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.

Ruth Haley Barton

(Doctor of Divinity, Northern Seminary) is Founder and Chief Essence Officer of the Transforming Center. A teacher, seasoned spiritual director (Shalem Institute), and retreat leader, she is the author of numerous books and resources on the spiritual life including Life Together in Christ, Pursuing God’s Will Together, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Sacred Rhythms, and Invitation to Solitude and Silence.

31 Comments

  1. Patricia on November 9, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    Thank you for the stark reminder that we can not look to elected officials to make a difference in our lives! It is only through prayer that we can love and hope and have compassion. While the results of the election may not be to my liking, I am aware that God is truly sovereign and I must believe in his power to change the heart of all men! His only requirement is that we pray, seek his face, humble ourselves and seek his face! I challenge each of us to turn off the tv pundits and do just that!

    • Ruth Barton on November 16, 2016 at 10:06 am

      Yes, I have been mostly staying away from the continuous coverage about all this. It is not good for my soul at all and it does take us away from more fruitful endeavors–like prayer, self-examination, or real healing conversations with those who are hurting.

  2. Jenny Cox on November 9, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    Thank you Ruth. I’m also in Australia and your elections have constantly been in our news. I am not the only one here who is perplexed about what is happening in the US. However your prayers have greatly encouraged me and reminded me that there are many faithful people praying for God’s will to be accomplished in and through all your political leaders.

  3. […] Whatever your response to the election result, if you believe in a living God, you can still pray (Ruth Haley Barton’s Election Day Prayer still applies). […]

  4. Sue Drake on November 9, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    Hi Ruth – Once again I really appreciate the gift of words God has given you and your willingness to share that gift to help us say what we want to say but are not able to. This prayer is not only one that helped calm me last night but one that I will continue to pray in the coming weeks and months as the new regime comes into active duty. May God’s will be done for our country!

    • Ruth Barton on November 9, 2016 at 6:42 pm

      Yes, I have returned to these prayers throughout the day today. They ground me in something bigger and MORE than the emotions of the moment. Thank you, Sue!

  5. Maiya Lueptow on November 9, 2016 at 11:40 am

    Once again you have shed light in the darkness, reminding us what matters most. I believe that now more than ever as Christians we need to live as Jesus taught and modeled, and as the Holy Spirit enables us to do. “My faith is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” I praise God for you & the ministry of the Transforming Center.

    • sharon krone on November 9, 2016 at 4:34 pm

      Maiya! That was the exact hymn that to me shortly after seeing you this morning. Meant to be.

  6. Julie Hodges on November 9, 2016 at 9:46 am

    Thank you Ruth for helping to express all our feelings and longings this day. We stay connected to God, and pray.

  7. Dina on November 9, 2016 at 7:29 am

    Thank you, Ruth, for giving voice to my sadness, confusion, and fear. And for giving me prayers where I had none.

  8. Tom Boyle on November 9, 2016 at 5:14 am

    Thank you – needed this today as I am very perplexed and saddened that the politics of anger and fear have been validated so strongly and so unexpectedly. God’s Presence and Love are no less real today than yesterday – and the physics of light still eradicates darkness. Thank you.

    • Ruth Barton on November 10, 2016 at 6:28 pm

      Yes, indeed!

  9. carol on November 9, 2016 at 4:16 am

    This is my prayer everyday Ruth. I am not able to articulate with the grace and gift of word that you have so it is a revelation indeed to celebrate prayer in a truly optimistic and transformational way. May God’s eternal light shine on our path into a new way of being.

  10. Dustin Hibbard on November 8, 2016 at 11:24 pm

    It’s 10:23pm here in Colorado. The results of the election are coming in. I have been without clarity for what to pray. Yet I have clarity now for how to pray…to turn my palms up and hold them there. It’s awkward; but this silent prayer is keeping me in Christ these days when nothing else seems to fit.

    • Ruth Barton on November 9, 2016 at 11:49 am

      Oh Dustin…I cherish the image of you sitting in silent prayer with your hands open. Thank you.

  11. Sally on November 8, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    A friend commented and shared your post on FB. Thank you so much for sharing your prayers. The ugliness of the supporters, many I know, from both sides has depressed me. I worry about people after the election, bitter losers and arrogant winners. I guess the bright spot in my life is now I want to “double down” on my walk with Christ. In every way. May God continue to bless you and us with your witness.

  12. Christine Watson on November 8, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    I’m not even American and I feel the same way. I’m Canadian and afraid to turn on the TV to find out the results. Thank you for expressing what I think a lot of people are feeling.

  13. Jenny Gehman on November 8, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    Thank you, dear Ruth.

  14. Lynette Leach on November 8, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    Amen to your prayers. Our news in Australia is full of the elections in USA. I share your despair about the viciousness of the campaign. Thank you for the reminder that when prayer is difficult we can ask for help to pray the prayers that are needed for today.

    • Ruth Barton on November 8, 2016 at 8:16 pm

      Thank you for joining us in prayer from afar. What a blessing!

  15. Mark Werner on November 8, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    Ruth, what a wonderful example and reminder that consolation and desolation are not opposites to be pursued or avoided, rather entered and examined…such beautiful fruit from a dark place!

    • Ruth Barton on November 8, 2016 at 8:12 pm

      Well said, Mark! Great to hear from you.

  16. Shannon Zachary on November 8, 2016 at 4:40 pm

    Oh, Ruth! This is beautiful! I just realized in the last few days that I am depressed, too, as I’m sure many are. I also came to the realization yesterday that I had not actually prayed and asked God what my part is. I, like you, became aware that I didn’t even know HOW to pray or what to pray for! Thank you for sharing your heart! This is so helpful! God bless you!
    Shannon

    • Ruth Barton on November 8, 2016 at 8:11 pm

      So glad…

  17. Larissa Marks on November 8, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    I love this, Ruth. Thanks for leading us to pray today. I am praying with you, and adding this prayer: Lord, today I pray that you would teach each of us to steward all our resources (our votes, our power, our roles of influence) to bless your name and usher in your Kingdom.

    • Ruth Barton on November 8, 2016 at 8:07 pm

      Amen. I join you in this prayer.

  18. Chu-Chin Chen on November 8, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    Thank you. I have been really discouraged not only by the presidential candidates themselves but also the kind of conversation and violence that has surrounded me. I truly felt like I was in the dark. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend Passion church in Atlanta GA. The pastor gave a wonderful and inspirational sermon that unequivocally reminded me that God is in control and God’s WILL will be done through people that he has put in place. It may not be to our liking -like the kings of Babylon or Persia. But in the end, nothing will thwarted. We are asked to be faithful and wait upon the Lord. We are asked to be prayerful to stay connected to His will. Thank you for reminding us that the best course of action is to wait and pray and see. It is a new thing that is happening; one that is worthy of all of us self-reflect and repent. Thank you again.

    • Ruth Barton on November 8, 2016 at 8:15 pm

      yes, God’s will WILL be done through people he has put in place. Good word. Thank you.

  19. sharon krone on November 8, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    Dear Ruth, Thank you. You have given words to my melancholy today. And thank you for beautiful prayers that I can lean into. And thank you too for my Blue Book which directed me to read today’s message from Collossians 4, which i will share here: 2Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. 3Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. 4Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.
    5Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. 6Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.
    Blessings.

    • Ruth Barton on November 8, 2016 at 8:10 pm

      Lots of great ways to pray here. Thank you, Sharon!

  20. Marilyn Brown on November 8, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    Beautifully articulated. Thank you, Ruth.

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