Why I Prayed for Senator John McCain

In Where Have All The Prophets Gone?: Reclaiming Prophetic Preaching in America Marvin A. McMickle writes:

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired from a lifetime appointment on the U.S. Supreme Court in order to care for her husband, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Upon news of her announcement, (Pat) Robertson posted a prayer on his web site and invited his 700 Club TV viewers to “pray for more vacancies on the court.” ….. “Take control, God! We ask for additional vacancies on the court.” Considering the fact that all federal judges serve lifetime appointments there is only one way that God could answer the prayers of Robertson and his followers — either severe infirmity (or that of a loved one) or death. The idea of his praying for vacancies when death or disease are the only ways by which such a prayer could be answered leads one to wonder about the fact that Pat Robertson and other conservative evangelical Christians call themselves pro-life. Shall we, in the name of our Christian faith, pray for the death or debilitating condition of federal judges in order to advance whatever may be our social agenda? Where have all the prophets gone?


Upon recently hearing that Republican Senator John McCain was undergoing brain surgery for cancer, I suggested on my Facebook page that we pray for Senator McCain. I have rarely agreed with McCain, but under the circumstances, I felt compelled to offer prayer. Perhaps it was my own recent surgery where cancer was detected, leading to a hospital stay longer than initially anticipated. I mean, nothing will jar you like coming face to face with an incurable illness. I had no doubt, that beyond a miracle (and I do believe in miracles) that John McCain would continue to hold fast with his position to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare. Numerous bi-partisan organizations, nonprofits, healthcare organizations, and professionals, including the Economic Policy Institute, state that the repeal of the ACA would ensure that over 29 million Americans would lose health insurance. For conservatives, particularly Christians who claim to be pro-life, a vote against the ACA is not only the height of hypocrisy but a death knoll for millions who will lose their insurance and succumb to physical and mental health challenges, drug addition and overdoses, which are all too-often tied to treatable mental health diseases.

But back to my prayer for Senator McCain, who on Tuesday, July 25th voted against healthcare for over 29 million Americans. Some have said on various social media platforms that praying for John McCain was counter to a theology of liberation and the oppression of white supremacy that we fight against. I say that praying for the healing of an individual does not impede our ability to pray and fight for justice, liberation and the overthrow of systems of racism, poverty, mass incarceration, gender inequity and other systems designed to defeat the marginalized in our society. Indeed when we pray for the healing of others, particularly those who are “against us”, we pray for worthy opponents. Muhammed Ali never wanted George Foreman to be sick in the ring. He would never have been the Greatest without a worthy opponent. Serena Williams would never wish Belinda Bencic or Lucie Šafárová or Johanna Konta would play with a fractured wrist. She would never really be the greatest without a worthy opponent. And we should never stoop to the level of Pat Robertson, who prayed for an opening on the Supreme Court — -that a judge or his/her loved one would either be inflicted with a severe infirmity or that the judge or loved one would die. No. I am not afraid of a worthy opponent!

It’s taken me a long time to say that I would pray for someone like Senator John McCain whose policies I feel are deadly. I don’t know if I would have offered up prayer last year or even earlier this year. But I believe in worthy opponents because I serve a worthy God. The Greatest of All Time.

In the words of Rev. Dr. Deborah D. Jenkins (no relation), “There is a clear difference between sincere hope for full recovery for John McCain and having total disdain for the dangerous politics he plays.”

Let’s remember that our job as people of God is to continue to offer up our prophetic voices against the evil and distorted machinations of this world. We are to continue to fight the fight and to do so with every fiber in our beings — with words, with our feet, with our bodies, with our minds, with our strategies, with our lobbying — -with every fiber in our beings. But let us not forget that we are children of God, joint-heirs with Christ Jesus. While we pray for worthy opponents, remember that we serve The Greatest of All Time! God the undefeated champion! Stay on the battlefield folk…. I smell victory….just stay on the battlefield!