anyway, it did not escape my notice that a formal call to investigate the President of the United States of America and his conduct regarding foreign relations and electoral procedures, with an eye toward an impeachment inquiry, has been issued. I had a few emotional knee-jerk reactions deep down inside, and I’m sure lots of people are going to have much stronger, and more public, reactions to this news also. So I thought this would be a good thing to address in the realm of liturgy and prayer.
To a large extent, liturgical intercessory prayer is a matter of fill-in-the-blank. We have a standard collection of prayers that we offer for the state, for society, and for leaders in particular. On that level, our prayers for the nation do not change just because the word “impeachment” is officially on the table in Washington D.C. We must not, on the one hand, devolve into that silly “sports fan” scenario of prayer, pray that we crush the Angry Orange Man of Doom. Nor must we, on the other hand, devolve into that nationalism-over-faith sort of idolatry that we’ve seen from certain health-wealth and pentecostal extremes lately, and pray The Lord’s Anointed will be protected from such a demonic assault. No, the President is still the President, and the inquiry is a perfectly legal procedure, whatever our personal opinions may be about either. And so on one level we must continue to pray as we always pray:
We pray that you will lead the nations of the world in the way of righteousness; and so guide and direct their leaders, especially Donald Trump, our President, that your people may enjoy the blessings of freedom and peace. Grant that our leaders may impartially administer justice, uphold integrity and truth, restrain wickedness and vice, and protect true religion and virtue.
2019 BCP, page 110
What does change is the context of our prayers, rather than the content. With this new inquiry in mind, we must be sure we heartily pray for:
- “impartially administer[ed] justice” – that these proceedings will go forward wisely, without assumption of guilt without evidence, and without scorn of evidence without analysis;
- “uphold[ing] integrity and truth” – that all involved will proceed with due dignity and gravity of the task before them, without bombast or frivolity, and earnestly seeking the truth of the matter;
- “restrain[ment of] wickedness and vice” – if the President is guilty of crimes that he will be held accountable for them; that the proceedings will not be sullied by ad hominem tactics, and our observation will not be an occasion for sin;
- and the “protect[ion of] true religion and virtue” – referencing James 1:27 as well as the general plea for clear heads and pure hearts to prevail.
These are four of the major purposes of earthly governments, as we understand the teaching in the Scriptures, and we ought to keep these in mind as we pray. Whether you want to see Trump out of the White House for good, or whether you want him to remain there, in prayer we learn to set our political preferences aside and come before the Father with a more pure request: to fulfill his Word, to mete out judgement in his own time and on his own terms, and to deliver each of us from temptation and evil in the midst of all this.
We’ve also got Occasional Prayers #29, 30, 33, 37, 38, and 39 on pages 654-7 to help spell this out further. Resist the temptation to go on internet rampages; take it to the Lord in prayer.