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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