This has been one of the most tumultuous years in recent decades. America is riven by racial unrest, violence and terrorism. We’re in the midst of a distressing presidential election marked by division, even among Christians. Key institutions in public life have disappointed.
Much has been written about this moment and how Christians should engage, but what about how we should pray? Stewarding our influence in the public square is important, but not nearly as important as our prayers before a God who hears because of the access purchased by Christ.
How do we pray for America? Here is a prayer guide that you might find helpful for individual, family or group use:
1. Pray for elected and appointed officials (1 Tim 2:2). We talk and complain a lot about politicians, but do we pray as often as we should, as often as we are compelled to pray by scripture? We should pray, not only that our leaders would be use their power well on behalf of the people (Rom 13), but also for the well-being of their families. My suggestion is that pray for all leaders, not just the ones with whom you agree.
2. Pray for candidates running for office (1 Tim 2:2). Regardless of your feelings about the candidates running for local, state and federal offices, you have to admire anyone who is willing to risk public criticism and humiliation in stepping forward. Running for office takes a toll on candidates’ families, opens them up to unprecedented scrutiny and enacts a physical and mental toll.
3. Pray for public servants and first responders. Around the country, at this very moment, millions of men and women wear a uniform and have pledged to protect us from harm. Police officers, fire-fighters, paramedics, search and rescue teams and others put their lives on the line every day in an oft-thankless task. Pray for wisdom and discernment, pray they would use their power well, pray for the wives and husbands and children who kiss them goodbye, not knowing if their loved ones will return.
4. Pray for racial justice. It is clear that there is still much work to be done in our country to heal from our racial wounds and to see more racial progress. We should pray for more unity in our communities and in our country and for leaders who unite, rather than divide. Pray for minority populations who continue to experience prejudice and injustice. Pray for just laws to address racial disparities. Pray that the church will lead the way, showing by its steps toward racial reconciliation, a glimpse of the kingdom, where God will gather every nation, tribe, and tongue.
5. Pray for the recognition of human dignity. Everywhere we look, we see violations of human dignity, from abortion on demand, to the horrific rhetoric some leaders are using to talk about immigrants and refugees, to the violence erupting in the tough neighborhoods in our cities. Pray for laws that see value and worth in every human life, from conception to natural death.
6. Pray for the church. The most powerful institution on earth is the church of Jesus Christ, made up of people from every nation, tribe and tongue. Pray for God’s people to unite together around the good news of the gospel and to commit to living on mission for him in each community. Pray the church would embody the kind of other-worldly values of the Kingdom and point people to the hope found only in Christ. Pray for pastors to boldly preach and teach the word of God and to courageously call their people to Christlikeness.
We don’t always have the answers for the vexing problems that face our country. This should not drive us to despair, but to our knees in humble prayer and repentance. Let’s pray that our hearts will be broken afresh by the fallenness of our world and pray that we’d be obedient to share the good news of the gospel of the Kingdom of God with those who are desperate to hear.
Editor’s note: this article originally appeared on ERLC.com and is used by permission from the author.
Daniel Darling is the Vice-President of Communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. His work has been featured in The Washington Post, First Things, Relevant, Christianity Today and others. He is the author of several books, including his latest, The Original Jesus.