Last year, my wife’s brother asked her a religious question. Molly has gotten used to these kinds of questions now that she’s a priest’s wife, and I’m always proud of her answers.
A little background on this question…my brother-in-law is a very faithful and wonderful person. He teaches Sunday School for children at his Baptist Church, and knowing his sense of integrity, his gentleness, and his playfulness, I’m sure he’s a good one. So his question is not that far out of left field, as I think even Episcopalians have let this cross their minds.
One day in his Sunday School class, he was leading the children in prayers. He asked them, “Who do you want to pray for?” Of course, he got the usual answers–mommy, daddy, my goldfish, my grandparents, my puppy, bicycles for my birthday, etc. But one astute child threw in a curveball–“The Pope!”
So to my brother-in-law’s question to my wife, he asked her, “What would you have done? Would you have prayed for the Pope even though you’re not [Roman] Catholic?”
Molly unequivocally answered, “Of course I would!”
That might be your answer too as you read this, but coming from his perspective, he might have wondered since they were Baptist if they might be breaking some unspoken denominational rule or something. Or maybe he was trying to differentiate between Catholic and Baptist for this little one. Or maybe he’s just anti-Catholic altogether.
But it brings up an interesting question for us: For whom do we pray? Only the people we like? Only the people that agree with us? Only the people who are like us? Who deserves our prayer?
After the Election, I wasn’t surprised that so many people were already denouncing President Obama before he was even sworn in. It’s easy to immediately demonize people we don’t agree with, especially those people like the President or the Pope, who are in the limelight.
However, no matter what our politics or our theologies, we are called to pray for everyone, especially those in positions of authority. And we’re not called simply to pray for them to change and think like us. We are called to pray for their well-being, their health, and their ability to lead with wisdom, no matter if their decisions are the decisions we would make or not. They are human beings with a great amount of responsibility, and if nothing else, we should pray that they’re just doing OK.
Even outside of those in authority, we are called to pray for those with whom we disagree. The brother-in-law who leads a Sunday School class differently than I would, the child who makes a lifestyle change that’s not in line with our expectations, the parent who makes a rule with which we’re not happy, the church down the street who thinks our church is weird, the person who makes us the angriest. All of them deserve prayer.
Everyone deserves prayer.