Yesterday—the day Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders came to town—was the National Day of Prayer, and Franklin Graham preached on the steps outside the West Virginia Capitol building as a part of his 50-state “Decision America Tour.” I got up early to put in my two-cents worth, but ended up falling back to sleep with my forehead pressed into the dining room floor, Bible open to Romans 8 on the table. I drove to work in the rain and tried to keep the conversation going, tried to focus on gratitude and love and all good things as I puttered under gray clouds.
Work was stressful and fast-paced and it felt like the gray clouds had misted indoors, dogging me with gloom. I was sitting outside a patient’s room writing a progress note when my friend David stopped to say hi. “I thought I’d go up to the seventh floor during lunch,” he said. “There’s a good view of the capitol from there. I thought I could pray a little. Want to come?”
I love to pray with people. Something about joining hearts together this way opens up that thin veil between heaven and earth. Jesus is so close. I’ll pray with just about anyone, anywhere.
“Sure,” I said.
So after we snarfed our lunch we took the elevator up and stood side-by-side looking down through a wall of glass. The capitol dome shone golden in the sun, but we couldn’t see the people who gathered there.
I closed my eyes for a minute and imagined the people down there, praying and singing, holding hands and hoping together. David offered up some words and I chimed in a little, but mostly, we were speechless. What do we pray for? We wondered out loud. Where is wisdom, where is love?
“When people ask me to pray for our country, I always end up praying for the Church,” David said. “That we would keep focused, keep our eyes where they should be.”
We wondered who would make the headlines on the local paper. Would prayer beat out Trump and Bernie? Of course, we knew better, but wouldn’t it be great? David said.
“Politics and religion make me so uncomfortable,” I confessed. And he agreed. It’s too tricky a tightrope to walk. A slippery slope. A rock and a hard place.
“God knew what He was doing when He brought Jesus into this world during the time that He did. Jesus’s country was occupied; you know? And the people wanted him to take it back, to be this warrior king, and fight. But he showed us, that isn’t the way.”
I thought about some of the political “fights” I’ve witnessed lately—on Facebook, and in person. What would Jesus think? I wondered.
“I have no hope in the Democratic Party,” the Charleston Gazette quotes Franklin Graham as saying to the people of West Virginia yesterday (the story about his appearance was relegated to section “C” of the paper. Trump made the big headline with the biggest photo. Sanders got co-lead but a smaller photograph). “I have no hope for the Republican Party. The only hope for this country is almighty God and the people of God.”
I haven’t always agreed with the things Graham has said, but this? This was a reminder I needed to hear. Romans 8 tells us He is working “all things together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (verse 28). When I live out this belief, I can love much better—even those who disagree with my political views.
So when I pray for our country, for our world, I pray for the church. I pray for the hearts of our leaders but also for the hearts of the people. And I remember the posture Jesus modeled for us: servanthood. I pray for God to give me a heart of humility and grace.
And I trust that all these things are held in the hand of God.