Prayer and Politics

His Eminence Metropolitan NICHOLAS of Detroit

As you may know, if you read these pages often, I sometimes comment on politics.  I Tweeted last night that I am a Bipartisan criticizer as I am critical of politics on both side of the ideological spectrum.  I have not been drinking the Kool-aide, as they say, of either party as I believe that, as a Christian, I cannot be a democrat or a republican.

I believe that religion has a role to play in America and in American politics and was pleased to see that the Orthodox Church was represented at both conventions.  However, prayer is not a time to make political statements!

I am extremely surprised by the comments that were left on my Facebook page under the link I posted to both prayers. People commented that the bishops should have prayed for this or that and should have used this time to chastise people for what they believe.  I would agree that one of the roles of the clergy is to call people to faithfulness and to; in the case of Christian clergy, follow Christ, but prayer is not the time to chastise people.

We have many examples in Scripture of Jesus telling people that they need to get their life right with God.  One of the more famous exchanges is with the woman at the well, but in prayer Jesus never did this.  Jesus simply prayed for those around Him for their well-being and their lives.  He never used the opportunity to tell this one or that one that they were wrong.  One of the sure ways to not get invited back is to start yelling at people during prayer.

Prayer is a time to ask for God’s blessing and guidance in all things.  It is a time to be thankful that we live in a country where people can disagree in a peaceful way and where we have elections and peaceful transition of government whether we agree with that government or not.  It is a time to pray for the poor and for those who have no voice, and as we pray in the liturgy when we pray for civil authorities that, by their faithful service we may lead quiet and peaceful lives.  Simply said, that is it.

Clergy should never use the pulpit to promote one candidate or political party; we need to use the pulpit to teach people how to love God and to love our neighbor.  We need to use the pulpit to teach people how to love the poor, the hungry, the homeless and all those in need. But most importantly we need to use the pulpit to teach people about the love of God and His Son Jesus Christ.

As I wrote about yesterday, we are called to transform our lives and our actions and adapt them to what Christ is calling us too, and that is holiness.  We need to be the example to all by our life and our actions that we have the love of God shining not only in us but from us just as the light shone forth from Christ on Mount Tabor at His Transfiguration.  We need, no we are commanded, to love all, even those we disagree with and we need to show them the love of Christ not beat them over the head during prayer to see things our way.

With that said we have an obligation to speak, to teach, to write, and most especially to vote the way our conscious dictates and my hope is that our conscious is in accord with the teachings of our Church.  We are all, including clergy, citizens on this nation and have just as much right to speak on issues as others do.  We have a right to make our voice heard and to influence the debate but during prayer is not a time to do that.


  1. What comments are you referring to, Fr. Peter?

    You wrote that you were “extremely surprised by the comments that were left on my Facebook page under the link I posted to both prayers. People commented that the bishops should have prayed for this or that and should have used this time to chastise people for what they believe.”

    But I can only find my comment…

    There were others?

    1. Fr. Peter, I understand if you don’t want to talk about this any more.

      I want to clarify something more about my original comment in response to your post about the prayer at the Republican convention — in light of this one about political prayer.

      My comment to you reflecting on that prayer was not a criticism about political prayer, per se. It was nothing more than me musing about my experience of hearing public prayers. I didn’t mention it, but my musing about it came partially from at least one experience I’ve had of an Orthodox priest who declined when he was asked if he would commemorate unborn children specifically at a particular event.

      I don’t know what to make of that, except to conclude that perhaps abortion is a taboo subject in polite society.

      It is not that I want Orthodox priests to preach at anyone in their prayers, or throw abortion in people’s faces when they pray public prayers. I suppose the fact that I had a child who was stillborn has made me hypersensitive to it. I only want to remember unborn children in particular, as particular individuals, just as we are remembering Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens this week. (Maybe part of what makes it difficult to do is that they are nameless?)

      I will stop talking about this to you now. 🙂

      I do appreciate very much the things you write or post that have been showing up in my email inbox. Thank you!

      1. It’s not that I do not want to talk about it but I thought we had finished the conversation.

        Prayer is something I take very serious and the words we choose are powerful and meaningful. When I pray, especially in a public setting, I use general terms, unless there is a specific thing that the organizers have asked me to pray about. Since I consider the unborn people, they are included in every prayer that I say. If asked to pray specifically for the unborn I would, but that is me.

        The larger Orthodox problem is there are as many opinions on abortion, and other social issues, as there are people so many times issues are avoided because it makes people uncomfortable. My point in all of this is that prayer should not used for political purposes and it is not a time to make political points. We pray for people and for the country and our leaders. And that should be it

        1. Thank you.

          The reason I said what I did about not talking about it any more is because you indicated that others had commented, and I was curious to see what they had said to you but I couldn’t find the comments and you didn’t respond to my question about where they were. So I thought you were “calling the question” on the discussion. 🙂

          As an evangelical Christian prior to my conversion to the Orthodox faith, I remember hearing many public prayers that were obviously directed to the listeners and not so much to God, so I appreciate your aversion to prayer being used for political purposes. I also appreciate that you think of unborn people as people! 🙂 And as I said, I am probably hypersensitive about the issue.

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