Is It ‘Theological Malpractice’ for Ministers to Pray for Trump?

In this Oct. 5, 2016 file photo, pastors from the Las Vegas area pray with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a visit to the International Church of Las Vegas, and International Christian Academy, in Las Vegas.

By Michael Brown Published on July 18, 2017

According to NAACP board member Rev. Dr. William Barber, when evangelical ministers prayed over President Trump last week, it was “a form of theological malpractice that borders on heresy.”

Really? What could be wrong with praying for the president? Why was Rev. Barber so upset?

Prayer and Hypocrisy

Speaking on MSNBC’s “AM Joy,” Rev. Barber said, “When you can p-r-a-y for a president and others while they are p-r-e-y, preying on the most vulnerable, you’re violating the sacred principles of religion. You know, there is a text in Amos Chapter 2 that says religious and moral hypocrisy looks like, when a nation of political leaders will buy and sell upstanding people when they will do anything to make money, when they will sell the poor for a pair of shoes, when they will grind the penniless into the dirt and shove the luckless into the ditch and extort from the poor. That is an actual text.”

I appreciate Rev. Barber’s heart for social justice. And while I share his antipathy for religious hypocrisy, his criticism is completely off base, if not hypocritical itself.

Christian Should Always Pray for Their Leaders

First, we are called to pray for our leaders, be they good or bad. As Paul instructed Timothy, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1-4).

At the time Paul wrote this, the Roman emperor was Nero. He was an exceedingly wicked and even deranged man, a man who ultimately had Paul beheaded, according to church tradition. Yet Paul urged Timothy to have the believers pray for Nero.

If it was appropriate to pray for Nero, it is certainly appropriate to pray for Donald Trump. Even if you are a Never Trumper. Prayer for our leader’s well-being is prayer for our nation’s well-being.

Prayer ≠ Endorsement

Second, prayer is not the same thing as political endorsement or personal approval. In fact, some of the leaders on the president’s Faith Advisory Council did not endorse him for office. They have a non-endorsement policy.

Pastor Jack Graham, one of the men who prayed for Trump last week, said it well. “We as followers of Jesus have always believed that we are to be politically incorrect,” Graham wrote. “‘Political correctness’ is the mantra of the media and the world at large and Christians are always against an anti-God or anti-biblical worldview. Jesus stood against the prevailing worldview in His day. So we have always been a voice speaking to the culture or the government leaders. And the great opportunity we have in America is the freedom to speak, and leaders like our president want to hear from us.”

This is part of the prophetic calling of the church: to speak truth to power, regardless of cost or consequences. How much better is it when those leaders welcome our input!

You Can’t Claim ‘Moral Values’ and Be Pro-Abortion

Third, while Rev. Barber accused those who prayed for the president of “preying on the most vulnerable,” apparently with reference to the president’s attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare, he was an outspoken supporter of Hillary Clinton, a radically pro-abortion candidate.

Speaking at the Democratic National Convention in July, Rev. Barber said, “when I hear Hillary’s voice and her positions, I hear and I know that she is working to embrace our deepest moral values — and we should embrace her.”

Really? Our deepest moral values as followers of Jesus include slaughtering babies in the womb right through the ninth month of pregnancy, if allegedly merited? Our deepest moral values include terminating more than 55 million lives before they could see the light of day?

Rev. Barber describes himself as “a theologically conservative liberal evangelical biblicist,” which prompts the question: How can he make this claim and be an ardent supporter of the Democratic platform?

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  • Andrew Mason

    How can a reverend not be aware of the double standard he’s advanced? Or is this simply another case of liberal ‘Christianity’? If the Bible doesn’t mean what it says, is irrelevant etc, then the exhortations to pray for leaders, and the wicked, can be ignored and your political enemies hated with a clear conscience. Of course if you’re discarding those passages why retain Amos?

    • Jim Walker

      Because he is a fake one.

  • fights

    He is blinded by the world. And I’m tires of the argument that conservatives are against the poor because we believe teach a man to fish vs. give a man a fish.

  • eddiestardust

    I love it when NON Catholics spread their idiocy about Christianity, don’t you?

    • bfast

      Huh? I know you are trying to say something, but I really don’t know what.

  • Linda

    Praying for your leaders is different than praying WITH a man like Trump as though he was also a believer of like faith. And that is how that display came across. The faith council would have been better to do a prayer walk around the White House, praying for the WH staff.

    • Jim Walker

      So do you recommend selective prayers base on your judgement of who is worthy of prayer as you do selective reading of the Bible ?

    • John Sharp Davis

      Please read Paul’s words to Timothy, words that Dr Brown pointed out in his article above, where he under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit admonished Timothy to pray for all those who are in authority. You also need to remember that we are ALL SINNERS there are NONE righteous and that Jesus Christ died for a woman LIKE YOU! None of us are Jesus and none of us can see Donald Trumps heart. I suggest you pull the plank from your own eye first.

  • Rick

    One cannot endorse Demoncrats and then claim to follow Jesus.

    • Dena

      I’ve always wondered this too. Or maybe social programs that help the poor are more important to them than killing babies, homosexual marriage and transgender using the bathroom or locker room of their choosing. It’s spiritual compromise. However, Conservatives are not saints either. Some things Democrats are for are wonderful, but I can’t vote for them. Otherwise my hands are stained with blood for approving baby killing and immorality.

    • BWF

      I do. Checkmate.

  • Bezukhov

    Is It ‘Theological Malpractice’ for Ministers to Pray for Trump?

    I wouldn’t call it “Malpractice”. More like a waste of time. God has far more important matters to ignore than Donald Trump.

  • Jim Walker

    I’m surprised he has followers. Sorry to be crude, but any man with an IQ of 30 and lower will know he is a fake.

  • Patmos

    So… Disregard what Jesus said about praying for even your enemy. Got it.

    Isn’t it nice we have “Reverends” like William Barber to straighten things out for us?

  • Michael,

    He CAN’T!


  • No, it’s not theological malpractice, but such prayers may very well be abominable to Yahweh, God of the Bible.

    “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” (Proverbs 28:9)

    Most of contemporary Christianity has rejected Yahweh’s immutable/unchanging moral law as the standard for government and society, despite Romans 3:31, 7:12,14, 1 John 5:3, etc.. So if these pastors who prayed over Trump were of that ilk, don’t expect for the prayers to accomplish much.

    For more on how Yahweh’s immutable moral law applies and should be
    implemented today, see free online book “Law and Kingdom: Their Relevance
    Under the New Covenant.” Click on my name, then our website. Go to our Online Books page and scroll down to title.

  • 1776vtgmb

    I’m with Ted R. Any nation with legal abortion and queer marriage is
    an abomination.

  • Augie

    I have always asked the same question “how can you follow Jesus but support an evil political party that goes against everything Jesus teaches”! Great article Dr. Brown!

  • James Clark

    It is never wrong to pray for anyone. If Jesus said, “You already pray for your friends. I tell you Pray for your enemies!”
    We are also told to pray for all in authority. How can anyone be a heretic praying for our president? This ‘rev’ needs to spend more time in the Bible and less time with liberal politicians. Or he should turn in his backward color and get a job better fitting his ability.

  • R.E.A.L Human Rights

    Responsible for Equality And Liberty promotes prayer of kindness for all faiths. We have regularly been challenged by extremist movements at our public event. We have made efforts to reach and out and respond to hate with prayer.

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