The elections of 2004 are over, finally. I don't know about you, but I was getting quite tired of the rhetoric, the ads, the sound-bytes, and especially the vitriolic nature of the campaigns. I know from reading history that many US political campaigns have included "dirty tricks" and lots of negative campaigning, but this year's election campaigns were among the worst that I can remember. I am glad it is over, aren't you?

But the question remains: What now? Whether your favorite candidates won or lost, what now? How shall we function as citizens, as a nation, and especially as Christians living in the United States?

I believe that the answer to the "What now?" question is simple, straightforward, and yet profound. The answer is: Pray. Pray for our President. Pray for our Congress. Pray for our new Governor. Pray for all those who are elected to serve as our leaders. Pray for our nation. Pray that wounds may be healed. Pray for unity of purpose. Pray for our nation to be faithful to God. Pray.

There are times in life when prayer seems to be the best and only answer. After political maneuvering, debates, and diatribes are over, it is time to pray. It is time to get together and pray. It is time to seek God's guidance and to entrust our nation and its leaders to God's wisdom.

Our United Methodist Book of Worship includes many wonderful prayers for times like these. I encourage you to use those prayers in public and private worship. The Psalms also remind us of the sovereignty of God, and guide us in a prayerful response to the situation of our nation, especially Psalm 33 which says, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord." That same Psalm reminds us not to put our trust in horses and armies and the king's might, but rather to put our trust in God.

I also have been led to offer my own prayer, which I share with you as a part of my invitation for us all to pray:

O Lord, You are indeed sovereign and Lord over all. Every nation and every leader stands before You to be judged. So we pray that You will bless and guide the United States of America and all its leaders and citizens. Forgive us for the ways our nation has failed You, and strengthen us to serve You for faithfully. Bless our leaders, O God, and give them Your wisdom, so that they might turn away from mere politics and put their faith in You and Your divine principles. Heal our hurts as a nation, after a bitter and divided campaign, and bring us together as one people. These prayers are offered in the name and spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.

from Bishop Michael J. Coyner