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Praying for America


The following has been adapted, with permission, from the blog of Sigve Tonstad (originally posted September 30, 2012).

For the month of October, thousands of churches of all stripes and hues across America have urged their members to join in a ‘journey of prayer’ for America.  A ‘U.S. Prayer Atlas’ has been prepared, featuring the Star Spangled Banner, a map of America, and a daily prayer plan where everyone is asked to pray for each state in the alphabetic order, beginning with Alabama and Alaska on October 2.  One of the topics for day # 1 of this journey is to pray for the President and Vice-President.  It is not for me to decipher the motives behind this initiative, but I will offer a suggestion for Day One and follow up with scattered suggestions throughout October. 
Me:  Dear God, today I am beginning a journey of prayer for America. 
GOD:  I love America, and I’ll be glad to help.  Don’t take my response as though I won’t be listening, but I am very busy right now.  A civil war is raging in Syria, and there is a lot of praying in that country.  I’m sure you can imagine the type of prayer: mothers mourning the loss of children; children praying over their loss of parents; bodily injuries of any kind you can name; a lot of pain, a lot of grieving.  They are praying loudly, too, praying from the gut, weeping and groaning.  I am not saying that I am partial to such prayers, but I process things in real time.  If it gets to the point that I have to triage, I hope you’ll understand that I am merely letting first things come first.  Please don’t drop your commitment to praying for America just because I am busy in Syria. 
Me:  Please bless our President and Vice- President. 
GOD:  I am glad you mentioned them.  They have very important and difficult jobs.  Is there anything else on your mind as you begin your prayer journey?
Me: Hmm, what do you mean by ‘anything else’?
GOD:  By ‘anything else’ I mean specifics.  Is there anything else you would like me to do for the President or the Vice-President other than to bless them. Any specific blessing?
Me: I haven’t thought of specifics.  I just want you to bless them, give them wisdom and stuff like that. 
GOD:  Prayer is a two-way street.  Just as you tell me what you want me to do, I will tell you what is on my mind. 
Me: What is on your mind, God? 
GOD:  I would like President Obama to close the prison in Guantánamo Bay.  He said he would do it, but it has not been done. 
Me:  Is there anything I can do to help in this regard? 
GOD:  I don’t know, but I hope so.  At least you can spread the word.  I have been telling Obama to keep his promise when he has prayed to me (and, even though it is a personal matter that I should keep confidential, he is praying, and he is praying in the name of Jesus).  But Obama has been reluctant to close Guantánamo. 
Me:  Why is it so important to you to close it? 
GOD:  You are asking me to bless America, aren’t you?  My idea of blessing is to help individuals and nations do what is right.  I believe in the rule of law and in due process.  I do not believe that nations can create what is essentially a legal no man’s land.  Imagine what the world would be like if everyone did that.  Places like Guantánamo Bay smack of lawlessness and arbitrary rule.  You need to put these people on trial.  You must, as much as you might wish to avoid it, treat them as innocents until they are proven guilty.  You should be proud of having a legal system that is committed to such a standard.  Use it. 
Me:  I am supposed to be talking to you, but now you are doing most of the talking. 
GOD:  I apologize that I am so talkative, but I feel strongly about the rule of law.  Since we are short on time and you seem to feel that I am talking too much, please read chapter 20 in the Book of Revelation.  There you’ll see that I don’t do Guantánamo Bay.  I am committed to due process even if it has brought me a lot of grief.  A person who slandered me, abusing the privilege of free speech as badly as anyone ever did and who is a certified liar and murderer – even he gets due process from me.   I want President Obama to close Guantánamo Bay.  He hasn’t listened to me.  Perhaps he will listen to you. 
Me:  Well, if you feel so strongly about it, I’ll let him know.  I promise to read Revelation 20 when I get around to it.  I am busy, too.  I’ll touch base with you in a few days about Arizona and Arkansas.
GOD: I love Arizona and Arkansas.  I look forward to hearing from you.  
Sigve Tonstad is Assistant Professor in the School of Medicine and Associate Professor in the School of Religion at Loma Linda University. 


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