Why mocking the PM for praying is odd

We would not be Australians if we did not sledge our Prime Minister. So Scott Morrison has copped quite a serve since his speech to the the Australian Christian Churches pastors’ conference went viral.

Some has been about policy, with the detention of the Biloela refugee family exciting a great deal of comment. Robodebt as well. At the same time, it is worth pointing out that church-going Christians voted for the coalition parties.

And some commenters here at Eternity, and on social media in general, have gone further, suggesting that those policies mean Scott Morrison can’t be a Christian. Yet there is nothing about being a politician, or even the editor of a Christian website, to guarantee sanctification – the process of becoming more like Jesus – progresses any faster. Would that it did.

Without watering down concerns about these policies – and others – it is simply true that Scott Morrison is an imperfect Christian. Yet Scripture tells us in a hard saying of Jesus that “from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48 NIV).

Perhaps most “religious” criticism of the PM has been about his habit of praying while hugging people – treating it as “laying on of hands” while visiting the scene of a disaster.

“This is an area that is more unusual,” author Roy Williams told the ABC’s Andrew West this week. “It is a Pentecostal practice. And one can respect it. But it might come as a surprise to people that that is what he was doing when he was touching them at various events.”

Allowing the PM to hug you is one thing. But it appears that knowing he was secretly praying for the people at the same time is another.

The PM described it this way: “I’ve been in evacuation centres where people thought I was just giving someone a hug and I was praying and putting my hands on people, in various places, laying hands on them in praying in various situations.”

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people …” 1 Timothy 2:1

One reaction was: “He should not be praying without seeking consent.”

“I am glad the Prime Minister is a praying man, and that he cares enough to pray for ordinary people he meets” would be another. That’s closer to my reaction.

Christians who believe that God answers prayer should be glad that the PM prays for the good in the people he meets. Because it will result in good things happening. Because God answers prayer.

But the first thing to note on the subject of prayer and Scott Morrison is that we should be praying for him, and all other leaders, and we don’t have to seek permission. Rather, it is our duty.

In the words of St Paul: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1–4 NIV)

So I pray for the PM, and my local MPs (both Labor) and the Premier of my state. Thay are all Christians. But even if they were not, the Bible injunction to pray for them would apply. Even if I have not asked permission. Even if the thought might embarrass them.

But most Christians are guilty of that prayering – not that there is anything wrong with that.

My former pastor used to walk the streets around our suburb in the early hours of the morning praying for his congregation, and probably others he has met. He did not ask permission.

In a previous job, I used to go through the list of my staff and pray for them. Rather than regret about doing it, or not asking for permission to do it, I regret not doing it more often.

As Roy Williams – who wrote In God They Trust? on the faith of our Prime Ministers – observes that we have had other very religious Prime Ministers but Scott Morrison is the first Pentecostal.

And while the idea that your PM is praying for you might surprise some, it is a humble act.

Most likely on the scene of the Kalbari floods, he prayed for blessing to come on those he met. Or peace at a troubled time. Or for effective help to come.

All good prayers, especially if he was able to follow up.

I began by saying that we should be praying for Scott Morrison and all our leaders. Here is one such prayer – from an Anglican prayer book:

Gracious Lord,
grant to our governments and all who serve in public life wisdom and skill, imagination and energy.
Protect them from corruption
and the temptation to serve themselves.
Help us all to commit ourselves to the common good,
that our land may be a secure home for all its peoples;
through Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace.

And as we seek for better policy and government, lets begin by praying the sort of prayer that will stir us into action.

“Loving God, you have made all people in your image,
and you care for the poor and distressed.

Make us a just society,
where the rights of all are acknowledged and upheld,
where those who are oppressed are made free,
and where corruption has no place.”

“Give companies, social institutions and governments the desire to act for the good of all,
rather than for the advantage of a few.

“Empower Christians to model the values of your kingdom in all their relationships.
Hasten the day when Jesus will return to establish justice and your eternal reign,
for the glory of your name. Amen.”