What to Pray for a New President

What to Pray for a New President Seeking God’s blessing for a pluralistic, conflicted, and divided nation. By Mark Labberton
There is no better time to renew our commitment to pray for our leaders than the start of a new presidential administration. Barack Obama needs our prayers, and we should give them freely and eagerly no matter how we may have voted. I know our president needs prayer, because I know I do. My own life and pastoral leadership depend on prayer. I am aware that much of the blessing in the life of our church unfolds because of the prayers of people united in seeking God’s way. Blessings are not earned by prayer, nor should blessings be presumed because of prayer. But I do believe prayer increases our readiness to live humbly, wisely, and courageously.
These are also the qualities our new president needs. After a divisive campaign, an extraordinary economic collapse, a period of ecological vulnerability, and a time of war and global instability, our president, and our nation need humility, wisdom, and courage. Wherever our congregations or we may be political, these three qualities should guide our prayers for the leaders responsible for our nation and our world. Leadership that is lacking in any of these three will be far less constructive than these trying times demand. Our president needs the humility to live and lead in dependence upon God, practicing a clear estimate of our human and national limitations. Few qualities are more characteristic of Jesus than his willingness to serve in dependency on the Father, “emptying himself and taking the form of a servant.” Humble servant leadership is the essence of Jesus’ power. Let’s pray that as a new season of presidential leadership begins, Barack Obama will live before God with a clarified awareness of who he is and who he is not. When we lead our people to pray for our national leaders, we are praying for them to be wise. That means that they will be men and women led by the truth, who will act with discernment and justice. We may be tempted to pray that certain policies or political ideologies are enacted by the government, or for the authorities to establish our own utopian vision. This kind of prayer mistakenly treats the United States as a theocracy. Instead, we should be praying for leaders to have the wisdom to seek the shalom of the city, country, and the world. This kind of prayer asks God to grant leaders the power and authority that allows people and communities to thrive. It is a prayer that neither over-reaches nor under-reaches. When we lead our people to pray for this new administration, we also need to pray that President Obama, and everyone in government, will have courage. 
Given the social, economic, environmental, and security threats today, we could accumulate a pile of fear-inducing situations to rival Everest. This is an exceptional time, when our leadership needs the strength of character and will to seek, say, and do what is right. When we pray for a pluralistic, conflicted, and divided nation like our own, we should recognize that we are not just praying for the church, for the community of God’s people. Instead, we are stepping into our role as faithful exiles, surrounded by a widely varied people, who seek God’s life-giving love, mercy, and justice, especially for the marginalized and for our enemies. We cry out to God for his shalom to be poured out upon others. That will be the evidence to the world that the blessing we seek isn’t just for ourselves, but that we truly care for all peoples, tribes, and nations. When we pray for these things — humility, wisdom, and courage — we are stepping beyond our own party affiliation or preference, beyond the bickering of the campaign, beyond the places where divisions are real and substantial. We are seeking instead to be prayerful partners of God’s shalom that comes, at least in part, through governments, civic leaders, and even presidents.

Mark Labberton is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley, California.

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Mr. President-elect, strengthen fight against cancer

By Lance Armstrong

Special to CNN

Editor’s Note: Lance Armstrong is a cancer survivor and advocate, professional cycling champion and father of three. This is one in a series of “letters to the new president” that will appear as commentaries on CNN.com in coming weeks.

(CNN) — Here’s something that should outrage you: Every day, more than 1,500 Americans die of cancer. Our federal government knows how to prevent many of these losses. Tragically, its attention has simply been elsewhere.

The American cancer community and the Lance Armstrong Foundation are hoping that will change with the election of President-elect Barack Obama, a man who has lost two of the most important women in his life to this disease.

Throughout my conversations with him, I’ve been impressed with his commitment to fighting cancer and have gained a sense of optimism about the future. And looking back on recent years, that optimism is a big improvement.

The American people are doing their part, especially against tobacco, the №1 cause of cancer. Twenty-four states as well as the District of Columbia have strong smoke-free workplace measures in place. Cities all over America are banning smoking. And Americans are far more aware and motivated to lead healthy lifestyles than they were even twenty years ago.

Our federal government’s scatter-shot approach to the war on cancer is what galvanized those touched by cancer this election season to create our own campaign — not to support certain candidates, but to get all of them to commit to our cause: the fight against a disease that will claim more than 560,000 lives in this nation in 2008.

And we used all the tools in the campaign toolbox: we met with candidates to plead our case, stood outside campaign events holding signs, ran ads, sent opinion pieces to our hometown papers, and suggested questions to the presidential debate moderators. We even hosted forums designed to let voters talk to presidential candidates directly about their plans to fight cancer.

Let me put all this in perspective: during two terms on the President’s Cancer Panel, my fellow members and I heard directly from thousands of survivors, healthcare professionals, government officials, policy makers and scientists about the effects of cancer on this nation. And what struck all of us was the fractured approach to this disease taken by our federal government in a time when cancer touches 12 million American lives.

Luckily, our campaigning paid off. Like most Americans, both Sen. John McCain and Obama have strong personal connections to cancer. McCain is himself a survivor while our next president has lost both a parent and now a grandparent. Both answered our call with plans of action.

So here’s what we will be looking for come 2009, stacked up with the commitments made by our next president:

1. Creating National Coordination: No great struggle was ever won without leadership and a plan. Currently, thousands of diligent people in our federal government work hard but without coordination against cancer. A unified strategy for cancer research, treatment and awareness programs is therefore the first step and our next president has committed to this in principle.

2. Increasing Our Investment in the Fight: Today, our federal investment in this fight is roughly $6 billion, a vastly inadequate amount considering the millions of Americans lost in the last decade alone. And for the past few budget cycles, funding has remained static or fallen off. Cancer patients and caregivers persistently lobbied for more dollars for the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. During his campaign, Obama said he’d double federal funding for cancer research within five years, focusing on the NIH and the NCI, and increase funding for the FDA during his administration.

3. Investing in Prevention and Screening: If you could fix the dam for a dollar now, why wait for the flood that will cost you $10 million? Even modest investments in cancer prevention and screening save millions of dollars — not to mention lives — down the line. Obama made a campaign promise to require federally supported health plans to cover all essential preventive services and to expand investment in proven smoking cessation programs. We support that pledge and look forward to seeing him honor it.

4. Supporting Survivors and Their Families: When you beat cancer, it doesn’t simply disappear from your life. Its effects stay with you, physically and emotionally, and it influences your outlook, your future and your family. To date, we’ve done a poor job in supporting the millions of Americans who have to face these realities. The Obama campaign promise: new support to survivors and their families and new funding for the CDC to study how best to help people affected by cancer navigate a thoroughly confusing health care system.

We expect Obama to work with Congress on these measures as well as on comprehensive legislation that will modernize our efforts. Sens. Kennedy, D-Mass., and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, are already hard at work on this.

Big picture: We love what we’re hearing so far, Mr. President-elect. We support your commitments and will do everything in our power to further their achievement.

 — Scott

We can only LIVESTRONG™ if we’re GODSTRONG™.

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President’s Cancer Panel Recommends National Priority for Cancer

In a new report Maximizing Our Nation’s Investment in Cancer: Three Crucial Actions for America’s Health the President’s Cancer Panel makes three recommendations to the President that they feel are critical to the battle against cancer in the United States.

Make reducing the cancer burden a national priority.

Ensure that all Americans have timely access to needed health care and disease prevention measures.

End the scourge of tobacco in the United States.

The President’s Cancer Panel was created with the passage of the National Cancer Act in 1971. Its three members have a responsibility to report on barriers to full implementation of the National Cancer Program and make recommendations to overcome them. Panel members responsible for the 2007–2008 Report were:

LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr., M.D., F.A.C.S., of the Howard University College of Medicine

Margaret L. Kripke, Ph.D., of The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center,

Lance Armstrong, cancer survivor and founder of the Lance Armstrong Foundation

In February 2008, President Bush appointed Joe Torre, a cancer survivor and Los Angeles Dodgers manager to replace Lance Armstrong.

Four in ten people in the United States will develop cancer at some point in their lives. In 2008 more than 1.4 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer and 565,000 will die.

However, despite the growing US burden of cancer, in developing the 2007–2008 recommendations for the President, the Panel pointed out disturbing trends:

A declining cancer research budget

Avoidable inefficiencies and poor collaboration among governmental, voluntary, industry, and academic organizations working on cancer research

Questions about the appropriate focus and emphasis on cancer research in light of current cancer trends

An aging and increasingly sedentary population

A more and more fragmented and unsustainable health care system

An increasing number of uninsured, underinsured, and underserved Americans due to a steady erosion of public and private health care coverage

Continued tobacco use, reduced cancer control funding, and increased tobacco marketing targeting young people, women, and other vulnerable groups

Complacency and a lack of understanding and sense of urgency among policymakers, the research and health communities, and the public about the growing burden of cancer

In their Executive Summary, the Panel challenged Americans and their leaders to make cancer an urgent priority saying,

It no longer is acceptable to say that because cancer is complex, disparities in care are entrenched, and the tobacco companies are powerful, we cannot solve the problem of cancer in America. We can. But to do so, cancer must become a national priority — one that is guided by strong leadership; fueled by adequate funding and productive collaboration and compromise among governments, industry, and institutions; and embraced by individuals who understand and accept their personal role in preventing cancer and in demanding meaningful progress.

I am one of that forty percent of Americans whose life has been touched by cancer — too many times in my own life and that of my family and friends.

I welcome the strong words of the President’s Cancer Panel, and I hope that despite the frightening financial crisis we find ourselves in, the pressure of two costly wars, and a change in Washington leadership, we will listen and learn!

By letting government funding for cancer research stagnate, we are literally eating our seed corn. There is exciting research going on, but it cannot continue without the brains and vision of young researchers. However, as the Panel points out, they are being forced out of cancer research by dwindling funding and lack of opportunities for their careers to grow.

We know how to prevent many colorectal cancers and find others early . . . but millions of Americans cannot access the simplest screening tests because they have no insurance.

Cancer is a war that we can win. I believe that with my whole heart, and I spend many hours each day working on the struggle to win it. I urge you all — citizens, researchers, legislators, President — to join Dr. Leffall, Dr. Kripke, Lance Armstrong, Joe Torre and me in the fight.

 — Scott

We can only LIVESTRONG™ if we’re GODSTRONG™.

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