The pastor of a Northern Virginia church has acknowledged hurting some in his congregation by praying for President Trump when the president made an unscheduled stop at his church on Sunday.
Pastor David Platt of McLean Bible Church in Vienna said he made the decision in haste and he did not intend his prayer to be an endorsement of Mr. Trump or any political stance.
“Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that we didn’t see coming, and we’re faced with a decision in a moment when we don’t have the liberty of deliberation, so we do our best to glorify God,” Mr. Platt said in a statement to church members. “I found myself in one of those situations.”
Referring to the biblical passage of 1 Timothy 2:1-6, the pastor 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.”
“I know that some within our church, for a variety of valid reasons, are hurt that I made this decision,” the pastor said. “This weighs heavy on my heart. I love every member of this church, and I only want to lead us with God’s Word in a way that transcends political party and position, heals the hurts of racial division and injustice, and honors every man and woman made in the image of God.”
White House spokesman Judd Deere said Sunday that the president stopped at the church to pray for the victims of the mass shooting in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and for the community. The president’s motorcade arrived at the church unexpectedly while Mr. Trump was returning to the White House from a golf outing at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia.
The pastor told his congregation that the president’s visit surprised him.
“At the end of my sermon at the 1:00 worship gathering, I stepped to the side for what I thought would be a couple of moments in quiet reflection as we prepared to take the Lord’s Supper,” he said. “But I was immediately called backstage and told that the president of the United States was on his way to the church, would be there in a matter of minutes, and would like for us to pray for him. I immediately thought about my longing to guard the integrity of the gospel in our church.”
He added, “I know that it is good, and pleasing in the sight of God, to pray for the president. So in that moment, I decided to take this unique opportunity for us as a church to pray over him together.
Before the president’s arrival, the pastor said, “I prayed specifically for an opportunity to speak the gospel to him, and for faithfulness to pray the gospel over him.”
“While I won’t go into the details of our conversation backstage, one of our other pastors and I spoke the gospel in a way that I pray was clear, forthright, and compassionate,” he said “Then I walked back out on stage, read 1 Timothy 2:1-6, and sought to pray the Word of God over the president, other leaders, and our country.”
Pastor Platt said he prayed for the president because 1 Timothy 2:1-6 urges, in part, that Christians pray “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
The president stood on stage while the pastor prayed for him, on a day that evangelist Franklin Graham had announced as a “Special Day of Prayer for the President.” Pastor Platt did not specifically refer to the Virginia Beach shooting, and Mr. Trump, with head bowed and folded hands holding his golf cap, didn’t say anything on the stage.
Afterward, the pastor said, “the president walked off stage without comment, and we closed our gathering by celebrating heroes among us, a couple who has spent the last 48 years spreading the gospel in remote places where it had never gone before they came. We then recited the Great Commission as we always do, sending one another out into the city for the glory of our King.”
The pastor’s statement suggested that he felt rushed into the decision.
“I’m guessing that all of us will face other decisions this week where we don’t have time to deliberate on what to do,” he said. “I’m praying now for grace and wisdom for all of us to do exactly what we talked about in the Word today: aim for God’s glory, align with God’s purpose, and yield to God’s sovereignty.”