WASHINGTON — U.S. Reps. Dan Boren and James Lankford wouldn't encourage their colleagues in Congress to vote for President Barack Obama — or even some of his policies.
But they do believe their fellow House members should pray for the president, and they've given them some help. The two Oklahomans, along with Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, distributed more than 430 copies of a book called “Obama Prayer: A Book of Prayers for the 44th President.”
In a letter to their colleagues, the lawmakers said they were trying to encourage “specific and thoughtful prayer” for Obama.
The book was written by Chuck Garriott, who spent 20 years in Oklahoma City as the senior pastor of Heritage Presbyterian Church in America and now lives in Washington, where he is the director of the PCA's Ministry to State and holds prayer sessions and Bible studies with leaders from around the country and the world.
Boren, D-Muskogee, first met Garriott in Washington several years ago at a prayer session hosted by former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating.
When Boren and Garriott had breakfast on Capitol Hill last summer, Boren came up with the idea of giving copies of “Obama Prayer” to the other 434 U.S. House members.
Sitting nearby was Boren's friend, Cleaver, a Missouri Democrat and the man who would later coin the term “Satan sandwich” when talking about the debt ceiling deal forged between Obama and Republican leaders.
Cleaver agreed to co-author a letter sent out with the book. And, to make it a bipartisan effort, Boren got Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, to sign on as well. Garriott donated the copies.
“All of us who have served our nation as members of the House understand the place and significance of prayer,” Boren said in a statement to The Oklahoman.
“Often times, tensions run high on Capitol Hill, and we as legislators forget that we're all fundamentally focused on improving our country's future. I joined my colleagues in distributing the book of prayers for the president as a reminder that we all have these values in common.”
Lankford, a Southern Baptist who ran a church camp for youths for several years before running for Congress, said, “It's a non-partisan issue to me to say we have a responsibility to pray for our leaders.”
Lankford said all of the feedback he has received from colleagues has been positive.
“I haven't had a negative comment,” he said, adding that some members had sent notes thanking him for helping them keep things in perspective.
Specific in prayers
Garriott, who still travels regularly to Oklahoma for prayer sessions at the state Capitol, said he came up with the idea for the book after a prayer meeting with friends to discuss Obama a few months after his inauguration in 2009.
He said prayers about leaders are often generic, but that he believes Jesus wanted people to be specific in their prayers.
The idea for the book, he said, “Was that if people were going to pray for the president and his administration, they ought to be specific about it.”
So Garriott structured his book into 12 different “petitions” that begin with a verse from Proverbs, some historical and current context for the verse, and a suggested prayer.
There are prayers for truth, wisdom, justice, mercy, family and other topics.
The prayer for mercy says: “May his concern for the poor and destitute not be for political gain, but out of a desire to please you and help others.”
The prayer for favor says: “We pray that those in the administration would work with integrity and justice. It is our prayer that those who work with President Obama in Congress would be encouraged to work well with him. When differences or opposition arise, we ask that our president would be wise, diplomatic and gracious with his words and actions.”
Garriott said he understands some people would have trouble praying for someone with whom they differ strongly on issues.
“I realize that there are so many issues that we're going to differ with, and I'm not saying it's inappropriate for someone to pray one way or the other on those particular issues,” he said.
“But I think we need to pray that ultimately God would be honored and glorified through the service of this individual.”