America has decided, and perhaps against all odds, they've decided to elect Donald Trump. It's a line I never imagined I'd write; a statement that is currently sending shockwaves around the world and across the financial markets, but it's true. A majority of Americans, and it seems, a majority of American Christians, decided they'd prefer to trust the keys to the White House to the businessman-turned-reality TV star than to Hillary Clinton.
This morning, two distinct reactions will be felt across America. For those who voted for Trump, there will be optimism and celebration; a feeling that voices of discontent have finally been heard. Yet Christians in this camp have some serious responsibility on their shoulders – they are responsible for this decision after all – and that begins by being gracious in victory, not gloating or over-celebrating. And it begins by recognising the simmering tensions all around the US, now threatening to boil over as members of ethnic, religious and other minorities become fearful for what a Trump victory represents. Trump-supporting Christians MUST now recognise the huge role they play in ensuring that communities do not break down, and that a new era of injustice and inequality doesn't arise. That starts today.
The other reaction, felt by almost half of the US population, will be one of shock, and desolation. For Clinton supporters, the idea of a President Trump was simply unthinkable, and this morning they wake up to the reality. They will be angry, they will already be asking how this happened, and finding it very hard not to cast blame. Christians who backed Clinton now have an important opportunity to be distinctive however; to find the strength to provide a Godly response in the aftermath; to recognise that Caesar is Caesar, but God is still on his throne. From day one Christian thoughts (on both sides) must turn to the work of the Kingdom; to reconciliation; to the church doing everything it can to prevent racial and other societal wounds from opening up. Venting anger feels good momentarily, and isn't un-Christ-like, but we've got work to do.
Wherever you sit on the political spectrum, and from wherever in the world you're observing this globally important event, the very best response we can make today is not to throw poisonous barbs at one another, or shout our frustrations on social media, but to pray. If you're consoling yourself in defeat this morning though, it can be hard to know what or how to pray. Here then are a few starting points for your prayers today, whichever candidate you supported, wherever in the world you might be:
Pray for unity, not division
One of the biggest fears before election night was that a Trump victory would stir up and enhance racial and religious tensions, particularly in the light of comments the President-elect made during his campaign. We must pray today that people across the various societal divides can find ways to become united, and that the church steps up to play a key role in bringing hope and love, where hate and anger could so easily dominate.
Pray for the those who are fearful
Many people, particularly those in minority groups, will feel deeply concerned by the news of their new President. Today we should pray that they are comforted; that they know that there is a God, and many, many people who are for them, and who don't wish them harm or injustice. We should also pray that those fears prove unfounded; that again the powerful American church movement is able to spread hope and healing, and to point to the perfect love which casts out fear (1 John 4:18).
Pray for President Donald Trump
This very phrase will be hard to swallow for many, but the Bible clearly tells us to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-3). Today, more than ever, Donald Trump needs our prayers as he begins the journey toward taking up office. We should pray that he receives a huge dose of Godly wisdom, and that, freed from the boxing ring of the presidential contest, he is able to discover a gentler, humbler and more conciliatory tone.
Pray for those around the new President
A President's closest advisors are vitally important, both to their leadership and to the health of the American government. Much of Trump's team will already be assembled; key figures will now be added. We must pray that he is surrounded by good, wise, Godly people of great judgement, who will be able to advise and guide him as he takes on this awesome new responsibility.
Pray: Thy will be done
In this moment of uncertainty, Christians must find the resilience of belief to remember that whatever your politics, and whoever is in the Oval Office, God is still God. His Kingdom is still at hand; still advances. His church still has a vital role to play in the renewing of all things, even if for some of us that seems less likely today. He doesn't control world events day by day, but he is ultimate authority and control; today more than ever we should submit ourselves to his sovereignty and pray that his will, not ours or that of any politician, is fulfilled.
Finally, if you're at a loss for words in the aftermath of the election result, this simple, famous prayer by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr may help:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.