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Faith Leaders Unite Virtually to Pray for Inauguration

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Ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration as the 46th U.S. president on Wednesday, several gatherings and events—most held online because of the pandemic—are planned or already underway. Some churches are hosting their own events, while others are joining interdenominational, nonpartisan initiatives for inauguration prayers.

#PeaceWithJustice, a three-day event that kicked off on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, is promoting Christian unity while addressing issues such as systemic racism. Tuesday’s events include a prayer service via Zoom, and on Inauguration Day, a 12-hour social media “thunderclap” celebration is planned. 

Jim Wallis: ‘Prayer is action’

Sojourners founder Jim Wallis, an organizer of #PeaceWith Justice, says the initiative aims to help Christians “move beyond the emotions of anger and fear” toward reconciliation. “Prayer is action, in my view,” he says.

Other participants include Barbara Williams-Skinner, co-convener of the National African American Clergy Network, Kenneth Hodder, National Commander of the Salvation Army, Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, and Walter Kim, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Kim was drawn to the event, he says, because “we need, in this moment, something that transcends partisan politics.” Addressing recent violence at the U.S. Capitol, Kim says, “In this moment of great division, for whatever parts the church has played, we ought to repent and in any ways the church can contribute, we ought to pursue.”

Red Letter Christians, a nondenominational movement founded by Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne, also encourages believers to participate in the virtual prayer initiative.

On Thursday, a virtual version of an interfaith Inauguration prayer service will be available for viewing. Hosted at the Washington National Cathedral, it features speakers such as the Rev. William Barber II and author Jen Hatmaker.

Inauguration Prayers and Heeding the Bible’s Call to Pray

During a time of intense political division, some Christians may bristle at the Bible’s command to pray for all in authority. Prominent faith leaders are reminding people that no matter how you voted, America’s newly installed officials deserve respect—and God remains in control.

“Scripture calls for honor and prayers for all of those who hold authority,” writes Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “As Christians, even our prayers can help re-center us away from the pull to conform to the pattern of the world.” Moore adds, “If we seek first the kingdom of God, then we can ask God to bring about good from our leaders—to hold them accountable when they don’t and to commend them when they do, without checking first with whether praying for such is to the advantage or disadvantage of whatever our temporal ‘tribe’ might be.”

Franklin Graham, a vocal supporter of President Trump, and his father, the late evangelist Billy Graham, have previously offered “timeless” Inauguration Day prayers, some of which are posted online. Intercession topics include the nation, unity, the leadership transition, incoming and outgoing officials, and courage and commitment. In 1997, at Bill Clinton’s second Inauguration, Billy Graham prayed, “Give to all those to whom you have entrusted leadership today a desire to seek your will and to do it.” Amen.

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Stephanie Martin, a freelance journalist, has worked in Christian publishing for 28 years. She’s active at her church in Lakewood, Colorado, where she lives with her family.