A prayer for the leader of one’s nation is also a prayer for the nation
Just as it has been the duty of Catholics in America to pray for President Donald Trump over the past four years, it is now the duty of every Catholic to pray for President Joe Biden. This can prove difficult for those who dislike and distrust him. If you are finding these prayers difficult, I would suggest focusing on the following points.
First, spiritual temptations of political leaders are powerful, and we must pray for leaders to overcome these temptations. St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us that our human temptations come from three sources: the world, the flesh and the devil. And while each of us can expect these temptations, the devil seems hyper-focused — throughout history — on political leaders. The mass-murderous actions of those such as Hitler, Stalin and Mao — the unholy political triumvirate of the 20th century — are hard to explain without demonic reference. But these men were not alone. While nations have occasionally enjoyed good rule by good rulers, such heads of state are painfully uncommon. Which century failed to witness tyrants?
In fact, looking at some of the great tyrants of history, it appears that too often either the most heinous people desire to rule, or that otherwise-virtuous rulers are corrupted once they arrive at the helm. Either way, the devil is involved, largely because he considers Earth to be a realm already his. Consider the devil’s temptation of Jesus in the desert in which he tempted Jesus to become a political leader. Matthew 4:8 reads, “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’”
The offer to trade power for worship of evil is chilling. Considering how Scripture presents this account, we might wonder how many leaders throughout history have, even implicitly, been offered that same deal. How many people are offered precisely this exchange in modern times — including presidents of the most powerful nation in history?
The outright refusal to pray for the president — any president — may be indicative of a spiritual problem. Considering the spiritual attacks political leaders undoubtedly suffer, a modicum of pity should be enough to warrant prayer.
Second, a prayer for the leader of one’s nation is also a prayer for the nation. This fact is beautifully recognized in Eastern Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, in which we pray, “Again we offer You this spiritual worship for the whole world, for the holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, and for those living pure and reverent lives. For civil authorities and our armed forces, grant that they may govern in peace, Lord, so that in their tranquility we, too, may live calm and serene lives, in all piety and virtue.”
This prayer reminds us that the refusal to pray for a president constitutes a strange form of patriotism that is divorced from virtue, but an even stranger Christianity.
Third, prayer for someone does not necessarily signify agreement; it often signifies disagreement. Biden’s career has scandalously witnessed him advance the national and international scourge of abortion despite his repeated claims of Catholicity. But when I pray for someone, my intent is not that his will is done, but that God’s will is done. I pray that his will seeks accord with God’s will.
Fourth and finally, a prayer in charity illustrates our faith and hope in God. Notwithstanding all the temptations a president may undergo, God’s grace can help anyone overcome any temptation. It is our job to pray for our presidents to receive that grace.
Irrespective of Biden’s political past, we should pray for his conversion, including the specific conversion that he accepts God’s grace to protect the unborn and all human rights. By the miraculous grace of God — in answer to our ardent prayers — Joseph Biden might yet become a champion of the unborn someday. And to deny that possibility is to deny the transformative grace of God.
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