God can and does lead believers to vote for particular candidates. But that doesn't mean Spirit-filled believers all will vote for the same candidate.
That's the Election Day conclusion of several pastors who have devoted themselves to prayer and seeking spiritual awakening through the years.
"Christians have to really decide: In this election, do I really believe God can give me wisdom?" Arkansas pastor Bill Elliff told Baptist Press. "He says in James 1, 'If you lack wisdom' -- we could add 'about which candidate to vote for' -- 'then ask God and He will give it to you.'"
Elliff, senior teaching pastor at The Summit Church in North Little Rock, Ark., said God leads His people in their voting decisions the same way He leads them in other decisions: through the "three lighthouses" of His Word, His Spirit and His church.
By studying Scripture, individuals learn God's priorities that should be reflected in their voting, said Elliff, director of the ONECRY prayer and revival campaign's pastors' initiative. Through "walking by the Spirit" and dedicating themselves to prayer, Christians can receive "a sense of ought-ness" from the Holy Spirit. And by seeking counsel from godly people, believers can receive added wisdom in their voting decisions.
At times, however, sincere believers consult the "three lighthouses" and vote for different candidates, Elliff said. One reason for that is sin's effect in the political arena, giving rise to character flaws in candidates and making "everything more confusing."
Dan Biser, a West Virginia pastor and prayer leader, warned that personal sin at times can obscure a voter's ability to discern God's will.
Voters tend to "fall back on their own selfish choices -- what do I want?" Biser, pastor of Fox's Hollow Baptist Church in Romney, W.Va., told BP. "Very rarely is it ever asked, 'What does the Lord want?'"
Even with flawed candidates and complex issues to consider, "if the individual goes into the election booth and is honestly seeking the Lord, the Lord won't fail to give them guidance by the Holy Spirit," said Biser, who has hosted several Broken Before the Throne prayer conferences.
Iowa pastor Dave Miller, who serves as president of the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors' Conference, cited Romans 14 to explain why Spirit-filled believers can end up voting for different candidates in the same election.
Like the Roman Christians held different beliefs about Sabbath observance and dietary regulations yet all acted "for the honor of the Lord" (Romans 14:6), contemporary believers can arrive at different convictions about voting without anyone's being in sin, said Miller, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa.
Believers are not free to disagree on moral principles taught in Scripture like the sanctity of life and the need to combat racism, Miller said. Different cultural perspectives, however, can lead Christians to weight those issues differently in their voting calculus and thus cast their ballots for different candidates.
"Our upbringing, our race, our family and our experiences" all affect our voting patterns, Miller said. "We can all love Jesus, but we're not all immediately conformed to one opinion on every issue. It's just the nature of it. I don't think it's sin."
John Avant, a Tennessee pastor and student of spiritual awakenings, told BP God may lead believers to different conclusions about voting in this year's presidential election to help them realize national revival will not come through an election.
"Perhaps one of the things the Lord is trying to do in this [election] is to center God's people around tomorrow, not today," said Avant, pastor of First Baptist Concord in Knoxville, Tenn. "Elections and presidents come and go, and the Kingdom of God endures forever."
David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP (bpnews.net) reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.