Over the years I have begun class with a variety of prayer methods. I have used the traditional, like the Our Father or the Prayer for Generosity of St. Ignatius; I have used selections from Sacred Scripture and various spiritual writings, often relating to the seasons of Advent and Lent; and I have focused on the saint of the day, especially if the saint was a Jesuit. Lately, I have begun by asking the class to offer any prayers of petition – people or things that they would like all of us to pray for with them – and then I will offer my own petitions followed by the Hail Mary.
For the 10th time during my 40 years as a teacher I begin prayer on the first Wednesday after the first Tuesday in November with a petition that the newly elected President of the United States will be successful in the exercise of his duties and that he will be the best president that this country has ever had. I have offered this petition on behalf of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barak Obama, and Donald Trump, and in each case I can say that I meant it wholeheartedly and without any sense of ill-will towards the victor. The oddity of this year’s prayer, as in 2000, is that I am praying for an as-yet undeclared winner.
I can understand the sentiment of those who have been – and will be – bitterly disappointed after a favored candidate loses the most important election in the world, but I cannot understand when that feeling turns to animosity and the hope of four years of failure. It is never healthy for our souls to choose to be correct rather than to follow the example of people such as Sts. Peter and Paul who, in their writings, advised the early Church to pray for and give respect to those in governmental authority.
Considering that both of those men died at the hands of the Emperor of Rome – one crucified upside-down and one beheaded – it is safe to assume that their prayers were not offered on behalf of the person for whom they would have voted.
So why would they tell their persecuted flock to offer prayers for such a heinous man?
The answer is simple. To be a follower of Christ, rather than a mere admirer, is to do as He commanded:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for He makes His sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”
In an era where political dialogue has been replaced by invective, where elections are about power grabs rather than public service, and we are all too often asked to choose between people we would never want to be in the same room with, it is essential to recall who we are and how we are to respond in such situations.
As many are tempted to claim that one candidate or party has a monopoly on the “Christian” way of moving our country forward, it is important to remember that salvation does not come from any political leader or movement. Salvation can only come through Jesus and His Cross, and those who follow Him must – if they wish to truly be children of our heavenly Father – do as He commands.
Nothing, and especially partisan politics, should stand in the way of that most important dogma – a dogma that should live loudly within each faithful follower of Jesus.