Praying for Donald Trump and Boris Johnson -when it is okay to qualify and prefix

In my article about praying for Donald Trump (and other politicians), as well as dealing with why we shouldn’t wish others dead, I also warned against the temptation to preface our prayers and best wishes with words along the lines of “although I disagree with..” Steve Kneale makes a similar point here and in an earlier article from when Boris Johnson was ill. Indeed, Steve’s articles also argue against the need to announce our prayers in public.  He warns that public, qualified prayers are likely to degenerate into virtue signalling.

I broadly agree with Steve on this with a couple of modifications or clarifications.[1] First of all, I think there is a place for public prayer and public comment. I also think that if you blog about, write to and tweet about/to particular public figures to critique and challenge them then it is reasonable to write to them to say you pare praying for them or to say thank you to them for something they’ve done that you support. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that we should be quite happy to signal our virtues provided they are real and not hollow.

Secondly, there is a place for us publicly and corporately to pray for our leaders.  This is a perfectly scriptural thing to do. And with that may well come the additional comments, not to virtue signal but to help explain what we are doing and why. We might prefer that everyone will get the point that we are not suddenly endorsing the person’s position. We might hope that they would hear the call to prayer or the expression of concern in the context of everything else we have said about them and their values but people don’t.  That’s why a left wing MP needs to prefix their comments about Margaret Thatcher and Boris Johnson and a Tory would have to prefix anything they might have said about Tony Benn or might say about Jeremy Corbyn in the future. The tribalism of politics means that as soon as they say something nice about their opponent they are drowned out by a wall of hate and themselves are targeted. It shouldn’t be like that in politics but sadly it is.

I hope church isn’t like that but Christians can become polarised politically. Indeed we spend a lot of time telling them not to get wedded to politics so maybe when we do talk, especially positively, about a political leader and especially when that person is not popular in our community then they may still be uncertain about what is going on. So, if I pray for Boris or Donald then it may well be helpful for some if I explain why we are praying for them and that praying for them and wishing them well is not an endorsement of them.

[1] I suspect Steve will actually agree with these as a blog article is focused on making the primary point and doesn’t always have space for every nuance.

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