On January 21, 2009, one day after taking the presidential oath of office in front of a record crowd of 1.8 million people, President Obama and Chief Justice John Roberts met for a redo. You may remember that both men made mistakes in reciting the oath during the inauguration and, upon the recommendation of several constitutional scholars, they met the next day at the White House for Presidential Oath, Take 2. While it makes for an interesting bit of presidential trivia, it’s largely inconsequential that they needed a do-over to get the oath right. But as Jesus made clear in Matthew 5, keeping an oath is of supreme importance.
On Friday, President-elect Donald Trump is scheduled to recite this same, simple oath. Whether or not he says the correct words in the proper order, my prayer is that God will grant him the strength, courage, and grace to keep his word. Here’s what he’s supposed to say.
“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, (so help me God).”
Using his oath as a backdrop, I wanted to suggest some specific ways we ought to be praying for him this week.
First, I pray that he will view the office and his responsibility solemnly. While I appreciate the “swearing” solemnly, my prayer is that he will act, speak, and tweet in ways that uphold the dignity of the highest office in our government. No one is perfect as all of us have said and done things we hope will never be shared publicly, but the bar is higher now. His leadership position calls for a better standard for his words and actions. I pray God will grant him the grace to live with the appropriate solemnity.
Second, I pray he will “faithfully execute the Office.” The volume and weight of responsibilities he will face exceed what most of us carry in our jobs. I pray God will grant him the capacity to lead well, make wise decisions, and perform each task with necessary skill.
Third, I pray he will “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.” Despite potential differences of opinion on the strictness with which we ought to interpret the Constitution, I hope he does not discard it. In my opinion, it’s been shamefully re-worked, re-imagined, and re-written during the last decade and I’m hoping for a shift in these next few years. However imperfect it may be at times, I’m grateful for our democracy (or more precisely, our representative democracy) and the freedoms and privileges we enjoy. I pray God will use his presidency to strengthen and solidify our nation. Furthermore, through this strength, I pray that God will protect our ability to evangelize our neighbors and leverage our privilege for the global cause of Christ.
Fourth, I pray God will help him. These last four words of the oath are “optional” so I hope he opts to say them. And even more, I pray God will lend him this aid. Primarily, I’m praying for God to work in his heart to cultivate genuine faith and repentance. I cannot speak for the state of anyone’s heart and certainly not for his. I’m neither assuming the best or the worst about the current state of his heart. I’m only saying, I want my president to trust fully in Christ for salvation and have the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. This indwelling is the decisive enabling by which God will grant him the strength, courage, and grace to lead our government.
So, in obedience to 1 Timothy 2, let’s pray for our President-elect for his good, for our good, and most importantly, for God’s glory in the world.