Twice a day now, I pray for the President of the United States and others “in civil authority” as part of my morning and evening prayer practice. It is not only a hallowed practice, but one that gets its warrant in the same breath as a testimony made for universal salvation, namely 1 Timothy 2:1-4:
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
(Reading on in the same chapter, I’m not so fond about the part about women teaching; the author of this letter makes a hash out of his Genesis prooftext, too. I digress.)
But the prayer appointed in the evening is increasingly problematic. I’ve given a good try, but I need to find a replacement. It reads:
Almighty God, whose kingdom is everlasting and power infinite; Have mercy upon this whole land; and so rule the hearts of thy servants, The President of the United States, The Governor of this State, and all others in authority, that they, knowing whose ministers they are, may above all things seek thine honor and glory; and that we and all the people, duly considering whose authority they bear, may faithfully and obediently honor them, in thee and for thee, according to thy blessed Word and Ordinance; through Jesus Christ our Lord who, with thee and the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, world without end. Amen.
Close versions of this prayer have been in use in the United States in a number of different prayer books for two hundred years. Also, if you were saying Evening Prayer among traditionalists in the Church of England, you would note it is in the place of the state prayers (particularly “Prayer for the Queen’s Majesty”). Which is by way of saying this prayer bears more of the markings of a prayer for a Christian ruler than a prayer Christians would make for their elected leaders in a secular democracy. And while the author to Timothy had no imagining of our modern democracy, neither were the powers prayed-for either Christian or particularly sympathetic, so the tone of this prayer seems unnecessarily deferential.
We can do better.