Praying for President Biden
“It is the duty of people to pray for magistrates, to honor their persons, to pay them tribute or other dues, to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority, for conscience' sake.” — Westminster Confession of Faith XXIII.4
This past year will likely be remembered by many for the pandemic, for protests, and for a contentious presidential election. The responses of our civic leaders to each of these has left much to be desired. As Christians, however, we are obligated to pray for our civil magistrates in all circumstances. This is stated clearly in the Westminster Confession and in in the Book of Common Prayer; it can be seen in the writings of Calvin, Augustine (26), Origen (73) and many other eminent Christian theologians. Most importantly, it is in the Bible. The apostle Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gives us this command:
First of all, then, 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 a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:1-4).
But will we pray?
This week, Joseph Biden was sworn-in as the 46th President of the United States. Will we pray for him, for Vice President Kamala Harris, for their administration and staff, and for their families, “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way”? It is our duty as Christians to do so, and we know that this kind of prayer is pleasing to God and good.
Because of this, in years past, Reformation21 has posted reminders around the inauguration about our need to pray for presidents Obama and Trump. Along with these calls to prayer have been suggestions for how to pray. Though some of the suggestions reflected the concerns of the moment, most of what was written was timeless and bears repeating.
What should we pray?
We should pray that God would give those in the Biden administration humility. One of the greatest temptations we face in life is pride. And pride can gain special purchases in our hearts when we are given power and authority. Our Lord warned against this repeatedly, while acknowledging that this was often the way earthly rulers behaved (Mark 10:42-45). Pray for humble hearts to be given to those in authority over us, especially to President Biden and Vice-President Harris.
We should pray also that God would grant them great wisdom. Phrases like “unprecedented times,” can become dull with overuse, but the fact remains that the new president has entered office at a particularly hard time. We should pray that God would grant him discernment as he and his cabinet are charged with protecting our nation and making just decisions. To that end, we should pray that the Lord would surround President Biden with men and women who will serve as wise and competent counsellors, and that he would seek the best of these counsellors regularly.
We should pray that President Biden and those in his administration would be honest, that they would never place their short-term personal interests – financial or otherwise – above the well-being of the people over whom God has given them authority.
We should pray that the Lord would change President Biden’s mind and heart on issues of crucial moral concern. God is able to soften even the hardest of hearts. Ask the Lord to cause our president to show compassion towards the unborn and even to rise up to defend them. We should pray that the president would uphold religious liberty so that we might continue to worship peaceably. Pray that he would recognize the grave civic danger posed by the degradation of families connected inexorably to our culture’s views of sex and human identity. Most of all, pray that Christ and the wisdom of God’s Word might reign in his heart, that he would be moved supernaturally to make every decision to the glory of his Father in Heaven.
For those Christians who are dismayed to see a Biden presidency, remember that, as our president, Mr. Biden has God-given authority to govern us within the bounds of our Constitution. We should view him as a servant of God (Rom. 13:1, 4) to whom we should be subject and give appropriate honor (Rom. 13:1, 5; 1 Pet. 2:13-14). We are not to pray for Mr. Biden begrudgingly, but with hearts thankful to God (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
For those who are delighted with the new administration, remember that your ultimate allegiance is to Jesus Christ. Honoring the President should not lead to condoning his decisions when they clearly violate the laws of God. Mr. Biden may oppose biblical moral standards, ignore justice for the unborn, undermine religious liberties, or contribute to an ethos that is hostile to the Gospel. In those cases, we must pray for God's purposes to triumph over man’s plans and policies.
Remember that it is God who raises up leaders, and it is God who pulls them down. We can still speak the truth and lawfully participate in our nation’s public life, but we must not fall into an unbelieving mindset that ignores our duty to pray, living as if God is disconnected from our current events.
For many, 2020 has been hard, and we must be prepared for frustration, disappointment, and trials in the years ahead. None of these is outside of God’s plan or control. As disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, let us demonstrate our awareness of this in how we live as citizens, in how we speak politically, and especially now in how we pray for those to whom God has given civic authority.
Jonathan Master is President of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and the co-host of the Theology on the Go podcast.
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