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Republican debate: Fiorina steals some Trump thunder

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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Republican presidential candidate, businesswoman Carly Fiorina makes a point during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California, September 16, 2015 (Credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Wednesday night’s second Republican debate on CNN lasted just under 3 hours and featured the top 11 Republican candidates. Going into the night’s debate, Donald Trump maintained a strong lead in the race to be the next GOP presidential nominee but fellow Washington outsider Ben Carson had moved his way up the ranks to overtake Jeb Bush for second place. Carly Fiorina was still a relative long shot candidate who had been in the news as much for Donald Trump’s comments about her looks as for her policies.  

However, much of that is likely to change following the debate. CNN’s longer format allowed the candidates greater opportunities to share their views and respond to the criticisms from their fellow candidates and others. While even three hours was not enough for every candidate to fully explain his or her positions on the topics, a few of the potential nominees took advantage of the opportunity to increase their standing within the party.

Carly Fiorina has received the most praise for her work on Wednesday night with 65% of Republican insiders surveyed by Politico saying that she was the biggest winner. One Republican from New Hampshire responded “That the nation finally got a chance to see what we in New Hampshire have been intrigued and impressed by: a political outsider with some real policy chops and the demeanor to be considered a serious contender.” One of the Democrats surveyed went so far as to say “Her closing argument was Jeffersonian. She handled Trump like the junior high schooler he is.”

Not all the respondents agreed with that assessment. Many Democrats argued that Trump won because the other candidates were often forced to spend more time responding to statements he has made than to push their own views. One respondent to Politico summed it up well by saying “Trump had, once again, all the oxygen in the room.” While that is true, he had a good deal of help from the moderators. As Nate Silver and his team at FiveThirtyEight outlined, Trump was asked thirteen direct questions and given the right to reply nine times for a debate-leading total of twenty-two opportunities to speak, not including the times he interrupted the other candidates. But while he often dominated the conversation, many pundits have been quick to point out that talking more in such a setting is not necessarily to his advantage as it allowed “longer, more in depth answers and the opportunity to expose knowledge and personality…all of which plays against a Trump campaign.”

Ultimately, the consensus among political commentators seems to be that the debate has the potential to narrow the field a bit and that Fiorina is likely to see a bump in her poll numbers, potentially at the expense of Trump. However, with roughly 10 months remaining until a candidate is decided at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next July, it is impossible to know for certain to what degree Wednesday night’s debate will actually have an influence on the party’s eventual nominee. A lot can change in ten months and each of the candidates will have ample opportunity between now and then to say or do something that will have a defining role, for better or worse, on his or her viability in the race.

As Christians, we live each day in a similar situation. While we may not be running for president or living each day under national scrutiny, every day is full of chances to say or do something, for better or worse, that will impact our potential witness. That is why it’s so important that we live each moment in the power and direction of the Lord.

To that end, Paul advises us in 1 Thessalonians to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). You see, it’s not enough to pray for the Lord’s help at the start of the day or when our need of him becomes apparent. Scripture teaches that if we want to live the kinds of lives that honor him and can be of true service to the kingdom, every moment must be given over to God.

We do that through prayer and by making ourselves available to the Spirit when he wants to speak rather than limiting that conversation to when we choose to engage him. That’s what it means to pray without ceasing. Seventeenth century monk Brother Lawrence describes this practice well in his The Practice of the Presence of God: “A little lifting up of the heart suffices; a little remembrance of God, an interior act of adoration…Let him then think of God as much as possible so that he will gradually become accustomed to this little but holy exercise; no one will notice it and nothing is easier than to repeat often during the day these little acts of interior adoration.”

Does that describe your prayer life today? Praying without ceasing can seem like a daunting task. In truth, it is life that becomes daunting when we don’t. You are called to live the kind of life that simply isn’t possible without the presence and power of God saturating every aspect of your existence from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep. So spend some time learning what it means to incorporate little remembrances of God and interior acts of adoration throughout your day. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes in the Lord’s ability to guide and empower you to accomplish his will.  As Brother Lawrence said, “nothing is easier.” So why not start today?