Across the country yesterday, thousands of ordinary people got up to lead prayer in their churches. At Planetshakers, a Pentecostal church in Melbourne, that person was Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Morrison prayed for the things you’d expect anyone at church to pray for: the disastrous earthquake in Indonesia, our farmers around the country experiencing drought. His prayers were filmed by someone in the crowd:
“We pray for Sulawesi in Indonesia this morning. Lord, we just pray for your spirit and your presence there. That you’ll bring comfort to despair, you’ll bring insight to confusion. That you’ll be with President Widodo and you’ll give him what he needs to comfort his people and to see their way through this terrible, terrible crisis.”
“And Lord, we just thank you for Jesus. In Jesus name, amen.”
When he finished that first prayer, the PM reached out and took the microphone back from Planetshakers’ senior pastor Russell Evans, saying he had another prayer.
“I meant to pray for this, too,” he said to an amused crowd. “I really did. I was a bit overwhelmed by your welcome.”
Holding his hands up, he called the church to pray for rain.
“Lord we pray for our farmers. Lord we pray for our rural communities, our indigenous communities. Lord we pray that you’ll bring light. That you’ll bring hope, that you’ll bring encouragement. And Lord that you will bring rain!”
The church then prayed for the Prime Minister and his wife, Jenny.
“Father, we thank you for the Morrison family. We thank you God for the hand of God that’s upon them. We thank you for your protection, we thank you for your grace. We thank you for wisdom … We ask that you bless them. And we ask that you give them incredible wisdom to lead this nation.”
To Christians, this is a normal part of life. Just church and prayer on any usual Sunday. Planetshakers Church told Eternity they didn’t want to make a “big deal” about the PM’s visit. The video was taken by someone in the crowd, and the church hasn’t mentioned the visit officially at all.
And why should they? It’s just an ordinary Sunday. Ordinary prayers. But it’s not something Australia is used to seeing from its leaders. Australia has been fortunate to have had a number of Prime Ministers attend church regularly as detailed in Roy Williams’ book In God they trust? The Religious beliefs of Australia’s Prime Ministers 1901-2013. But most if not all would have had formal written prayers. This Prime Minister may be the first to be seen to publicly engage in “in the moment” prayer.
That’s when prayer becomes news.