Praying for Election Day miracles

Image: A woman prays before the start of a rally with Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain
A woman prays before the start of a rally with Republican presidential nominee John McCain in Mesilla, N.M. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images file
/ Source: The Associated Press

They're fasting on the steps of the Florida Capitol, hoping God will hear their pleas to put an abortion opponent in the White House.

Prayer warriors will staff the get-out-the-vote command center Tuesday at Ebenezer A.M.E. Church in Fort Washington, Md. A rabbi is distributing a prayer to be said in the voting booth. Prayer circles are seeking courage and protection for Barack Obama and his family.

The faithful are busy as Nov. 4 nears.

While politicians are making their final pitch to voters, religious Americans from across the political spectrum are appealing to a higher power on the candidates' behalf.

"We have just days to pray that someone who upholds the sanctity of life and marriage between one man and one woman will win," said Pam Olsen, co-pastor with her husband of the International House of Prayer in Tallahassee, Fla.

Olsen, who personally supports Republican John McCain, is organizing a marathon of prayer, fasting and Bible reading at the Capitol starting Saturday until the state's polls close.

"The outcome is up to God," she said.

Rabbi David Seidenberg of Northampton, Mass., has written a prayer in Hebrew and English that can be recited just before filling out a ballot. Posted on his blog, and distributed through e-mail, it includes a voter pledge to heal the world and a wish for the country to "pursue righteousness and to seek peace."

"There still is so much hope and feeling connected to this election and I want to say that in as nonpartisan a way as possible," Seidenberg said in an interview. "It really feels like so much hangs in the balance and so many dreams and hopes hang in the balance right now."

Many of the election-related prayers seek wisdom for voters to choose the right leader.

'Please get them off the sofa'
For the first time, the nation's Roman Catholic bishops have published prayers for immediately before and after the election. They focus on dignity for all, an end to poverty and for "ears that will hear the cries of children unborn." At the bishops' urging, many Catholic parishes on Oct. 27 began a novena, or nine-day prayer cycle, for the election.

Other appeals get into the nitty gritty of campaigning.

Seidenberg's text reads, "May it be Your will that votes will be counted faithfully." Among the prayers Olsen's group suggested in the run-up to Nov. 4 is for "the Lord to move in swing states."

At, where people post their appeals on a "prayer wall," Denise from Texas asked God to reach people who haven't yet committed to voting.

"Let them not be phased by polls, TV ads, political sound bites," she wrote. "And for those, Dear God, who need to vote for Your will to be done ... please get them off the sofa and to the voting booth."

Prayer efforts
Praying for campaigns and for the health of the nation is hardly new in elections. But this year has seen a more public display of faith among supporters of the Democrat nominee. The Obama campaign's prayer conference calls went from weekly to daily four months ago, and will continue through Election Day. Supporters of the Illinois senator have started prayer circles, enlisting friends to join them online, on the phone or in person to pray for wisdom for the candidate.

Many churches, including Olsen's, started prayer efforts a month or more ahead of Nov. 4.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of the 16 million-member Southern Baptist Convention, is wrapping up its 40-day effort with round-the-clock prayer ahead of the election. The commission says more than 4,000 churches are participating.

The hourly prayers begin with repenting personal sin and include appeals for "candidates to adopt biblical positions on issues" and remember they are accountable to God.

In a practical turn, participants also pray for God to "help churches find ways to help Christians get to the polls."

For leaders making personal endorsements, the prayers are unapologetically partisan. Steve Strang, publisher of Charisma, a popular Pentecostal magazine, asked his many readers in an e-mail to pray, fast and "believe for a miracle to see John McCain get elected."

But many pastors are warning against asking God for a specific outcome.

The Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of the 12,000-member United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., has urging his congregants simply to pray for help choosing the right leader for the country. Author of the book, "Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White: Thoughts on Religion, Morality and Politics," Hamilton said no one knows "who God's person for the hour is."

And considering the state of the economy and the other daunting problems facing the U.S. and the world, Hamilton said churches would do better to focus on asking God to help whoever succeeds President Bush.

"Who wants this job right now?" Hamilton said. "Whoever wins this election, we're going to have to pull together to pray for them."