If the ears of Nevadans are burning, it may be because they are the targets of remote prayer in the weeks before Election Day.
Across the nation election prayer guides are being distributed, some of them tailored to Nevada and the other swing states. They mostly—but not entirely—reflect evangelical Christian concerns.
Remote prayer—also called intercessory prayer—has mostly come to public attention when used to try to affect the health condition of sickly people. The election purpose, however, is to “return to the foundations of our nation—foundations that are based solely on the Word of God … to become engaged ‘in the spirit’ in this battle for the future of America,” according to one of the guides.
There are at least three or four of the guides and they are not just used by the groups that originated them. They have been recycled by other religious groups, a practice encouraged with verbiage like, “This article may be freely downloaded, provided copyright statement and links are included.”
Most of the Christian guides are imprecisely worded. They do not usually reference specific issues, presumably because they expect that the users of the guide know their own minds. Where they are vague, they still contain language that manages to communicate messages.
Intercessors for America, a group based in Purcellville, Virginia, has produced a guide, “Spiritually Swinging the Swing States,” that is the most specific and detailed of those available. IFA’s guide has an entry on each swing state, provides background for those states, and recommends particular approaches in prayers for the different states. For Colorado, for example, it discusses the importance of women and Latinos as voting blocs and then suggest prayers that the votes of the state’s women “be motivated by a desire to seek goodness, opportunity, and to follow a path of wisdom, that their decisions would be neither self-seeking nor self-defeating. Pray for responsible choices, the protection of unborn life, commitment to family, and personal fulfillment in marriage and in singleness.” For Colorado Latinos, other types of prayers are recommended: “Ask the Lord to shield them from busyness, apathy, cynicism and misinformation on election day.”
Sources listed for each of these state entries are news coverage. In the case of Nevada, the authors relied on reports in the Salt Lake Tribune, Washington Post, and United Press International. UPI has been a favored media source in evangelical circles since it was purchased by the Unification Church in 2000. Though it is not specifically cited, the Nevada entry in the guide appears to draw especially on an Aug. 11 piece by David Montero in the Salt Lake Tribune (“Latino vote key in Nevada, a swing state ravaged by housing crisis”).
The Nevada entry first discusses voting laws in the state, particularly voter identification and the “displacement of voters” as a result of the high mortgage foreclosure rate. It claims that union members will be active in “pushing back against voter ID laws.” However, Nevada does not have a voter identification law, at least at the polls. Only in registering are voters required to produce identification.
The guide then describes the job situation in the state. In its next section it highlights Latinos as the key voting bloc in the state. Finally, it recommends prayers, advice that is less specific than in the case of some other states:
“Intercede for voters to register and engage. Pray for those undergoing economic difficulties in Nevada and specifically Washoe County. In the midst of their struggles, pray that the Lord would guard them from cynical or naïve thinking, that He would grant them a balanced perspective and remarkable foresight.” It then recommends Proverbs 23:1-7 as particularly applicable to Nevada.
The IFA guide takes a particular interest in U.S. Senate races and provides descriptions of the candidates that are fair and respectful. In the case of Nevada, Democrat Shelley Berkley is portrayed in part as working hard to create jobs in the state and obtaining funding for renewable energy projects. Her opponent, Republican Dean Heller, is described as having worked for transparency in elections and for consumer protection when he was secretary of state. It has little on his record in the House, where he began serving in 2007, or the Senate. He was appointed to the Senate last year.
Another guide, written by David Butts, was produced by Harvest Prayer Ministries, which publishes Prayer Connect magazine. Its recommendations for prayer are more general than in the IFA guide. It suggests prayer for candidates so that each “come to know the fear of the lord so that they will walk in wisdom throughout this long campaign season … that they will surround themselves with skilled staffers, men and women who will offer wise counsel … [and that the candidates] may be energized and invigorated by the campaign process, rather than drained.”
There are numerical themes to the guides that are reminiscent of the moral reform groups like the mostly Protestant moral reform groups of the early 20th century (Committee of Fifty, Committee of Nineteen, Committee of Sixty) that pushed for alcohol prohibition. Guides include the “Nine Points for Prayer for 2012 Election,” “7 Prayer Targets for the November General Elections,” “40 Prayers in 40 Days,” which kicked off a prayer regiment on September 28. Sample from day 5, Oct. 2: “Pray for God’s Spirit to stir the hearts and minds of Christians who are still disengaged from the political process.” Zechariah 8:16; Thessalonians 5:14: “And we urge you, brother, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”
The “7 Prayer Targets” guide seems to foresee a turbulent election day: “For those who may be planning to plan riots or unlawful demonstrations, pray that they be found our [out?] before these events take place, and that they be brought to justice. ‘… those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land (Psalm 37:9).’”
Most of the guides exhibit a certain distrust of journalism. “Nine Points for Prayer”:
“Pray for the media (Pray for a miracle!) Intercede that each member of the print and broadcast media will report the facts of this election cycle in truth, avoiding any bias in their comments. … Pray that God will make Himself real and personal in their lives. … Pray that any corrupt practices that may be present in these circles be exposed and brought to justice. ‘There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.’”
We were unable to find an Islamic guide, but there is “Elections 2012/A Jewish Perspective.” This guide has all the detail and specificity that most of the Christian guides lack, dealing with economic fairness (“Wealth must be redistributed”).
Sermon Central, an evangelical organization based in Colorado Springs, is also providing a post-election prayer guide, presumably for celebration or commiseration, whichever is needed.