Praying for the new president

Last week, I watched Pastor Rick Warren and Rev. Joseph Lowery bookend the Inauguration ceremonies in prayer. As I contemplated from my living room what it would be like to be given such a unique opportunity, I realized I already knew. Well, sort of.

Several years ago, my family lived in a Chicago suburb. A state senator friend invited me to give the invocation at the Illinois capitol in Springfield. I was humbled and honored. Although the scenario paled in significance to what Pastor Warren or Rev. Lowery experienced, I felt honored. At the podium, I called on the Creator to guide the senators and to give them a sensitivity to His will as they served their constituencies.

Three months later, I walked with my senator-friend in an old-fashioned 4th of July parade. At the conclusion of the parade, Peter said that he wanted to introduce me to one of his fellow senators. “Here’s someone with as unusual a name as yours,” Peter said to the tall, 40-something black man. “Barack Obama, meet Greg Asimakoupoulos.”

The handsome young politician extended his hand. As I shook it, he inquired about the ethnic origin of my last name. I asked about his. After exchanging pleasantries, our brief meeting was over. A few years later when Obama won his race for the U.S. Senate, it dawned on me that he had likely been in the Senate chamber when I gave my prayer.

Even though Pastors Warren and Lowery’s assignments last Tuesday remains the envy of most clergymen in America, I can claim to have prayed over Barack Obama in a much less publicized setting. But that is not the last time I prayed for him. I pray for him on a regular basis both in church and at home. In fact, I composed my own prayer for Mr. Obama as the events of the Inauguration played out last week. Sitting in front of both the television and my laptop, I typed:

God, bless America as You bless the new president America inaugurates today. As he pledges allegiance to Old Glory, be glorified through his admission that we are indeed one nation under You. As he listens to Your servants, Rick Warren and Joseph Lowery, pray over the proceedings of this day, help him hear Your heart beating with concern for righteousness, justice and compassion. As he lays his hand upon Your Word and takes an oath of faithfulness, lay Your hand upon his life and remind Him of Your promises to be faithful to all who dare to honor You.

As he stands to address those who look to him as Commander-in-Chief, stand beside him and remind him that he has been seated in this place of honor and responsibility by You alone. As You bless Barack Hussein Obama with a tangible sense of Your presence, God, bless America. Amen.

It is likely that you, too, prayed for our lanky Lincoln-esque leader that day (or in the days that followed). A Web site known as The Presidential Prayer Team ( documents that hundreds of thousands of Americans regularly approach the Almighty on behalf of those who guide our nation.

No, Rick Warren and Joseph Lowery are not the only ones who have the privilege of praying for our new president. We all have that privilege. Having a seminary education or wearing a liturgical robe is not a prerequisite. Regardless of your background, religious preference or occupation, you have the right and privilege to approach Almighty God on behalf of President Obama.

Greg Asimakoupoulos is the pastor of the Mercer Island Covenant Church. He contributes regularly to the Reporter.

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