A Call to Election Day Prayer and Witness

by | Oct 8, 2020

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Book of Common Prayer 

As election day draws nearer, national anxiety is understandably rising, given all that we’ve been through and the issues before us as a people. Heartfelt thanks to all among us dedicated to make our democracy work–voting yourselves, helping others exercise their right to vote, working on issues and campaigns, and doing your part to serve the common good. 

One antidote to anxiety is prayer, and I’m grateful to the congregations across the diocese that are creating opportunities to gather us in prayer. Some are holding weekly online vigils, others have crafted daily prayers for our private devotions. A number are opening their churches for private prayer on election day including Washington National Cathedral. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is hosting an online service at the Cathedral for the nation on Sunday, November 1 at 4:00 p.m. EST. 

Prayers are not passive. When we pray for the nation, as for anything else, we bring into our conscious thought an awareness of God’s presence, listening for the voice of God calling us to realize our part in bringing about good. In prayer, as a friend of mine likes to say, “We give God more to work with.” Through our prayers, we place ourselves at God’s disposal. We step up to the plate in whatever ways our lives allow. 

There is a growing sentiment among Christians that there is a need to make our prayerful presence public, that we not simply pray at home or in our churches, but where people are gathered on election day. This is, in part, out of concern for the potential for violence, given the rising number of Americans preparing to show up at polling stations armed. While such violence seems unimaginable in our communities, it is a national concern. An ecumenical organization, Lawyers and Collars, is asking faith leaders and legal experts to stand as witnesses in places where voter intimidation and suppression is real. Episcopal bishops across the country are preparing to make a public statement to ask that all Americans leave their guns at home on election day. 

To be a prayerful presence at polling sites is also a way for us to offer public blessing at a time of anxiety and anticipation. Think of this as a chaplaincy for the electoral process, similar to Ashes-to-Go, our annual effort to offer prayers on Ash Wednesday on street corners, public transportation stations, or in parks.  

To that end, I invite those who are able and would like to make a public witness to take part in an EDOW effort to be a prayerful presence at polling stations within our diocesan bounds. The idea is simply for us to go out in small groups, stand or bring chairs and sit, at a respectful distance, and quietly pray for our democracy and all those exercising their right to vote. 

Wouldn’t it be amazing for us to have at least one 2-hour prayer vigil at every polling station in the four Maryland counties and eight DC wards within the Diocese of Washington? 

With those who feel called to join us, we’d like to try.

We’ve made a form that includes all the polling stations in the diocese. Congregations forming prayer teams can select the sites where they’ll offer prayer. In addition, we’ve created a covenant we ask each participant to sign, committing to be a peaceful, non-partisan presence; prayer resources; and materials that can be printed for signs or fliers. We’ll track the locations being covered and share that information on our website. Churches with great interest might consider fielding more than one team to cover the poll sites nearest them. I’d love to join a church team to pray at one of the polling sites in Ward 4 of Washington, DC, where I live.

Our prayers and efforts to heal our nation will not stop on November 3. No matter the election results and how long it may take, we, as followers of Jesus are needed as prayerful and engaged citizens. As the prayer bearing St. Francis’ name encourages us to pray, may God make us divine instruments of peace. Others will know that we are Christians by our love.