Confession: The ringer on my phone is rarely on. You can email me, you can text me — I’ll ring you back. But odds are, if the ringer was ever on, I turned it off for Mass, a meeting or a talk, and I never turned it back on. So when a beloved priest called me in the blur that is the morning or so after a significant Election Day, he got my voicemail.
The ticket I voted for didn’t win. The writing had been on the wall, but still. A little detachment — staying above the fray — is good for commentators, but a little emotional investment is inevitable.
My friend knew that. He knew I’d appreciate hearing a friendly voice. But I wasn’t fully prepared for his message. He wanted to see how I was doing and he wanted to make sure I was praying for the winning candidate. The Twitter version of my reaction would have been: #toosoon.
Truth be told, I should have already been praying for him for months already, even if I wasn’t going to vote for him. However things turned out, he was an influencer. People were inspired by him. For good or for ill, he was having an impact on people, and I should have been praying for him — for his health and safety and conversion on his ability to protect innocent human life in the law.
Reflecting back, I suppose, in a sense, I did pray for him. I prayed for the country, I prayed for “our political leaders,” but I don’t think I prayed for him by name.
There is natural frustration and disappointment and anger when it comes to politics. But if we get the politics — and culture — we deserve, is the current chaos a wee bit of an indictment about our prayer lives?
Do we let what Pope Francis has called ideological colonization get in the way of our prayer?
It’s not just politics. When Robin Williams died by his own hand, I quickly realized that although I was hooked on “Mork & Mindy” at some point in my childhood and had caught some of “Dead Poets Society” just a few days before, I had probably never prayed for him. He made me laugh; he entertained me; he even inspired increased gratitude for good teachers in my life. So he was part of my life. And yet, I’m not sure I ever prayed for him. That’s not right. Not if we are who we say we are as Christians.
Couldn’t we all afford to be more deliberate, consistent and insistent in prayer — trusting God’s will, but always making a plea for peace for people who cross our paths?
So maybe every time we voice our opinion, knock on doors or watch the news or a debate this campaign season, we might also commit during this Holy Year of Mercy to lift up the names of the people running for public office — that they might be humble and wise, that they might know God’s love for them and act out of that knowledge with mercy, knowing it in their own lives. Pray for them by name, whether we agree with them or not. (If we find ourselves yelling at the TV during debates and talk shows, perhaps there’s healing that can be had here!)
If we believe in the power of prayer, this is part of our civic duty. And while Americans might be accustomed to love to hate them, politicians are people, too. And, as Pope Francis has made clear: “no one can be excluded from God’s mercy.”
And while we’re at it: if you’ve added the singer of the song most played on your play-list or the actor in that show you never miss, how about each day we pray for the most despised person we read about in the news? God knows the difference it could make.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large of National Review Online. She is co-author of the new revised and updated edition of “How to Defend the Faith without Raising Your Voice” (OSV, $17.95).