From the brief "prayer," it appears that we no longer live in the United States of America, but rather the Divided States of America. Our "enemies" are no longer radical fundamentalist terrorism, the ongoing horror of gun violence, poverty, hunger, the scourge of racism and prejudice, issues with education, or trying to recover squandered natural resources (just to name a few, the list goes on), but rather, the "enemy" is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. And the best thing that we can think of doing is "praying against the enemy." Would someone please cue the scene from the popular musical Pippin where Charles (Charlemagne) spends the night before battle against the Visigoths praying for victory in combat, and Pippin asks, "Father, is the Visigoth king praying for victory too?"
Even more disturbing was the notion that God is "giving Donald Trump the words..." (Again, if this happened at the Democratic National Convention, I would have the same kneejerk reaction). There's something troubling about this statement, specifically in light of this week's Torah portion, Parashat Balak. King Balak of Moab is upset that the Israelites are marching through his territory and he hires the soothsayer Balaam to curse them. But on three separate occasions, when Balaam opens his mouth to curse the Israelites, he finds that he can only offer blessings and he says, "I can utter only the word that God puts in to my mouth."
I have this creepy, yucky feeling flowing through me right now. The notion that God controls what we say and how we say it, or that God puts words in our mouths (or in the mouths of political candidates) is truly discomfiting. We find this notion contained elsewhere in the Torah where God "hardens Pharaoh's heart," or in the Pesach Haggadah where we ask God to pour out wrath and "blazing anger" upon those nations who do not know God's name.
But for my money, for one who realizes that we must be discerning and selective in which parts of our tradition(s) we affirm, it remains clear to me that where we use God as an instrument against our "enemies," we diminish ourselves. We diminish the sense of what it means to be created in God's image. Where we claim that God is putting words in our mouths without taking responsibility for the impact of our own words and actions, we abuse the meaning of being in covenant, in sacred partnership with God.
Prayer in Jewish tradition, tefilah, from the reflexive l'hitpaleil means, "to judge oneself" or perhaps "to engage in critical self-reflection." What would it have meant for Pastor Mark Burns to seize an opportunity to say, "God, we turn to you in this moment of prayer, where the eyes of so many people in this convention, and around the world, are focusing on Donald Trump. Give him strength and courage God. Help him to reflect on his abilities to lead these United States of America, help him to craft a vision based on compassion and sincerity, help him to build alliances within our government and throughout our world, leading with vision that will help all of us, regardless of our ethnicity, religious background, economic status, or political views to live by the best of the values of our country." (among other things...)
We certainly may not be able right now to look at our country, and look at our world and utter the words of this week's Torah portion, mah tovu o'halecha Ya'akov, mish'k'notecha Yisrael - how beautiful are your tents Jacob, your dwelling places Israel. Our world remains a broken place. But prayer should never be used to bring someone down; it should only be used to elevate. Last night's "invocation" serves as a painful reminder that we should use prayer to strengthen our resolve, to offer hope for our leaders, and perhaps most importantly, to bring the best that is within us to the surface, so that we might be positive agents of change, partnering with God in our ongoing work to repair our world with acts of love, compassion, and justice.
 Numbers 22:2-25:9.
 Numbers 22:38.
 cf Exodus 7, et al.
 Sh'foch chamatcha, p. 114 "A Night to Remember: The Haggadah of Contemporary Voices," based on Psalms 79:6-7, Psalms 69:25, and Lamentations 3:66.
 Genesis 1:28.
 Numbers 24:5.