Commentary

Over 250 Christian pastors planned a special day of prayer for the president of the United States, for June 2. But two days before on May 31, the nation suffered, yet another senseless and tragic mass killing. This time in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

A longtime city employee had opened fire in a municipal building, killing 12 people. Four others were wounded.

That weekend, the nation was in mourning. On Friday night the president spoke to the mayor and vice mayor of Virginia Beach. On Saturday, June 1, the president had offered his condolences to the community via Twitter, saying the federal government is there for whatever they need.

So on Sunday, June 2, the day that had been set aside to pray for him, President Trump instructed his motorcade to make a detour to the McLean Bible Church before returning to the White House from Trump National Golf Club in nearby Sterling, Virginia.

Caught off guard

Meanwhile, just after his sermon, Pastor David Platt of the McLean Bible Church was 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,” he explained in his online statement titled, “Prayer for the President.”

Although outwardly, it appeared the visit had gone well, the pastor of the church posted a statement afterward saying he got caught off guard. He also clarified why he chose to receive the president in his church and ask members to pray for him.

The president had come on stage and Pratt asked the church to pray for the president. The president stood in silence, with his head bowed.

Afterward, “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,” Platt said in his statement. “We then recited the Great Commission as we always do, sending one another out into the city for the glory of our King.”

President Donald Trump smiles as he arrives on stage to receive a prayer at McLean Bible Church, in Vienna, Va., on June 2, 2019. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo)

As quickly as the president had joined for prayers, he left without saying a word but only mouthing the words “Thank you.” People applauded President Trump and he clapped for them as he walked off stage.

“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,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere in a statement on Sunday, referring to the mass shooting.

Some were hurt

Platt mentioned the scripture Timothy 2:1-6 in his prayer for the president. The Bible verse urges “prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men.” In relation to this instance, “for kinds and all who are in authority”—presidential authority.

But some of the church’s members were hurt that he prayed for the president.

The pastor explained in his statement that he had no intention of endorsing President Trump, his policies, or the Republican Party through his prayer. He said he knew it was good and pleasing “in the sight of God, to pray for the president.” So he decided to take the opportunity for the church to pray over him together, he added.

It was likely that not everyone at the church would approve of President Trump being there, for whatever reason.

Pastor Platt’s statement said that he loved “that we have over 100 nations represented in our church family, including all kinds of people with varied histories and political opinions from varied socioeconomic situations.” It was only logical that some would not be Republican supporters.

Or perhaps, what came to mind was a separation of church and state. Yet, separation of church and state does not mean that politicians cannot enter a church and pray, but they certainly are not allowed to create laws dealing with the establishment of religions.

Simply put, politicians can’t dictate how churches are run, nor what they are allowed to believe in, or preach.

Perhaps some critics worried that the president was there for reasons other than to pray. But, the president hadn’t discussed anything regarding his campaign, or anything political. In fact, he didn’t say a word to the congregation.

Since the founding of the United States of America, the church has stood alongside presidents in the form of spiritual leaders as advisers.

George Washington, by Gilbert Stuart, c. 1803-05, American painting, oil on canvas. In 1796 Washington sat for Stuart who created the famous but never finished ‘Athenaeum’ portrait. (Shutterstock.com)

Notably, the first president of the United States, George Washington was the great-great-grandson of Lawrence Washington, an Anglican pastor. Washington was also a devoted member of the Anglican Church, and although private about his religious life, had regular private prayer sessions, according to mountvernon.org.