On this icy (in Kansas) day after Presidents Day in the United States, I meditate on the prayer recorded in Psalm 72. The psalm is a prayer for Israel’s king. In some verses (11, 17), the universal appeal suggests anticipation of a messianic ruler who will deliver all nations, not Israel alone. While the prayer originally concerned Israel’s king, and anticipated a universal king, it also defines a good ruler with its prayer and suggests what we should pray when we pray for presidents or for rulers of other nations.
The psalmist prays that God will grant the ruler the righteousness and justice with which God reigns. He prays that the king will judge his people justly. He emphasizes his desire for the king to “defend the cause of the poor of the people.” He later repeats that the just king “delivers the needy when he uh calls, the poor and him who has no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight” (Psalm 72:12-14).
He prays that the king will govern with compassion. He prays for economic success for the nation (verse 16). He prays for crushing of oppression, for the defeat of the nation’s enemies (verses 4, 8-11). He prays for security and peace among the nation. He hopes that the righteous will flourish. He prays that while this king rules, that knowledge of God will increase (verses 18-19).
Although more than two thousand years have passed since this prayer was written, and although we live under a different political system, several points of contact exist. Economic disparity exists in many nations throughout the world, even in the United States. Political actions regarding taxation, health insurance, housing regulations, and welfare make profound changes in the lives of the most vulnerable, the weakest, in our society. Some of these people may not have the time needed for prosperity to trickle down to them. The prayer envisions a king who respects what is holy, who acts on behalf of the poorest of his people, and who provides security against violence. We can pray for our president to be that kind of leader. We can pray for him to govern with integrity, to treat all with fairness, and make sure that the weakest have an opportunity to succeed. When we pray for our President, we must remember that we pray for ourselves as well, for his decisions and his attitudes influence our lives. May God give our President his justice and his righteousness. May he have pity on the weak and the needy.
O God of justice and righteousness, who loves steadfastly, we pray for the President of the United States and for rulers of other nations. Millions suffer from the effects of poverty, disease, and war. We pray that our leader will see their pain and react with compassion. We pray that he will envision and propose policy that will benefit all justly, but that will revive hope for those who suffer most. Recent shootings in schools and churches have challenged our expectations of security. Help all of us, but especially our President and other leaders, to hear the cries of fear, to acknowledge the trauma when there seems to be no safe place. We pray that he will lead in a way that will cause all to glorify you. We pray that his actions will not cause some to question your justice or associate violence with your people. We pray that all will pray for him continually, that he may grow as a just, wise, and compassionate person. We pray most fervently that all the earth will be filled with your glory and awareness of your love. In Jesus’ name, amen.