Like a lot of people, I am very interested in national politics. I keep up with the news, especially the 2012 Presidential election. My basic political philosophy matches fairly closely with the following words of Thomas Jefferson:
“The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first.”
I must confess that I find it very easy to take an oppositional position to some of these men, and take pleasure in their difficulties. It’s great fun to discuss their hypocrisies with friends, and revel in stories by pundits on TV or radio about how incompetent some of our leaders really are. But wait a minute, bibleguy, what does God’s Word say a Christian’s attitude should be toward our government officials? Let’s read 1 Timothy 2:1-4.
“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, 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. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (NIV)
Paul is saying that we should pray for our leaders for two reasons. First, we Christians want to be able to live quiet, peaceful lives. Second, we pray for them because God wants all men to be saved, even politicians.
I’d like to delve into the first reason a little bit.
Praying for our political leaders is no easy thing to do, especially if you follow the news and read about the schemes and scams some are pulling. This, however, is nothing unique to our time and place.
When Paul wrote these words, it was very likely during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero, who persecuted the early Christians. Among the atrocities for which he is remembered is his practice of burning the bodies of Christians in his garden in order to provide light in the evening. Now there’s a guy who probably didn’t have many people praying for him.
Our leaders, of course, are not in that category, but my point is that Paul was fully aware of the evil acts that can be committed by some people in power, and yet he says to pray for them.
Do we pray for our government officials so that we can have the best possible government? Do we pray for a government that will provide us with all the protections and benefits our country can afford? Do we pray for the strongest army, the best schools, protection from criminals, superior health care, and benefits for the elderly and disabled? Should our prayers ask for our leaders to create laws to correct injustices that are in place in our society?
These are all positive things for citizens, but Paul says we pray for our leaders, “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
The reason we pray for them is because it is in the general welfare of our people that we have good government. We pray that God will use these men and women to do His will. We make supplication that these people will protect us from the various dangers that surround us, and make wise decisions. We ask that those who are directly affected by the leader’s actions will be helped, not harmed. We give thanks for the benefits and blessings that we have already received from our leaders, because, after all, there is good, as well as bad.
Good leaders and good government are an aid to us as we go about the business of leading a Christian life. We can be most effective in getting the leaders we need by prayer.
A sign in the front yard saying, “Vote for Fred, He’s Our Guy” is O.K., but our focus is on the spiritual, not the political. We place our faith in God to provide for us, not the President. We pray that God selects and uses our leaders to do His will, and allows us to live simply and in peace.
Hopefully, we will be blessed with good leaders and responsible government, but in any case, we will follow the rules of our nation, and we will also pray for our leaders. Our faith is in God, and that is where our time, effort, devotion, loyalty, and prayers are directed.
“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16 NIV)