Election Day 2016: Lord, Teach Us to Pray…Today
“Lord, teach us to pray…” ~ Jesus’ disciples in Luke 11
Ok, I admit it. I’ve been discouraged, grumpy and even a bit depressed this election season, as I’m sure many of you have been.
Perhaps the most accurate way to describe my state of mind and heart is that I have experienced desolation, in the truest sense of that word. The lack of civility, the disrespect, the meanness, the polarizing rhetoric, the pettiness, the lack of human kindness and compassion, the boldfaced lies and the subtle shading of the truth (not sure which is worse), the endless news cycles that keep rehashing bad news, the fears for our country no matter who gets elected, the things we have had to hear about and have seen replayed over and over again in the media … we have all been demeaned by what we have heard and seen in these days. We have been sullied by new lows in public discourse—not knowing where to look, what to think about, how to talk about it, and even how to pray.
And that’s the signal that what I have been experiencing is desolation… at some point along the way, I stopped praying. And when I tried to enter back in, I realized I didn’t know how to pray because it all seemed so dark. Last night and this morning the vague feelings of desolation deepened into despair that comes from wanting so much to participate in the democratic process and feeling the immense privilege it is to be able to vote (a privilege and a right which, for some of us, is very hard won) while at the same time knowing that neither of the presidential candidates really represent what one would hope for in a person you would elect to follow.
Waiting in Darkness
So this morning as I sat in the dark (literally) with God with no words at all, I felt the full weight of my sadness about the fact that the ability to pray about all this had truly escaped me. And I missed it terribly because I am, after all, someone who loves to pray. Mercifully, in the wordless dark as I was present with my sadness, I was reminded that Jesus’ disciples came to a moment when they needed help with praying too, even though they had been walking closely with him for quite some time. They realized they had more to learn and so they simply asked, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
I was also reminded of Phyllis Tickle’s prayer book for children entitled This is How We Pray Today, a delightfully simple book that teaches young ones about fixed hour prayer. And that title clarified my need and my desire. I don’t need to be taught about prayer in general right now; what I really need is for Jesus to teach me how to pray today. Election Day 2016.
At the conclusion of the most bitter, most controversial, most demeaning campaign we have ever experienced the truest thing I know to say to God is, Lord, teach me how to pray today.
So Many Ways to Pray
So today I have been walking around asking Jesus to teach me how to pray in the midst of this particular moment in our country’s history. That request has been powerful because, as it turns out, this is a prayer Jesus knows how to answer. In fact, now I can’t stop praying because the prayers keep coming!
I have been heartened—encouraged even!—to discover that there are many ways to pray today that take me beyond the surface chop of my emotions, that keep me connected with the true desires of my heart for our country and for all of humanity, that foster a deeper sense of unity with other Christians regardless of who we vote for. They keep me in touch with my faith in God rather than putting so much hope in our elected officials.
This is What we Pray Today
Here are some of the prayers Jesus is teaching me to pray today, prayers I can pray with confidence because they are in line with the heart of God. Maybe you would find it encouraging, too, to join in praying these prayers and to add the prayers Jesus teaches you to pray today as well.
The only thing I know to do is to invite us all to join together in these prayers as we move through this day, as we move beyond this day and live in the future God has for us—a future with hope.
Lord, today we pray that Your will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Today we pray for all who currently hold positions of leadership in our country and in our world, that they may lead quiet and peaceable lives with godliness and dignity.
Today we pray for those who are running for office …that you will not let their foot be moved, that you will keep them from all evil, that you will keep their life.
Today we pray that love would abound, with knowledge and depth of insight.
Today we pray that a spirit of respect and forbearance may grow among nations and peoples, and that what happens in this election would promote the dignity and freedom of all people.
Today we pray that when this is all over we would confess our sins, our mistakes, our missteps to one another that we might be healed.
Today we pray that you would help us not to believe every spirit, but to test the spirits to see which ones are from you.
Today we pray that you would open to us a door for sharing your word, that we might be at home in the mystery and willing to declare the mystery of Christ through our very lives.
Today we pray that we would not be conformed to this world but that we would be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Today we pray that we would not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, but that we would think with sober judgment.
Today we pray that our love would be genuine, that we would hate what is evil and hold fast to what is good—wherever we see it.
Today we pray that you would renew our confidence that your plans for us are for good and not for harm—to give us a future with hope—and that that is as true today as it is on any other day.
Today we pray that you will cause all things to work together for good—for those who love you and for those who don’t love you yet but are on the way.
And we pray that your presence would be among us, bringing us peace.
We ask this for the sake of your love. Amen.
©Ruth Haley Barton. 2016. Not to be reproduced without permission.