It is forecast to be “the biggest human gathering on U.S. soil” in history!

It is forecast to be “the biggest human gathering on U.S. soil” in history! And everybody and his brother is headed to the Inauguration (although in our case, my brother’s going and I’m not). Predictions are that between three and five million people will crowd into the heart of the nation’s capital to “watch” as Barak Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States of America on Tuesday, at precisely one minute before noon. And when he is, he will place his right hand upon the gold-trimmed, velvet-bound, metal-rimmed Bible that belonged to what many consider to be America’s greatest president, Abraham Lincoln.

But actually there is no constitutional requirement that a Bible be used for the presidential oath of office. All the Constitution stipulates is that presidents-elect take the oath of office at noon on January 20, and that they repeat the 35-word oath. George Washington chose a Bible, added the words “so help me God,” and kissed the Bible at the end of his oath. Theodore Roosevelt was the only president sworn in without a Bible. And John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president, was sworn in on a Catholic Douay Bible. (

Why the Bible? According to religion scholar Julie Ingersoll the use of the Bible is a “symbolic shout out to the role religion plays in the presidency and implies the actual source of a president’s power.” She observed, "It's establishing the notion that authority comes from God.” ( . . .) The Apostle Paul would not disagree. “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:1 TNIV).

And so if ever the individual occupying the office of the presidential governing authority of this nation needed divine guidance and providential wisdom, it surely would be now. The governmental, economic and social challenges that face our incoming president are gigantic and daunting—both nationally and globally. And while Seventh-day Adventist Christians are unequivocal in their passionate defense of the separation of church and state, it is neither antithetical to that stance nor counterproductive to our traditional disengagement from political alliances for us to be at the forefront of our communities in praying and interceding before God on behalf of our president. “I urge, then, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (I Timothy 2:1, 2).

On behalf of President Obama and his wife Michelle and their two young daughters, Malia and Sasha, let us then join our hearts in prayer, seeking for all four of them the watchful protection of God, interceding for husband and father and president a special measure of divine wisdom for the journey now fraught with such grave consequences. And let us lift our voices to the Supreme Leader of all, that a “mighty door of opportunity” might yet be held open a little longer, so that the passionate and final appeal of God to this civilization might go forth unimpeded before the return of Christ our Lord. Amen.