Trump had designated yesterday as National Day of Prayer, specifically asking the country to pause to pray for the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana. That hurricane, which hit the Gulf Coast last week, appears to be the most devastation natural disaster ever to hit the U.S. President Trump has already asked the U.S. Congress for nearly $8 billion in aid to the victims of this hurricane and the resulting flooding. The Texas Governor estimates they will need more like $125 billion to recover. But I digress.
Here's what I want to talk about today. It was front page news that our President & First Lady attended church. Looking back, it seems that neither of them have attended any regular church services since he took office. They have only attended when the church service was to inaugurate or otherwise honor Trump. This isn't a strong expression of Trump's faith.
Now, lest you think that I'm ragging on Trump, let me also mention the fact that Obama rarely attended any church services during his eight years as President. It was the same with his predecessor, George W. Bush. In fact, of all the modern Presidents of the U.S., only the Carters and the Clintons are known to have attended church services on a regular (weekly) basis.
I long to see our modern Presidents more open about their faith. Maybe Trump, with his addiction to expressing himself on Twitter, could tweet the Scripture passage that he and his wife read and meditate on together each day. (They do do that, don't they?) You know, I wouldn't mind if our President and his wife were zealous about the God they serve. I'd like to know that my President is a man under authority, that He is surrendered and submitted to Christ in every way possible.
I'd really like to see our President at least occasionally leading the nation in public prayer. To be fair, Melania Trump publicly read the Lord's prayer in a ceremony a few months ago. But again, that made front page headlines because it was so remarkable. We're not used to seeing much in the way of outward
I've read the arguments (maybe excuses) about modern Presidents don't attend church regularly. Those range from not wanting to be disruptive to not creating a security scenario. But really don't those are valid reasons. The Scriptural command doesn't have an exception clause that lets Christ-followers off the hook if they think it might be an inconvenience to others or that it would be too much trouble for their security detail. Both of those things can be overcome.
If the President and his family were attending the same local church regularly, the drama would die down. Jimmy Carter still teaches Sunday School, for example, and his fellow parishioners seem to be managing pretty well. Similarly, the security details could be worked out so that the church would be secure enough to ensure the President's safety. Years ago I worked in England, and had occasion to visit a couple of the Queen's castles. I recall that even the Queen of England attends local church services in well known cathedrals or chapels where security has been arranged and where chaos has been overcome.
Quite frankly, if the President and his family wanted to join my local church, I would be deeply honored to get to worship, pray, and study God's Word with them. And I know that as a pastor, if I knew the President and his family would be at my church each week, I'm confident that my staff and I could work with the Secret Service to keep it secure. Moreover, I could work with my staff and parishioners to keep the carnival atmosphere to a minimum.
The faith of our Presidents is documented. Not a single President of the United States has ever identified himself as an atheist. All have said that they believed in God, and there was an assumption that that meant they also worshiped and submitted to God. The only exceptions have been Thomas Jefferson - who eventually denied that Jesus is God, and Abraham Lincoln - who was so secular that even people who knew him well questioned his faith. (See chart below.)
What is less documented and less known, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in the lives of our Presidents. Jimmy Carter, for example, is the only President of the United States that is ever known to have taught Sunday School. (He still does!) We have few examples of Presidents praying, reading their Bibles, worshiping, or making disciples as Jesus commanded us to. (Matthew 28:19-20)
So here's the thing. If I were President of the United States, I'm pretty sure that I would want to start my Presidency with a prayer service. In fact, my inauguration speech would include a call for the nation to pray with me. I would ask Americans to pray for me to have wisdom and discernment. I would ask them to pray that God would allow me to see what He sees, hear what He hears, and even think through things with the Mind of Christ. I would ask that my people pray for me to be humbled before the Lord and before my fellow Americans.
As President of the United States, I would pledge to my constituents that I would make confession a regular practice - and I would tell them the name of the individual that I would be confessing my sins to on a regular basis. (James 5:16) I would tell them the name of the spiritual adviser whom I would be giving authority to hold me accountable, to challenge me and ask me the hard questions on a regular basis. My weekly radio address (a Presidential tradition) would include prayer for our nation - my people would hear me pray. And I would implement regular time of prayer and worship with my staff, and even invite members of Congress to pray and worship with me. (We might have to move that Bible study to the National Cathedral!)
I don't believe the God of the universe can be expected to bless our nation if we as a nation are not submitted and surrendered to Him in real, tangible ways. I believe that there must be evidence that we are actively service the Lord in our everyday lives. (It's called Fruit of the Spirit.) Most of all I don't believe any of this will happen without our country's leaders setting the example. So of course I'm very glad to see that Mr. & Mrs. Trump were in church yesterday. I only hope and pray that this will become a regular thing for them!
Won't you join me now in praying that the Lord put a fierce hunger and thirst for God's Word into the hearts of our President and First Lady? Let us pray that God will draw both of them to Himself, and that a desire to seek Him first will overwhelm both of them.