‘Prayer is a Nonpartisan Activity’

By   •   September 6, 2012

As part of our “America at the Crossroads” series, BGEA writers are reporting from the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, as well as Republican National Convention last week in Tampa.

Q: Tell us why you are here in Charlotte at the Democratic National Convention.

Saiguero: I was invited to give the invocation on the final night of the convention. I think that my task as an evangelical pastor is that when asked to pray, you pray. If asked by Republicans or Democrats, I would come, because for me, prayer is not a partisan activity. It is a calling.

So I come as a pastor to pray that God would guide our nation, that God would protect our nation, and that God would have us follow his purposes as we move forward in this election season—whichever way it goes—and that we would seek God’s wisdom and guidance.

Q: You have a connection to BGEA. Tell us about that.

Saiguero: At the last Billy Graham Crusade in New York City, I actually spoke at one of the pre-Crusade events in Queens to a large, diverse audience of wonderful Christians from throughout the city to encourage them to share their faith and be faithful witnesses.

That was one of the highlights of my ministerial life. I value and treasure Dr. Billy Graham and his ministry. I have videotapes of his old sermons that were given to me on my 20th birthday by my parents. I count it as a highlight to be involved in some small way with the BGEA.

Q: How do the young people at your church feel about the upcoming election?

Saiguero: I think the young people, particularly the 20- to 30-somethings, which is quite a large group, are really passionate about letting their faith in God inform how they vote.  I am nonpartisan. I don’t endorse candidates and never will, but I do tell people, “Let your biblical worldview inform how you vote from the local to the national. The Bible has a lot to say about a lot of issues. Read, do your homework, pray and be deliberate.”

And the youth are passionate about bringing their faith to the public sphere. We talk about it and then we let people decide.

Q: How did you get into ministry and come to know the Lord?

Saiguero: I am a pastor’s kid. My father was a pastor—he had a radical conversion experience. He was a heroin junkie who found the Lord, or the Lord found him, and he went through [the recovery program] Teen Challenge. I learned my faith from my parents. My mother and father taught me the faith. When I was 6, they asked me if I wanted to make a decision for Christ, and I did.

The faith of my parents became my own personal faith and I’ve been a Christian since then. But I rededicated my life and my commitment to Christ when I was older. When I was in college, I thought about pursuing law school, but then heard the Lord say, “no—go into ministry.”

I ran in the opposite direction at first, because my dad and mom were pastors, but then I heard the Lord say, “Go.” And I, with some resistance, went. It has been a great journey. I love people, I love God, I love sharing the Good News. It’s a privilege and God has been good to us—to my wife, my two sons and me.

Q: Can you describe your church?

Saiguero: It is a very mixed demographic. We have worship in three languages—Mandarin, English and Spanish—because we are located in Chinatown. The congregation is pretty evenly divided between Chinese, Latinos and every English-speaking group you can think of—European, African-American. So we try to reach the whole world with the whole Gospel. We are committed to helping young people seek God’s direction for their lives. But we also have older people, young couples and children. So it is a real motley crew of people.

Q: Can you tell us how you personally pray for the nation?

Saiguero: When I pray for the nation, I pray for God’s direction: “Lead us.” We are in absolute need of God’s direction and God’s protection. Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I always pray for the most vulnerable—children, widows, orphans, strangers. I pray that God would lead our leaders independent of their party affiliation, that they would lead with integrity, whether they are Republican or Democrats.

My commitment is to be a pastor to these people and to lend a moral voice. I also pray that we would be civil, that we would—no matter how deeply we disagree—do it with respect and civility, that we do not demonize each other. We are one nation under God, so we need each other.

In the end, no matter who wins, we will have one President. We will have one Congress. We should work together. My role as a pastor is to set a moral tone of saying, “Hey, as Christians we expect our leaders to be civil.” Disagreeing is part of a democracy, but respect one another. Our children are listening. And love. Love is at the core of the Gospel. Love people.

Q: This sounds like how Billy Graham approached his role with U.S. presidents.

Saiguero: Yes!  Billy Graham is really a model for clergy engaging national, political figures and presidents. His model is to love people. Be a pastor. Pray for them. Whether you agree with them or disagree, the Bible calls us to pray for our leaders and pray with our leaders—they need to see that we’re praying.

I am appreciative for the life and legacy of Dr. Graham, his son Franklin, and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. So I am grateful that they are here and that they are praying with and for Republicans and Democrats and the president.

Other Articles in This Series

A Burden for America

Delegates Grapple with Faith Issue

Snapshots of Faith from RNC

Committing Nation and Election to God   

Faith Takes Center Stage at Republican National Convention

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