Pastor David Platt says he ministered to President Trump before public prayer; explains why he did it

Pastor David Platt of McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Va., prays for President Donald Trump who made a brief unannounced visit on Sunday June 1, 2019.
Pastor David Platt of McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Va., prays for President Donald Trump who made a brief unannounced visit on Sunday June 1, 2019. | Screenshot: Vimeo

Teaching pastor at McLean Bible Church in Virginia David Platt said he privately shared the Gospel with President Donald Trump in a “forthright and compassionate” manner prior to a public prayer during a brief unannounced visit at his church by the president on Sunday.

Platt, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board, who has been drawing praise for his response to the president’s impromptu stop, also explained that he prayed for the president because 1 Timothy 2:1-6, urges in part that Christians pray “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

“While I won’t go into the details of our conversation backstage, one of our other pastors and I spoke the gospel in a way that I pray was clear, forthright, and compassionate,” Platt said in a statement released on his church’s website Sunday. “Then I walked back out on stage, read 1 Timothy 2:1-6, and sought to pray the Word of God over the president, other leaders, and our country.”

The decision to pray for the president was something that he wrestled with briefly because he had only been given “minutes” notice of the visit shortly after the end of the church’s 1 p.m. worship gathering.

“I immediately thought about my longing to guard the integrity of the gospel in our church. As I said in the sermon today, Christ alone unites us. I love that we have over 100 nations represented in our church family, including all kinds of people with varied personal histories and political opinions from varied socioeconomic situations. It’s clear in our church that the only reason we’re together is because we have the same King we adore, worship, fear, and follow with supreme love and absolute loyalty, and His name is Jesus,” he wrote.

Platt said he decided to explain his decision to pray for the president because he is aware that some in his diverse congregation may have been hurt by his decision to pray for president Trump.

“I wanted to share all of this with you in part because I know that some within our church, for a variety of valid reasons, are hurt that I made this decision. This weighs heavy on my heart. I love every member of this church, and I only want to lead us with God’s Word in a way that transcends political party and position, heals the hurts of racial division and injustice, and honors every man and woman made in the image of God. So while I am thankful that we had an opportunity to obey 1 Timothy 2 in a unique way today, I don’t want to purposely ever do anything that undermines the unity we have in Christ,” he said.

Pastor David Platt of McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Va., reads 1 Timothy 2:1-6 moments before praying for President Donald Trump who made a brief unannounced visit on Sunday June 1, 2019.
Pastor David Platt of McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Va., reads 1 Timothy 2:1-6 moments before praying for President Donald Trump who made a brief unannounced visit on Sunday June 1, 2019. | Screenshot: Vimeo

“In the end, would you pray with me for gospel seed that was sown today to bear fruit in the president’s heart? Would you also pray with me that God will help us to guard the gospel in every way as we spread the gospel everywhere? And finally, I’m guessing that all of us will face other decisions this week where we don’t have time to deliberate on what to do. I’m praying now for grace and wisdom for all of us to do exactly what we talked about in the Word today: aim for God’s glory, align with God’s purpose, and yield to God’s sovereignty,” he noted.

In his prayer for the president on Sunday, Platt prayed that the president would lead with righteousness, wisdom and in ways that are “good for justice.”

“God, we pray that he would know how much you love him — so much that you sent Jesus to die for his sins, our sins — so we pray that he would look to you. That he would trust in you, that he would lean on you. That he would govern and make decisions in ways that are good for justice, and good for righteousness, and good for equity, every good path,” Platt prayed.

“Lord we pray, we pray, that you would give him all the grace he needs to govern in ways that we just saw in 1 Timothy 2 that lead to peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way. God we pray for your blessing in that way upon his family. We pray that you would give them strength. We pray that you would give them clarity. Wisdom, wisdom, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Fools despise wisdom and instruction,” he added.

Platt’s response to President Trump’s request for prayer has been praised by many as a model Christian response especially because he disagrees with the president in a number of ways.

“Thank you so much, Pastor David Platt for praying over @realDonaldTrump. We also prayed for him this morning at @bellevuememphis. Let’s all pray for him daily in the spirit of 1 Timothy 2:1f,” former SBC President Steve Gaines wrote on Twitter.

“If you are ever going to have a politician on stage at your church, this is a terrific prayer for you to pray,” Professor Thomas S. Kidd, an evangelical historian, wrote.

Joe Carter, an editor at The Gospel Coalition who also serves as an elder at Grace Hill Church in Herndon, Virginia, noted in an op-ed Monday that Platt presented a model approach on how to pray for the president.

“Platt presented the gospel in his prayer and asked God to give the president clarity, strength, and wisdom. Platt also prayed that the Lord would help President Trump govern for the good of equity, justice, and righteousness. Above all, Platt made it clear that our earthly leaders will benefit most when they follow the ‘the one universal king over all’ — King Jesus,” Carter wrote.

“Platt reminded us that we pray for authorities not to protect them from criticism but so that we as Christians ‘may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness’ (1 Tim. 2:2). In doing so, he provided us with a model for how we should all pray for our president,” he added.

The reactions to Platt’s prayer come on the heels of a Sunday that was earmarked as the "Special Day of Prayer for the President," led by evangelist Franklin Graham, who some argued had colored the event with political partisanship.  More than 300 Christian leaders signed a statement in support of Graham's prayer event for Trump but Platt was not named among them.

Kedron Bardwell, professor and chair of the political science department at Simpson College, south of Des Moines, Iowa, noted that even though Platt is not known to be a strong supporter President Trump, he did not politicize his meeting with the president.

“In 2016 Platt thanked [Russell] Moore for criticizing evangelicals who ‘defame the gospel’ by supporting/excusing Trump's ‘profanities, race-baiting and courting white supremacists, boasting of adulterous affairs, debauching public morality...through the casino and pornography industries,’” Bardwell wrote.

“Platt prays directly for the President but doesn't politicize it, as Franklin Graham did in calling the U.S. to pray today for a POTUS who's ‘[under] attack’ from ‘enemies,’” he said. “This is very well done by @PlattDavid, under likely stressful circumstances of an impromptu visit from a President….”

The White House said Trump was at McLean Bible Church "to visit with the pastor and pray for the victims and community of Virginia Beach," after a mass shooting that left 12 dead on Friday.

Cliff Sims, former White House staffer and author of Team of Vipers said in an interview with Ed Stetzer for The Exchange earlier this year that popular televangelist and President Trump's spiritual adviser, Paula White, blocked extending an invitation to Platt to attend Trump’s first prayer breakfast, alleging “he believes the American dream is evil.”

“There’s a story that I tell in the book that really stuck out to me very early on in the White House and made me realize that proximity to power does strange things even to pastors and ministers. When we were trying to plan the first prayer breakfast, Sarah Sanders and I were working together to organize speakers, and I wanted David Platt to come and speak at it.

“I talked to David about it, and I don't think he would mind me saying that he was conflicted about that decision. I think one of the reasons for this hesitation was because when pastors get involved in the political space in a public way, there are drawbacks and it can put pastors in a position where people suddenly view them through a political lens. There's just a lot of baggage that comes along with such a decision,” Sims said.

Nevertheless, Sims said he continued exploring the idea until White nixed it after trashing Platt.

“I was talking to people inside the White House about him coming to speak and someone who interfaces with the faith advisory council inside the White House happened to mention this to Paula White. Paula came to the White House and had a meeting with them and basically trashed David and said something to the effect of, ‘He believes that the American dream is evil. The President's going to be really mad when he finds out that you're bringing in someone to speak at the prayer breakfast who believes that the American dream is evil,’” he wrote. “She was basically just undermining him and trying to stop him from being the one who was chosen to speak.”

Matt G. Metcalf, an M.Div. student at Southern Baptist Theological seminary and web developer for Christianity Today Magazine, defended Platt as a “good man of God” because he would not have been able to deliver such a gracious prayer.

“Is this where I admit that I am really glad David Platt's prayer was faithful but that I couldn't watch the video of him praying over Trump because the thought of it turned my stomach? Platt is a good man of God who handled the situation far better than I ever could,” he wrote.

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