We Christians turn to the Bible for guidance and, while we sometimes have to pray that it will speak to us, at other times it is as clear as day. One of those things that is really clear to Christians is that we should pray for our leaders, even if we don’t particularly like them. That’s why it seems pretty strange that David Platt, the Pastor-Teacher of McLean Bible Church issued what is basically an apology for praying for President Trump after his visit to the church yesterday.
On Sunday afternoon, the president made an unannounced visit to the megachurch where he stayed for a few minutes and the pastor prayed for him. Nothing controversial happened.
Pastor David’s statement was very carefully crated to avoid using the words “sorry,” “apology,” “regret,” or any other words that would clearly identify it as an apology, but it is still very much an apology. For hurting his parishioners’ feelings for praying for the president.
Let’s take a look.
Dear MBC Family,
Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that we didn’t see coming, and we’re faced with a decision in a moment when we don’t have the liberty of deliberation, so we do our best to glorify God. Today, I found myself in one of those situations.
At the end of my sermon at the 1:00 worship gathering, I stepped to the side for what I thought would be a couple of moments in quiet reflection as we prepared to take the Lord’s Supper. But I was immediately called backstage and told that the President of the United States was on his way to the church, would be there in a matter of minutes, and would like for us to pray for him. I immediately thought about my longing to guard the integrity of the gospel in our church. As I said in the sermon today, Christ alone unites us. I love that we have over 100 nations represented in our church family, including all kinds of people with varied personal histories and political opinions from varied socioeconomic situations. It’s clear in our church that the only reason we’re together is because we have the same King we adore, worship, fear, and follow with supreme love and absolute loyalty, and His name is Jesus.
What exactly was the decision he had to make here? Why would a pastor have to hesitate for a second when any person asked for prayer? That person could be a prisoner on death row or a volunteer who spends every spare minute working to feed the hungry, and it shouldn’t matter. If a person asks for prayer, a Christian is honored and humbled to be asked, and prays for that person.
If that person is the president, there is Biblical direction to pray for him. This is one of those “clear as day” moments I wrote about. The pastor knows about one of these verses, and writes it the next section of his letter.
That’s why, as soon as I heard this request backstage, the passage from God’s Word that came to my mind was 1 Timothy 2:1-6:
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”
Based on this text, I know that it is good, and pleasing in the sight of God, to pray for the president. So in that moment, I decided to take this unique opportunity for us as a church to pray over him together. My aim was in no way to endorse the president, his policies, or his party, but to obey God’s command to pray for our president and other leaders to govern in the way this passage portrays.
This should be obvious to any thinking person. If it needed to be said, this could have been the entire letter but, alas, it wasn’t. He goes on to say that he went back on stage to lead the Lord’s Supper, then offstage again to speak to the president. He respects the president’s privacy and doesn’t reveal their discussion, but says that he spoke the gospel in a way that he prays was “clear, forthright, and compassionate.”
Then I walked back out on stage, read 1 Timothy 2:1-6, and sought to pray the Word of God over the president, other leaders, and our country. (If you would like to see the full context of my comments and prayer, I have included the video below.) After I prayed, the president walked off stage without comment, and we closed our gathering by celebrating heroes among us, a couple who has spent the last 48 years spreading the gospel in remote places where it had never gone before they came. We then recited the Great Commission as we always do, sending one another out into the city for the glory of our King.
As it happens, you actually can’t see the video. They changed the privacy settings so that you would need a password to see it. Heaven forbid we be able to see a man of the cloth praying for the president of the United States.
Here’s where the apology starts.
I wanted to share all of this with you in part because I know that some within our church, for a variety of valid reasons, are hurt that I made this decision. This weighs heavy on my heart. I love every member of this church, and I only want to lead us with God’s Word in a way that transcends political party and position, heals the hurts of racial division and injustice, and honors every man and woman made in the image of God. So while I am thankful that we had an opportunity to obey 1 Timothy 2 in a unique way today, I don’t want to purposely ever do anything that undermines the unity we have in Christ.
No Christian should think there was any decision to be made, and this pastor should be giving them a stern talking-to for thinking for one second that they might not pray for someone seeking prayer. Instead, he is accepting that they think there was a decision to be made and that some think he made the wrong one.
Maybe he should also share Matthew 5:43-45, Luke 6:27-28 or, if he wanted to go old school, Leviticus 19:18. The Bible tells us to love our actual enemies. The people who have done the worst things to us. So, whether you just disagree with Trump’s policies or these parishioners know him personally and he dug his key into the side of their pretty little souped-up four wheel drive, we have been commanded to pray for him. This is not up for debate.
Pastor David who, apparently, has never seen the Bible or heard even the most basic tenets therein, closed with this.
In the end, would you pray with me for gospel seed that was sown today to bear fruit in the president’s heart? Would you also pray with me that God will help us to guard the gospel in every way as we spread the gospel everywhere? And finally, I’m guessing that all of us will face other decisions this week where we don’t have time to deliberate on what to do. I’m praying now for grace and wisdom for all of us to do exactly what we talked about in the Word today: aim for God’s glory, align with God’s purpose, and yield to God’s sovereignty.
I love you, church.
Maybe that’s the problem. I don’t doubt that he loves the church, but wonder if that has led him from his perspective of loving the Gospel, the Bible, and living as Christ taught us to live. It’s not always easy. It’s not always popular. It’s not always clear. In this case, it was clear as day, and I’m struggling to understand how a pastor doesn’t see that.