Jesus, MLK, and How to Pray for Our Nation

My mom was involved in politics from an early age, a legacy handed down by her father. Some of my earliest memories are of her campaigning for Nixon. She fought hard for Ford but greatly admired Carter (and does to this day). Needless to say, Inauguration Day was always special in our house … no matter who the incumbent was. It was a sacred right of passage for Mom. She always told me that the greatest thing about our nation — the thing that separated us from all others — was our capacity for the peaceful transfer of power. Lose that and we lose everything.

Inauguration Day


Inauguration Day

A lot has changed since those bygone days. We are facing another Inauguration Day — one, quite unlike any other.


There are many heavy hearts in our nation as we face one of the most difficult transitions of power in recent history. Some are still grieving a lost election. Others are seething over an election they believe was stolen from them.


Others still are sickened by the storming of the Capitol Building and the disruption of important congressional business.  Most are simply tired of the corrosion of trust, infighting, and angry rhetoric.


What can Jesus teach us about praying for our national leaders and the health of our nation?


Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jesus

I have three photographs in my office of men that I have long admired — Roberto Clemente, Cesar Chavez, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Yesterday was MLK day. I couldn’t help but wonder what he would be saying to a nation rife with discord.


Fortunately, we can answer that question from his speeches during another tumultuous era of our nation’s history. Here are two seldom quoted statements MLK gave us in the midst of a no less frightening time:


“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”


“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”


Martin Luther, King, Jr. was a follower of Jesus. Therefore, his wisdom came from his relationship with Jesus. Here are two often quoted statements Jesus made while living through an oppressive and violent era of his own nation’s history:


“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven'” (Matt. 5:43-45a).


“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matt. 6:14-15).


Jesus didn’t command us to love and pray for our enemies only after we have neutralized them and solidified control over them. I’ll remind you that the enemy in his day was an oppressive Roman Empire still very much in control of every facet of life. Jesus said, “Pray for the Romans anyway.”


In addition, Jesus called you to “forgive other people when they sin against you,” NOT for their benefit, but for your own — not so that THEY would be saved, but so that YOU would be saved.


A Response to Inauguration Day

A Christian approach to the turmoil then would be to do the following on Inauguration Day (and the days to follow).


1. Pray for President-Elect Biden and Vice-President-Elect Harris.

Pray for them, especially if you didn’t vote for them.


2. Pray for President Trump and First Lady Melania.

Pray for them, especially if you didn’t vote for them.


3. Pray for the safety of all those who are involved in the Inauguration Day celebration.

Pray, especially for the National Guard and others who are on the “front lines,” so to speak.


4. Forgive those who have offended you.

Forgive them whether they are asking for forgiveness or not.


We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies” (MLK).


5. Ask for forgiveness from those you have offended.

I’m sure you can think of someone. We’re all lost if we can’t do this one.


6. Attack principles and policies you disagree with, but not the people who hold them.

Learn to engage in rigorous civil discourse that actually makes a difference (Note: That rarely happens on Facebook).


It is not enough to say we must not wage war. It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it” (MLK).


7. Stop demonizing the other side.

The insanity has to stop somewhere. Let it be with you.


That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing” (MLK).



God bless you on Inauguration Day … and GOD BLESS AMERICA.





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