After finishing up a sermon at McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Va., on Sunday afternoon, Pastor David Platt walked to the side of the stage to prepare for Communion. But instead of reflecting after another sermon, Platt was called backstage and told President Donald Trump was going to stop by the church.
“We in this city have a unique opportunity to pray for leaders who are part of this church and leaders who stop in unexpectedly to this church,” Platt said after he came back out, according to The Washington Post.
Trump emerged from backstage, Platt prayed for him in front of the whole congregation, and the president left without making any comments.
Afterward, the pastor published a letter to his congregation and shared it on social media. He explained that “some within our church, for a variety of valid reasons, are hurt that I made this decision.” As their teacher, he said, he wanted to tell them why he had done it.
Platt had dealt with the intersection of politics and faith before. In former Trump special assistant Cliff Sims’ book Team of Vipers and an interview with Christianity Today, Sims said that he wanted Platt to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast. When Sims mentioned it to the pastor, Platt struggled with the decision.
“When pastors get involved in the political space in a public way, there are drawbacks, and it can put pastors in a position where people suddenly view them through a political lens,” Sims said.
That type of attention is exactly what Platt received this week. Some Christians responded with disapproval, asking how could a pastor could lay hands on a controversial public figure and pray for him? In a since-deleted tweet, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. criticized Platt’s written explanation of the prayer by crudely questioning his masculinity.
In his letter, Platt referenced 1 Timothy 2:1-6, which contains Paul’s urge to Timothy and all Christians to pray for secular leaders.
“Based on this text, I know that it is good, and pleasing in the sight of God, to pray for the president,” Platt said. “My aim was in no way to endorse the president, his policies, or his party, but to obey God’s command to pray for our president and other leaders to govern in the way this passage portrays.”
Since then, many pastors and church leaders around the country have supported Platt’s prayer. The Gospel Coalition published an article with the headline, “David Platt Models How to Pray for a President.”
“Above all, Platt made it clear that our earthly leaders will benefit most when they follow ‘the one universal king over all’—King Jesus,” The Gospel Coalition’s Joe Carter wrote.
Platt made his ultimate hope clear in his letter.
“In the end, would you pray with me for gospel seed that was sown today to bear fruit in the president’s heart?” he asked. —Kyle Ziemnick