Last Sunday, June 2, President Trump showed up unannounced to McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Virginia, which is pastored by David Platt. A White House spokesperson said the president was there to “visit with the pastor and pray for the victims and community of Virginia Beach.”
Joe Carter sets up what happened next:
“The president arrived at 2:25 pm during a musical performance and wore khakis and a jacket over a polo shirt. He held a golf hat. During the 15-minute visit to one of the D.C. metro area’s largest churches, the president made no remarks while on stage. But Platt noted there had been calls to pray for the president on this day. ‘Many of you may have seen that there were calls to, particularly on this Sunday, pray for our president,’ Platt said. “We don’t want to do that just on this Sunday. We want to do that continually, day in and day out. So I want to ask us to bow our heads together now and pray for our president.”
David has gotten some criticism from both political liberals and conservatives: some liberals who didn’t approve of allowing the president to be on the platform (for perceived photo op reasons), and some conservatives who didn’t appreciate the “apologetic” tone of the letter he wrote to his church afterward, in which he acknowledged people’s sensitivities to this situation. (Actually, despite some newspaper headlines claiming otherwise, he did not apologize to his church. Rather, he gently explained to them why he did what he did.)
Personally, I really appreciated the balanced and biblical way David handled this, and I told him so.
I’m going to include the transcript of what David prayed, or you can watch the video below. But please keep reading beyond that to see more reflections from David on this event, as well as some thoughts from our friend and EPM board member Robin Green, that I think are very helpful.
O God, we praise you as the one universal king over all. You are our leader and our Lord and we worship you. There is one God and one Savior—and it’s you, and your name is Jesus. And we exalt you, Jesus. We know we need your mercy. We need your grace. We need your help. We need your wisdom in our country. And so we stand right now on behalf of our president, and we pray for your grace and your mercy and your wisdom upon him.
God, we pray that he would know how much you love him—so much that you sent Jesus to die for his sins, our sins—so we pray that he would look to you. That he would trust in you, that he would lean on you. That he would govern and make decisions in ways that are good for justice, and good for righteousness, and good for equity, every good path.
Lord we pray, we pray, that you would give him all the grace he needs to govern in ways that we just saw in 1 Timothy 2 that lead to peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way. God we pray for your blessing in that way upon his family. We pray that you would give them strength. We pray that you would give them clarity. Wisdom, wisdom, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Please, O God, give him wisdom and help him to lead our country alongside other leaders. We pray today for leaders in Congress. We pray for leaders in courts. We pray for leaders in national and state levels. Please, O God, help us to look to you, help us to trust in your Word, help us to seek your wisdom, and live in ways that reflect your love and your grace, your righteousness and your justice. We pray for your blessings on our president toward that end.
In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.
Later that day, David posted a letter to his church, explaining why he chose to pray for President Trump on stage. I love David Platt, and I believe he did the right thing in the right way. And I appreciate his sensitivities to his church:
Dear MBC Family,
Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that we didn’t see coming, and we’re faced with a decision in a moment when we don’t have the liberty of deliberation, so we do our best to glorify God. Today, I found myself in one of those situations.
At the end of my sermon at the 1:00 worship gathering, I stepped to the side for what I thought would be a couple of moments in quiet reflection as we prepared to take the Lord’s Supper. But I was immediately called backstage and told that the President of the United States was on his way to the church, would be there in a matter of minutes, and would like for us to pray for him. I immediately thought about my longing to guard the integrity of the gospel in our church. As I said in the sermon today, Christ alone unites us. I love that we have over 100 nations represented in our church family, including all kinds of people with varied personal histories and political opinions from varied socioeconomic situations. It’s clear in our church that the only reason we’re together is because we have the same King we adore, worship, fear, and follow with supreme love and absolute loyalty, and His name is Jesus.
That’s why, as soon as I heard this request backstage, the passage from God’s Word that came to my mind was 1 Timothy 2:1-6:
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”
Based on this text, I know that it is good, and pleasing in the sight of God, to pray for the president. So in that moment, I decided to take this unique opportunity for us as a church to pray over him together. My aim was in no way to endorse the president, his policies, or his party, but to obey God’s command to pray for our president and other leaders to govern in the way this passage portrays.
I went back out to lead the Lord’s Supper and then walked off stage, where the president was soon to arrive. In that brief moment, I prayed specifically for an opportunity to speak the gospel to him, and for faithfulness to pray the gospel over him.
While I won’t go into the details of our conversation backstage, one of our other pastors and I spoke the gospel in a way that I pray was clear, forthright, and compassionate. Then I walked back out on stage, read 1 Timothy 2:1-6, and sought to pray the Word of God over the president, other leaders, and our country. … After I prayed, the president walked off stage without comment, and we closed our gathering by celebrating heroes among us, a couple who has spent the last 48 years spreading the gospel in remote places where it had never gone before they came. We then recited the Great Commission as we always do, sending one another out into the city for the glory of our King.
I wanted to share all of this with you in part because I know that some within our church, for a variety of valid reasons, are hurt that I made this decision. This weighs heavy on my heart. I love every member of this church, and I only want to lead us with God’s Word in a way that transcends political party and position, heals the hurts of racial division and injustice, and honors every man and woman made in the image of God. So while I am thankful that we had an opportunity to obey 1 Timothy 2 in a unique way today, I don’t want to purposely ever do anything that undermines the unity we have in Christ.
In the end, would you pray with me for gospel seed that was sown today to bear fruit in the president’s heart? Would you also pray with me that God will help us to guard the gospel in every way as we spread the gospel everywhere? And finally, I’m guessing that all of us will face other decisions this week where we don’t have time to deliberate on what to do. I’m praying now for grace and wisdom for all of us to do exactly what we talked about in the Word today: aim for God’s glory, align with God’s purpose, and yield to God’s sovereignty.
I love you, church.
I assume that David Platt would have done exactly the same thing had President Obama come to his church. We are commanded to pray for those in authority, and why would you say no to someone who comes and asks for prayer? Now, if they ask to speak from the pulpit to share their viewpoints, that’s something else. The church’s job is not to turn itself over to be a mouthpiece for politicians, but its job certainly includes interceding for them and sharing the gospel with them.
It’s one thing for presidents to have had Billy Graham come to the Oval Office, but this was more surprising, since it was on the church’s and pastor’s turf. And anyone who thought David Platt would not be faithful to the Gospel and the Word doesn’t know him. If I was asked for a short list of pastors I’d want this to happen with, Platt would have quickly come to mind. (One reason I wanted to post this is to help pastors address what they would have said and done and prayed had this happened to them—and what they would have said afterward to their churches.)
When I shared David’s letter with a few of our ministry board members, Robin Green wrote the following. I wholeheartedly agree:
My thought is that all of us need the gospel at all times and in all places. Speak the gospel over me, please! It doesn’t matter that I already know about it, or have heard it before, or have already opened my heart to Jesus. My second thought is that the President came to a church asking for prayer. He appeared humble and quiet. We don’t know his heart (thankfully), but David was very right to pray for him.
I’m glad David didn’t turn away the President of the United States because people might think he is a Trump supporter. There are Trump supporters out there, including some Christians. But I don’t have to be a Trump supporter to think that Almighty God could have a thing or two to point out and clarify for Donald, that Donald Trump might be in an enormous spiritual battle our country is affected by, and that grace and mercy are in abundance at the foot of the cross. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the scales fell off of his eyes as a result of this prayer? If he saw things from a Kingdom perspective because God answered a prayer asking for wisdom for the president?
Thank you, David Platt, for not allowing the fear of man to stop you from an opportunity to approach the Throne of Grace in obedience to Scripture and on behalf of a man in enormous need of God’s love, forgiveness, wisdom, insight, direction. Donald Trump and I share that enormous need.
For more about the need to simultaneous display both grace and truth, see Randy’s book The Grace and Truth Paradox.