Acton Institute Powerblog

Sarah Palin’s Controversial Prayer Appeal?

Share this article:
Join the Discussion:

The Associated Press has an article reporting on controversial statements made by Governor Sarah Palin at the Wasilla Assemby of God church in Wasilla, Alaska. Governor Palin makes an appeal for prayer about troops in Iraq declaring, “Our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God, that’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that plan is God’s plan.” She also made an appeal for students to pray for the implementation of a $30 billion natural gas pipeline in the state. The short impromptu address was given to graduating students at the Assembly of God church in Palin’s hometown of Wasilla.

Governor Palin attended Wasilla Assembly of God from the time she was a teenager until 2002, according to the AP article. The Wall Street Journal reports that Palin attends Juneau Christian Center, also an Assemblies of God church, when the state government is in session. Another AP article refers to her current church as a non-denominational church, Wasilla Bible Church.

The earliest denunciation of Palin’s talk was highlighted by the Huffington Post on September 2. Their site also has the full video of Palin’s words to the students, and concerned readers should shape their own viewpoint from watching the video. The intention of the piece at the Huffington Post is to clearly link together similarities between the questions and concerns laid on Barack Obama for his long-time attendance at Trinity United Church of Christ, and his strong association with his former preacher Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

The Huffington Post declares:

And if the political storm over Barack Obama’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright is any indication, Palin may face some political fallout over the more controversial teachings of Wasilla Assembly of God.

You can read the Huffington Post for a highlight of the “controversial” teachings they mention. My thoughts on the prayer differ from some of the critiques I have read. For those who have attended charismatic services, her language will certainly not seem unfamiliar.

Conversationalist prayer style, and petitionary prayer is delivered in a style that assumes submission to God’s will or Divine Providence. There is also a strong evangelical note where she emphasizes the importance of regeneration when she says, “All of that stuff doesn’t really matter if the people of Alaska’s heart isn’t right with God.”

It’s ludicrous to suggest that God can’t be present or desire transformation in Iraq just because the U.S. military is present. The religious left and its sympathizers cannot unconditionally identify the will of God with an American defeat. Does that necessarily imply God endorses this conflict? Of course not. At the same time it certainly doesn’t excuse mistakes that were made in the conflict from a political perspective. But God can certainly support justice for those who were persecuted and still persecuted, and deliverance for those who suffered and suffer under tyrants. Certainly many military chaplains can greatly attest and testify well to the presence of God in Iraq, as well as the protection for our soldiers, airmen, and Marines.

Palin’s prayer certainly falls within those parameters. It’s far too easy for those who hold a secular worldview to simply scoff at the prayer appeal. It also may be easy for some who hold a theological degree or advanced seminary training to find fault with some of the language. But it is still true that this is how most people pray in their congregations and in their own personal prayer life, especially those who attend churches outside of traditional Christianity or a church that has little or no liturgical makeup.

Possibly the most famous member of the Assembly of God denomination who was in public service was former senator and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. Ashcroft was unfairly demonized as a puritanical fundamentalist Christian, who supposedly ordered a bare-breasted statue at the Justice Department covered.

However, attempts to tie Palin to Ashcroft or other perceived stodgy Christians of the “religious right” should fail miserably. Sally Quinn has tried to drive a wedge between “value voters” and Governor Palin, as if conservative Christians were ready to pounce on her family with a scarlet “A.” The criticisms of Quinn and her ilk tell us more about how much these critics don’t know about the Gospel story than they do about Christians with a conservative worldview.

Ray Nothstine Ray Nothstine is Associate Editor at the Acton Institute, and Managing Editor of Religion & Liberty. In 2005 Ray graduated with a Master of Divinity (M.Div) degree from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky. He also holds a B.A. in Political Science from The University of Mississippi in Oxford. Before coming to Acton, Ray worked as a free-lance writer for several organizations, including the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He gained ministry experience in churches in Mississippi and Kentucky. After college, he also served on the staff of U.S. Congressman Gene Taylor (D-Miss) in Gulfport in 2001-02. The son of a retired Air Force pilot, Ray has also lived in Okinawa, Philadelphia, New England, Hawaii, and Egypt.


  • John Beddingfield

    Am I the only person who is uncomfortable with the phrase, “America first,” or “Country first?” It seems the entire witness of the Law, the Prophets, the Wisdom Tradition, and culminating in life and words of Jesus make clear that GOD is FIRST, nothing else, ever. It seems to me that it was those who cried, “Rome, first,” who crucified Jesus. I’m sure that Governor Palin believes that God is on the side of wars and bridges and all manner of things with all her heart, but I would simply hope that voters (and believers) might add a touch of humility, biblical honesty, and theology to their beliefs.

    John Beddingfield

  • Will

    A link to that worship prayer.

  • Deb Marcusse

    Liberals are aye slow to reveal what they really mean, to the point that Beddingfield’s comment at first seemed non-sequitur-ial. But I think what he’s trying to imply is that “the entire witness of the Law, the Prophets, the Wisdom Tradition, and …the life and words of Jesus” weighs against American patriotism. I am curious to know whether he sent the same letter to the Russian newspapers after the Georgian invasion. Silly me, I forgot, only the American side is ever lacking in “humility, biblical honesty, and theology.” The godless regime in Russia already has all of those, and needs no reproof from us. Am I reading you right, Mr. B?
    Let me be a true conservative and state it even more plainly. You are “sure” that Palin has neither humility nor biblical basis for her patriotism; I am sure that you never question what Soviet Russia does, but throw all the weight you can think of against your own country. Sarah Palin’s words make her a patriot. What do yours make you?

  • Jim

    “Conversationalist prayer style, and petitionary prayer is delivered in a style that assumes submission to God’s will or Divine Providence. There is also a strong evangelical note where she emphasizes the importance of regeneration when she says, “All of that stuff doesn’t really matter if the people of Alaska’s heart isn’t right with God.”

    Whether you agree with her petition or her intentions, I see humility in this, so I see no problem with it.

    I think the people who are wailing and gnashing their teeth take particular exception to the part about “having their hearts right with God” as many in the crowd believe THEY are God.

    What is needed for them to have peace is taking the first 2 steps in a Political Hack-Anon 12 step program.

    1. We admitted we were powerless over politics—that our lives had become unmanageable.
    2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

  • Colenjh