Pray for the President? Yes thou shalt.
A Christian group organizes prayer for public officials including the president. Image from their website www.presidentialprayerteam.com
October 14th, 2011
09:04 AM ET

Pray for the President? Yes thou shalt.

By Dave Schechter, CNN

(CNN) -
Republican presidential contender Rick Perry recently urged social conservatives to pray for President Barack Obama.

“As I campaign for president, I not only ask you for your vote and your support, I ask for your prayers. I ask you to pray for our country. I ask you to pray for our president to give him wisdom, to open his eyes,” the Texas Governor told an audience in Florida last month.

Doing just that is the stated mission of the Presidential Prayer Team.

Conceived in November 2000 in an adult Sunday school class in Scottsdale, Arizona, the PPT – or “The Prayer Team,” as it calls itself – takes its charge from the words of the Apostle Paul to his disciple Timothy: “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

“We believe prayer is the most important power in this entire world,” PPT president Jim Bolthouse tells CNN. The idea is simple: prayer moves God and God moves the leaders.

PPT members are charged to pray for their leaders, even if they don’t care for the individual or disagree with their policies. “We don’t necessarily agree with everything our President is doing, but that doesn’t stop us from praying for our President. That is a mandate,” Bolthouse says.

The PPT is a Christian enterprise. Prayers are offered “in Jesus’ name,” but Bolthouse notes that calls to pray for leaders can be found in the Old and New Testaments. Because of the range of beliefs within Christianity, the PPT tries to avoid denominational conflicts.

The original goal was to persuade one percent of the American population (at the time, roughly 2.8 million people) to pray for the president. The campaign was set to launch in November 2001 but the date was pushed up after the September 11 terrorist attacks. In March 2009 the PPT claimed 1.7 million members worldwide.
Today, 3.7 million people “have been served,” according to Bolthouse, a veteran of the computer industry, who played a key role in setting up the PPT’s technical operation at the beginning and became its president (a part-time position) in March 2010.

The $30,000 a month it costs to finance the PPT comes from individual donations. There is no charge to be a member; in fact, fewer than 1 percent of PPT members make a financial contribution, though there are 1,000-2,000 people who donate on average $45-55 monthly, Bolthouse says. These donors, he says, are people who “see the value in what prayer means for our country.” Finances are among the subjects discussed when the small staff gathers for its regular Monday morning prayers.

Most of the communication with members is by e-mail. A daily devotional is sent to some 38,000 members who have signed up for that service. The major weekly e-mail, covering a variety of topics, goes to about 580,000 people. E-mails include suggestions on topics worthy of prayer, “as the Lord moves you,” Bolthouse says.

Since its founding, the PPT has expanded its scope with prayers for Cabinet secretaries, congressional leaders, Supreme Court justices, the U.S. armed forces and even the first lady, Michele Obama. Suggestions are made for prayers on topics in the news, including the economy, relations between Israel and the Palestinians and the health care reform law advocated by the Obama administration.

“We’re taking a much more far-reaching stand in praying for our country, beyond just praying for our President,” Bolthouse says.

The PPT can be timely in its call for prayers. The January shootings in Tucson, Arizona, in which six people were killed and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was one of 19 people wounded, happened just eight miles from PPT’s offices. Bolthouse says that the website began offering prayers – not only for those shot, but also for the emergency response and medical personnel involved – within 30 minutes of the incident, even before much of the news media had reported the news.

As for President Obama, Bolthouse says that it has taken effort to convince some PPT members that it is proper to pray for the current president, given their opposition to his policies, some of which he says are “in conflict with biblical principles.” Gay rights and abortion are two such issues, Bolthouse says, explaining, “These are not gray areas in the Scriptures,” he says.

PPT members are “asking God more for his divine intervention in Mr. Obama’s life than in Mr. Bush’s,” Bolthouse says, referring to President George W. Bush.

Bolthouse admits to being personally “cautious” when it comes to the President’s own assertions that he is a Christian, but Scriptures he says, counsel against passing judgment.

President Obama discussed the role of prayer in public policy debates when he spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in February 2010.

“Surely we can agree to find common ground when possible, parting ways when necessary,” he said. “But in doing so, let us be guided by our faith, and by prayer. For while prayer can buck us up when we are down, keep us calm in a storm; while prayer can stiffen our spines to surmount an obstacle – and I assure you I’m praying a lot these days – prayer can also do something else. It can touch our hearts with humility. It can fill us with a spirit of brotherhood. It can remind us that each of are children of a awesome and loving God.”

Obama has reaffirmed his Christian faith many times, including in a January 2008 interview with Christianity Today.“I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian,” he said.I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life. But most importantly, I believe in the example that Jesus set by feeding the hungry and healing the sick and always prioritizing the least of these over the powerful.

A poll conducted in July-August 2010 for the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press offered evidence of the public confusion about the President’s religion. In the survey of more than 3,000 adult Americans, 18 percent identified the President as a Muslim, up from 11 percent in March 2009. About one-third (34 percent) said he is a Christian, down from 48 percent the year earlier. Forty-three percent said they did not know.

As for those who would like to succeed President Obama in the Oval Office, when the PPT website posted a column about the Republicans seeking the presidential nomination, the comments that followed included discussion – and warnings – about the degree to which individual candidates are worthy of being called Christian. That Republican presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman are Mormons is just one aspect of that debate.

The PPT website features a prayer wall on which participants offer prayers on a variety of subjects, sometimes on topics known to spark arguments and debate, such as same-sex marriage and the military’s recently-rescinded “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” regulations. There also is a page dedicated to “Morality in America.”

And coming in November from the PPT, one year before the 2012 elections, will be “Pray the Vote,” a project to provide to prayers for candidates at all levels, from the office of President to state legislators. The site will analyze where candidates stand on 10 “value points” identified by PPT members as being of particular interest.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Barack Obama • Belief • Christianity • Church and state • Politics • Prayer

soundoff (632 Responses)
  1. O.S. Bird

    Well, Ronald Reagan was guided by astrology. I don't think there was a presidentialastrologyteam.com though.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
  2. Dot

    People who believe in prayer should be praying for their leaders. It is not easy to be a leader even though during the election they think they have the answers, when they actually take office they find it is much more difficult than they thought. If they knew people of faith were praying for them to succeed, it would be easier. After all, when we pray for the president to succeed, we are praying for our country to succeed. We should not try every way we can to keep our country from succeeding.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  3. Dale

    Prayer- Talking to imaginary people. Religion= Mass delusion. Bible = Terribly written storybook to control the masses.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • evodevo_mike

      Spot on. Praying is talking to imaginary beings, pretending to be doing something constructive while actually doing NOTHING.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:04 am |
  4. dinak

    Yes, pray for Obama the way you did for Bush, you hypocrites.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:54 am |
  5. Louk Lan Kian

    I once was an evangelical leader of all the denominations in my school. Now I know the so called by so many whatever name is completely fake – I find out how bullies young and adult colleagues can be so subtle, brutal and hateful because they can. These same creatures pray in the church on Sundays and guess what they are praying about to the imaginary wishy washy images in the sky- look in their eyes next time when they look 'so called heaven'. You have to think that it is all fake kindness. So I say, Beware of these evangelicals- when they appear on TV, you can't help but know they think they are so handsome, vain, narcisstic and vile with that fake ear to ear smile. Like that guy who commented about the mormons( I don't care for them either) .Jesus was not blond, having long curls,blue eyed, perfect features- the poor guy got all faked and shaped by however the bullies want him to be. I have to go to talk to my frog now.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  6. SCAtheist

    "Evangelicals worry about the fate of marriage and the family, believing that the pattern for human relatedness set out in Scripture will lead to the greatest human flourishing."

    I presume he's talking about gay marriage. Gays are going to be there whether they are married or not.

    Somebody please explain to me how gay marriage is going to affect human fourishing

    October 16, 2011 at 10:05 am |
  7. mark

    this is such rubbish. wth can be wrong with abortion? there is too many people on earth anyway, we are polluting, exploiting and destroying the earths natural beauty with our billions. does anyone really care that we abort people whose parents do not want them anyway? are you kidding me? open your eyes about that mr. rick perry, then do us all a favor and jump off a bridge.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  8. Redacted

    Later in that speech, Rick Perry asked that people pray for Romney, that he should open his eyes and quit that Mormon sect he belongs to. GEEZUS!

    If there really were a god, he'd probably be hurling down lightening bolt upon on the heads of people who pray out of hatred, who pray for the disunity of humankind, who pray for personal gain, ie., to get elected president.

    If you're going to pray at all, pray for peace. Pray for an end to the suffering around the world. Pray for an end to starvation around the world. Pray for cures of diseases. But to pray for known Republican shills of corporation, like Perry?

    I wonder what Jesus would have said about praying for a political party that favors corporations as he was cleansing the temple of money changers. Well, I guess that would depend on whether or not Caesar's lobbyist had gotten to him.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:49 am |
    • Vandalii

      The point of prayer, often as not, actually to affect the mind and spirit of the pray-er than the pray-ee. I know of numerous instances in my own Christian experience when praying for a specific outcome caused me to examine more closely my own selfish motivation or errant views. So prayer is a good thing, both from a sincere desire to have God effect change in our world and for God to effect change in me.

      Pray for our president? Absolutely. When Paul penned the words in Romans 15, the Caesar had nothing but contempt for this growing rabble that were derisively labeled Christians in Antioch. Paul called for believers to support even hostile administrations reminding us that God is in charge and those in authority over us politically or at our job are ultimately under His authority. We pray for Presiden Obama, we pray for our nation, we pray for wisdom in leaders' daily battles to do what is best for us.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • SCAtheist

      So I guess you're praying to th wall eh?

      October 16, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  9. Mostafa Piran

    Hi. Thanks to all staff and CNN
    For the New World

    Whether the arrest of Mohamed Gaddafi is right.
    Mostafa Piran.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:20 am |
  10. Reality

    Once again a prayer for the Republicans and all other Christians: ( Is it working? Apparently not as Romney is still a Mormon and Bachmann is still confused)

    The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.



    October 16, 2011 at 8:02 am |
  11. dowhatsright

    These people on Wall Street are going about it all alone. It would be nice to to see the support of some organizations- including politicians & celeberities help out We're trying to change the World to do what is Right- Every ones help is needed!

    October 16, 2011 at 7:55 am |
    • Vandalii

      Believe me, we are praying for you, too, occupiers. However, you may not like the help you get since you insist on doing it "all on your own". Be careful what you ask for, you may just get it...

      October 16, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • SCAtheist

      Should we wait for the Christian, Jeiwsh, LDS bankers to clean their filth up on their own?

      October 16, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  12. drafter31

    Obama fulfilled his "Dream" with his 9-9-9-9 Plan...

    Obama's 9-9-9-9 plan...
    2009..9%+ Unemployment
    2010..9%+ Unemployment
    2011..9%+ Unemployment
    2012..9%+ Unemployment...Yes We Can...

    October 16, 2011 at 7:53 am |
    • HenryB

      Now what on earth does this have to do with the article? Nothing of course but to get some inane mathematical point across. I bet you are one of those "pray that the president open his eyes" sheep.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:24 am |
    • Vandalii

      Well, perhaps the link is that our progressive brethern chanting "Yes, we can" as a prayer doesn't yield results after all? Maybe Obama isn't god after all? 😉

      October 16, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • BradW

      If might be a good idea to start back at the Regan presidency and then follow thru the Bush 1, Clinton, and Bush 2 presidencies and study all the actions taken that had any potential to effect jobs in following years and then make a decision as to who all is responsible; it assuredly isn't just one of these people(to say nothing about members of Congress). To blame a first term President is just plain ignorant.

      Also, you might want to study the effects of industrial automation over the same period to see what possible effects it might have had on current employment levels. And then add to all of that a very poor retraining program for people being replaced by automation and it becomes(or should become) quite clear that there is a lot of responsibility to spread around over a significant number of years to get to where we are today.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • Dale

      Bushes plan: Start two wars, 3 billion dollars a month cost. Walk away, play golf, let racist morons blame it on the black man.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  13. 40acres

    When Perry asks us to pray for the President to "give him the wisdom to open his eyes" what he is really saying is make him think like I do. That is very arrogant thinking. Perhaps he should simply pray for himself since it is just as possible (or perhaps more so) that it is his vision that is lacking. It never ceases to amaze me that those who believe God is all powerful can also believe that they know better what God's will is and that the evil Liberals are more powerful than God.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:52 am |
    • HenryB

      Completely agree, 40 acres.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  14. drafter31

    Obama's 'Yes We Can' mantra, simply means that the Obama Administration can run up more debt in 3 years than Bush did in 8 years...Yes We(My administration) Can...And he did.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:52 am |
    • BradW

      Hmmm; what did Clinton leave king dubya at the beginning of his Presidency? And what happened to that surplus along with about another $5T?

      It might be a good idea if you did some studying for yourself instead of just parroting what you read and hear in the mass media.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  15. drafter31

    It's vitally important that people focus on what an ABJECT FAILURE OBAMA IS...

    And Obama needs to be voted out of office...

    October 16, 2011 at 7:51 am |
    • HenryB

      Here you go again. Same old blah, blah, blah, blah. Oh, I get it, President Obama is the Anti Christ. Now you make sense. Fool!

      October 16, 2011 at 8:44 am |
  16. drafter31

    I pray that the Lord would allow Obama to be voted out of office...Before he completely DESTROYS our nation...

    October 16, 2011 at 7:50 am |
    • 40acres

      Drafter, prayer should never be used as a method to fulfill your personal desires. You would be better served praying for the wisdom to understand the true nature of things and the strength to do those things YOU need to do to make the world a better place.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:02 am |
    • HenryB

      @40acres- Drafter's point has nothing to do with prayer. He wants to get his "political" message across. Don't assume that because Drafter puts his inane rant in a "prayer" thread, he is talking about prayer.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • SCAtheist

      I pray to the Unicorn that you get a brain.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  17. dowhatsright

    The Church should take a position on Wall Street on What is Right & What is wrong..How do you expect people including the young pursuing careers on Wall Street to determine what is right & what is wrong with out the support of the Church. You should be taking a stand on Wall Street against the corruption that is going on. If you don't take a stand on anything your people will fall for anything- It's time for the Church to step in-lets start Rolling! These people need your support- don't stand still!

    October 16, 2011 at 7:49 am |
    • BradW

      What church is that that is needed to tell what is right and wrong? The RCC? The Unitarian? The Mormon? The . . . to infinity church? People who assume and believe that only theirs is the one true and correct religion have no knowledge about the history of their personal religion let alone that of all the others, but are a real danger to the rest of the world population.

      The world seemed to get along just fine before xtianity became a "world" political power starting around the 4th century CE. Study some religious history.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  18. dowhatsright

    They should be supporting the protestors on Wall Street. But like the Media they are controlled too.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:33 am |
  19. dowhatsright

    They should be supporting the protestors on Wall Street. But like the Media & Corporations they are controllesd too!

    October 16, 2011 at 7:28 am |
  20. jnpa

    I am so tired of these GOP "contestants" pushing religion. Stop with the praying for this and praying for that. I am not anti-religion, just tired of constantly hearing about it. This is not an election where we select our Christian leaders. We are suppose to elect a non-demoninational president...let's keep it that way!

    October 16, 2011 at 7:24 am |
    • HenryB

      @jnpa – I completely agree with you. But to the rabid religious right the election is to select a "Christian" leader. That is their whole life. That, in itself, is not bad, I assume. The problem is that they want this "Christian" leader to implement "Christian" policy. These people are not Christian because they don't act like Christians. These people don't care about their fellow man unless their fellow man practice this same hateful Christianity. These so called Christians feel that, if they are "good with Jesus" they are good to go, whether they treat others with compassion or not. They conveniently forget the part in the Bible where Jesus preaches that we should care for the poor and the least among us. The problem is that these "Christians" feel that the least among us and the poor are just lazy and therefor do not need their help. Sorry for ranting.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:43 am |
    • jnpa

      @HenryB – I agee with you. (I also misspelled "non-denominational"...LOL)

      October 16, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • Mirosal

      It occurs to me that in a sense, these candidates are applying for a government job. After all, isn't the Presidential paycheck one issued by the government? With that in mind, it is against federal law to ask ANY applicant their religion. So who the "bleep" should care? Only the bigots and narrow-minded would care, and only so they could praise or condemn said candidate. The minute they do either one of those things, they are entering the poltical arena, and should kiss their tax-exempt status good-bye

      October 17, 2011 at 1:36 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.