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Prayer and the President

May 16, 2010

Perhaps you have received e-mails attacking President Obama. Some have accused the President of holding an Islamic Day of Prayer at the White House. That rumor is not true. Others have charged that Mr. Obama refused to endorse a National Day of Prayer. President Obama did not abandon the National Day of Prayer. He did just the opposite, issuing a Presidential Proclamation designating May 6, 2010, as a National Day of Prayer.  “I call upon the citizens of our Nation to pray, or otherwise give thanks, in accordance with their own faiths and consciences, for our many freedoms and blessings, and I invite all people of faith to join me in asking for God’s continued guidance, grace, and protection as we meet the challenges before us.”

It is true that President Obama has not held a public White House event on the National Day of Prayer as several of his predecessors have done. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, “Prayer is something that the President does every day.”  Gibbs went on to say that President Obama would observe the Day of Prayer privately. Our President has come under sharp criticism by those who are offended by his preference for private prayer.

The President has attended the National Prayer Breakfast each year since he took office. On February 5th, 2009, President Obama spoke openly about his conversion to Christianity and the importance of prayer in his life.

“Michelle and I are honored to join you in prayer this morning. This breakfast has a long history in Washington. Faith has always been a guiding force in our family’s life, so we feel very much at home and look forward to keeping this tradition alive during our time here….

“I was not raised in a particularly religious household. I had a father who was born a Muslim but became an atheist, grandparents who were non-practicing Methodists and Baptists, and a mother who was skeptical of organized religion, even as she was the kindest, most spiritual person I’ve ever known. She was the one who taught me as a child to love, and to understand, and to do unto others as I would want done.

“I didn’t become a Christian until many years later, when I moved to the South Side of Chicago after college. It happened not because of indoctrination or a sudden revelation, but because I spent month after month working with church folks who simply wanted to help neighbors who were down on their luck – no matter what they looked like, or where they came from, or who they prayed to. It was on those streets, in those neighborhoods, that I first heard God’s spirit beckon me. It was there that I felt called to a higher purpose – His purpose.”

According to an Associated Press report, on Sunday, April 25, 2010, President Obama visited Dr. Billy Graham at his home in Montreat, North Carolina. It was the President’s first meeting with the ailing evangelist who has counseled commanders in chief since Dwight Eisenhower.

The 91-year-old Dr. Graham and his son Franklin met with Mr. Obama. They had private prayer and conversation together. The evangelist presented two Bibles, one for the President and one for the First Lady.

 Franklin Graham said. “When the President got ready to leave, the President prayed for my father, my father prayed for him.”

Dr. Graham prayed for the nation, that God would give President Obama wisdom in his decisions. The President thanked God for Billy Graham’s life.

Like many Americans, I do not agree with President Obama on a number of issues. But according to his own statements, he is a Christian and does believe in the power of prayer. He prefers to pray privately rather than publicly. That is his prerogative. Jesus taught, “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” (Matthew 6:6)

How should people of faith respond to the President? How about the way Billy Graham did?  Instead of questioning the genuineness of his faith, let’s simply pray for our President.

May I suggest this approach?

Make a list of the five issues on which you have most disagreement with the President. Pray specifically about those matters asking God to show you how you can best be part of the solution.

Pause for a moment to reflect on the enormous issues facing the President – two wars; a struggling economy; the constant demand to respond to immediate unforeseen crises like earthquakes, floods, mining disasters, oil spills, and attempted bombings; long-term problems such as poverty, hunger, environmental concerns, and international relations. Imagine the things that President Obama prays about each day during his private times of devotion.

Write a prayer for the President. Pray for his spiritual wellbeing. Pray for the First Family. Pray for wisdom and guidance from God for Mr. Obama. As you lift your prayer to God, send a copy to President Obama either by mail to The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500 or by e-mail – comments@whitehouse.gov

Let’s do what Billy Graham did and intercede for our President. The good Lord knows Mr. Obama needs our prayers.

Kirk H. Neely
© May 2010
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