Brian Lee’s Prayer for the Government
In the House of Representatives on Monday Brian Lee, pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Washington D.C., prayed the following words:
Creator God, merciful and just.
You dwell above in holiness, a father to the fatherless, protector of widows and orphans. Dear Lord, rescue the weak and needy, deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
Give wisdom to this body. You hold all things in your almighty hand, and you have established this House of Representatives — and every governing authority — as your servants, that they might protect the defenseless, praise those who do good, and punish those who do evil.
Preserve and protect our President.
Humble all these your servants with your holy law, which you shine forth in all our hearts. Help them to seek peace.
You are a God who saves. Convict us of all our sins, that we might know deliverance from these our wicked ways.
Hear this prayer, for the sake of the merits of your only Son, the crucified and risen Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
I’m not in the habit of analyzing or critiquing public prayers on this blog, but I do want to point out a few things that make Lee’s prayer exemplary. Remember, this is not only a prayer for the state (per 1 Timothy 2:1-2), but it is offered in an official, public setting. The temptations here are enormous, but Lee avoids them nicely, while offering intercession of substance:
- Temptation: to pray on behalf of all people, regardless of faith. Lee studiously avoids the first person plural except when describing those for whom he is praying. The “us” here is the object, not the subject.
- Temptation: to pray to a generic civil deity. Lee prays explicitly to the God of, and on the basis of the merits of, the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ.
- Temptation: to imply that the United States is somehow God’s chosen or uniquely favored nation. Lee declares that all governing authorities are established by God as his servants.
- Temptation: to pretend that our fundamental need is for God to prosper our national goals. Lee prays for protection, but he also prays for wisdom, humility, the knowledge of God’s law, and the conviction of sins.
- Temptation: to pray for a particular partisan or ideological agenda, thus politicizing the prayer. Lee carefully prays that those in authority would be humbled by God’s holy law and that they would seek peace. He describes government’s task in biblical terms: protect the defenseless, praise those who do good, and punish those who do evil.
What faithful Christian could not pray this prayer? What Christian, of any nation, could wish that this prayer would not be answered?
(Note: the painting above does not feature Brian Lee. His wig is much less stylish.)