In the days before the presidential election, I saw numerous opportunities for corporate prayer. On Sunday, many pastors included the election in their prayer from the pulpit. A church where I was speaking announced a special evening of prayer on the night before the polls opened. A friend opened a room in her home for women who wanted to pray together on Election Day.
As those called to pray together “at all times” and “without ceasing” (Eph. 6:18; 1 Thess. 5:17), Christians ought to pray on the eve of national elections and global summits and Supreme Court hearings. And as those called to pray together at all times and without ceasing, we also ought to pray after those events are over.
In this, we join the cloud of praying witnesses who have gone before us. Daniel and his exiled friends prayed for God’s help to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and escape their death sentence (Dan. 2:17–18). They also prayed immediately after receiving the Lord’s answer (Dan. 2:20–23). Ezra and the returning exiles prayed together before setting out for Jerusalem (Ezra 8:21, 23). They also prayed after they entered the land and discovered sin among God’s people (Ezra 10:1). The early church prayed together earnestly when the apostles were persecuted and imprisoned (Acts 12:5). They also prayed after their release, asking the Lord for gospel boldness (Acts 4:23–24).
Our brothers and sisters throughout redemptive history have recognized their need to pray together not only before critical moments but afterward, too. Can we do any differently?
Here, then, are three reasons your church needs a post-election prayer meeting:
1. Praying together is God’s means of unifying his church.
If the prelude to the election stirred up strong—and often opposing—opinions among God’s people, the aftermath has only amplified our divisions. We must now worship alongside men and women whose votes are registered in permanent ink. Some of us are disappointed with one another. Others are angry. Many are afraid.
But as we pray together we affirm our essential unity, speaking to our God “with one voice” (Rom. 15:6). In prayer, we all depend on the intercession of the Son, in whose name and by whose blood we each have an equal right to approach the Father (Rom. 8:31–33). In prayer, we are equally humbled before the Lord, asking him with one voice for the things we need: daily bread, forgiveness of sins, rescue from the devices of the evil one (Matt. 9:11–13). In prayer, we lay aside our individual priorities and choose instead to bear one another’s burdens, entering wholeheartedly into the joys and sorrows of our brothers and sisters (Gal. 6:12; Rom. 12:15).
And in prayer, we together submit our hearts—and our political convictions—to the loving disposition of our heavenly Father, praying as Christ himself did, “Not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39).
2. Praying together is God’s means of upholding our civil leaders.
Whether we prayed for one candidate or the other to win, whether we asked the Lord to raise up a third-party victor or to himself return victorious before the polls closed, we now have an answer. And with his answer of President-elect Trump—and countless members of Congress, mayors, town council members, and sheriffs—comes our additional responsibility:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kinds and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quite life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Tim. 2:1–2)
The men and women elected to govern are upheld in their high positions by God’s people on their knees.
Sadly, calls for prayer in times of crisis are often met with derision and accusations of cowardice and laziness. To the ungodly, prayer is refusing to do something when something clearly needs to be done. But God’s people must not be swayed by this faulty argument. Proverbs tell us that “the king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (21:1). Perhaps no civil ruler has acknowledged this more baldly than Mary Queen of Scots, who reputedly declared, “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the assembled armies of Europe.” Prayer is no cop-out. Prayer moves the hand of the God, who moves the heart of the king.
3. Praying together is God’s means of reviving saints and awakening sinners.
But we must never reduce prayer to a pious political tactic. Prayer is, ultimately, a spiritual tool for a spiritual task. When God’s people pray together we can expect to receive great things that won’t always come in the form of Supreme Court appointees or favorable trade agreements or fresh legislation. When God’s people pray together, we can expect to receive the Holy Spirit.
Jonathan Edwards called the Spirit the “chief of the blessings that are the subject matter of Christian prayer” (cf. Luke 11:13). In answer to prayer, the Lord pours out his Spirit to empower his Word (1 Thess. 1:5), to convict of sin (John 16:8), to give new life (John 3:6), to help us intercede (Rom. 8:26), to open our lips to praise (Eph. 5:18–19), to enable fresh obedience (Rom. 8:4), and to manifest his fruit in our lives (Gal. 5:22–23). In answer to our prayers, the Lord stirs the hearts of saints and awakens sinners. In answer to our prayers, the Lord sends revival.
At another period in our nation’s history, the church experienced great division as well. God’s people were wounded, afraid, misunderstood, maligned, and angry on both sides of the conflict. And from the battle field of that Civil War, one hospital chaplain wrote this report:
It would be sure to move your hearts if you could see those men come into our prayer meetings. Some come in on crutches, some on sticks and canes; some with bandages around their heads; some with broken arms, and some with broken legs; some blind, some sick—too sick to be out of bed, but creeping into the prayer meetings because they are so anxious on the subject of religion that they cannot stay away.
Brothers and sisters, we feel ourselves to be weak and wounded, exhausted and afraid. But we must not let that keep us from hobbling on post-election crutches and canes toward the prayer meeting. There we will find our souls lifted up together to the One who binds our wounds, unifies his body, establishes the civil government, and generously pours out his Spirit on all flesh.
Church, let us pray.