On Sunday, President Donald Trump made a surprise appearance at McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Va., reportedly in order to honor the victims of the Virginia Beach shooting on Friday. Pastor David Platt prayed for the president, emphasizing God’s kingdom over earthly rulers. The surprise appearance came on the day evangelist Franklin Graham designated as a National Day of Prayer for President Trump. Yet the two events seem to have no relation to one another.
“Oh God, we praise You as the one universal king over all,” Platt prayed with one hand holding an open Bible and the other hand on Trump’s back, the Christian Post reported. “You are our leader and our lord and we worship You. There is one God and one savior and it’s You. Your name is Jesus and we exalt you, Jesus.”
Platt prayed for mercy, in perhaps a hint to Trump’s checkered past. “And 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,” he said.
He also prayed for Trump’s spiritual life — either that his faith in Jesus would grow or that he would convert and believe the gospel. “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,” he added.
“Lord we pray, we pray that You would give him all the grace he needs to govern in ways we just saw in 1 Timothy, chapter 2, that will lead to peaceful and quiet lives, Godly and dignified in every way,” Platt said, referencing the Bible passage encouraging Christians to pray for earthly rulers (1 Tim 2:1-4).
“God, we pray for your blessing, in that way, upon his family. We pray that you would give them strength, we pray that you give them clarity, wisdom,” Platt continued. “Wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Fools despise wisdom and instruction. Please, oh God, give him wisdom. And help him to lead our country, alongside other leaders.”
The pastor also prayed for the other political leaders. “We pray today for leaders in Congress. We pray for leaders in courts. We pray for leaders at national and state levels,” he said. “Please, oh 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’ name we pray. Amen.”
WATCH: Trump prays at the McLean Bible Church with Pastor David Platt in the wake of the Virginia Beach mass shooting pic.twitter.com/cpqs7efVYg
— QuickTake by Bloomberg (@QuickTake) June 2, 2019
Trump’s appearance at McLean Bible Church — a megachurch in the Washington, D.C. area — came on the day Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the global charity Samaritan’s Purse, had designated for prayers for President Trump.
“We the undersigned are calling for June 2 to be a SPECIAL Day of Prayer for the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, that God would protect, strengthen, embolden, and direct him,” Graham wrote in a statement signed by more than 250 Christian leaders. “We believe our nation is at a crossroads, at a dangerous precipice. The only one who can fix our country’s problems is God Himself, and we pray that God will bless our president and our nation for His glory.”
Trump retweeted Graham on this declaration, adding, “We will all stick together and WIN! Thank you Franklin.”
We will all stick together and WIN! Thank you Franklin. https://t.co/IS7OfkmGKA
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 1, 2019
The Bible does indeed tell Christians to pray for political leaders, but many worry that Graham and others would not have hosted a special day of prayer for other presidents. The Christian leaders did not explicitly support Trump for re-election, but the special call for prayer may seem partisan.
Graham explicitly denied any partisanship in an interview with The Christian Post. “My prayer is not an endorsement of the president,” he said. “It’s to just call on God to give him wisdom because if he makes a good decision, it is good for all of us. If he makes a bad decision, it is bad for all of us. Whether we are Republican or Democrats or independents, this is just asking God to guide him and direct him as he makes decisions every day that impact our lives.”
Graham also said the prayer event was tied to the debate over whether Trump should be impeached. If Trump’s political adversaries are successful, Graham said, “it could lead to a civil war.”
Trump retweeted many Christian leaders in this call for prayer. Yet on the day Graham and the others designated, the president attended McLean Bible Church. David Platt’s name was conspicuously absent from the list of Christian leaders declaring June 2 a special day. In fact, a White House spokesman said the visit had more to do with honoring the victims of the Virginia Beach shooting on Friday.
“President Donald J. Trump is visiting McLean Bible Church in Vienna, VA, to visit with the Pastor and pray for the victims and community of Virginia Beach,” Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said in a statement.
On Friday afternoon, a former employee killed 12 people and wounded four others at the Virginia Beach Municipal Office. Among others, he killed his former boss. The motive remains unknown, but the shooter did not have any ongoing discipline issues.
Trump’s decision to go to Platt’s church rather than a church affiliated with Graham’s call for prayer seems wise. Platt’s prayer emphasizing God’s ultimate kingship and calling for Trump to trust in God was extremely apt in evangelical terms. That prayer showed no hint of partisanship and included America’s other political leaders.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.