One World Trade Center officially opened on this day in 2014. With a spire that rises to 1,776 feet, the tower and the rest of the complex replaced the Twin Towers destroyed by terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
It stands as an inspiring and powerful reminder that our nation’s worst enemies have not been able to destroy us. America’s commitment to our bedrock principle that “all men are created equal” has built the largest and strongest democracy in human history.
Today, the world will see our democracy in action once again. The president of the United States commands the most powerful military ever built, while Congress makes laws affecting the strongest economy in the world. But as the Declaration of Independence states, they derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
This “consent” begins with our vote, but it does not end there.
The National Guard and poll chaplains
Three out of four voters are worried about violence during today’s elections. Walmart has pulled guns, firearms, and ammunition from displays in its stores across the country to prevent weapons from being stolen should “civil unrest” grip the nation.
Businesses in Washington, DC, are boarded up ahead of expected demonstrations following today’s election. The same is true in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Dallas, and other cities. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has deployed National Guard troops to cities across the state “to address any protest that could turn into riots.”
Meanwhile, poll chaplains are deploying today. They are ready with snacks for voters waiting in long lines, ponchos in case of rain, and a “prayerful presence” at precincts across the country.
Such a “presence” is vital in these vitriolic days. God calls us to “be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!” (Psalm 37:7).
There are two ways I believe God is especially calling us to intercede for our nation on this historic day.
Repeating John Adams’ prayer
First, we are to pray for godly leaders to be elected and for elected leaders to be godly (1 Timothy 2:1–2).
The prophet Ahijah warned that God would “give Israel up because of the sins of [King] Jeroboam, which he sinned and made Israel to sin” (1 Kings 14:16). Conversely, the Lord delayed judgment on the sinful nation of Judah because of the godliness of King Josiah (2 Kings 22:18–20).
On November 1, 1800, President John Adams and his wife, Abigail, moved into the newly constructed President’s House (later known as the White House). He then wrote about their new home: “I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house, and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but wise men ever rule under this roof!”
Let’s make his prayer ours, for our president and all who are elected to leadership today.
The warning of a modern-day prophet
Second, God is calling us to pray for a moral awakening no political leader can produce.
Russian dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a modern-day prophet. In his 1983 Templeton Prize acceptance speech, he warned the West of “the tide of secularism” which “has progressively inundated” our society and stated, “This gradual sapping of strength from within is a threat to faith that is perhaps even more dangerous than any attempt to assault religion violently from without.”
He added: “Unnoticeably, through decades of gradual erosion, the meaning of life in the West ceased to stand for anything more lofty than the pursuit of ‘happiness.'” As a result, “It has become embarrassing to appeal to eternal concepts, embarrassing to state that evil makes its home in the individual human heart before it enters a political system.” Consequently, “the West is ineluctably slipping toward the abyss.”
In a free society, such a demise is our own fault, “for in that case we have surely done everything by ourselves and of our own free will. We ourselves, in our daily unthinking selfishness, are pulling tight that noose.”
He reminded us: “Our life consists not in the pursuit of material success but in the quest of worthy spiritual growth. Our entire earthly existence is but a transitional stage in the movement toward something higher, and we must not stumble and fall, nor must we linger fruitlessly on one rung of the ladder.” In the face of our judgment and demise, “we can only reach with determination for the warm hand of God, which we have so rashly and self-confidently pushed away. . . . There is nothing else to cling to.”
Solzhenitsyn concluded: “Our five continents are caught in a whirlwind. But it is during such trials that the highest gifts of the human spirit are manifested. If we perish and lose this world, the fault will be ours alone.”
The work has only begun
When polls close this evening, what the Associated Press calls “the most consequential US presidential election in living memory” will be over. Whether we know the results tonight or not, for America’s voters, the work is done.
For America’s Christians, the work has only begun.
NOTE: I recently spoke with Cynthia Yanof on the Pardon the Mess podcast on “Parenting in politics.” We discussed how to disagree well and how to teach kids to respect authority. I encourage you to listen to our conversation and then, if you’re a parent, subscribe to the Pardon the Mess podcast, which recently surpassed one million total downloads.