If there’s one thing that Christians struggle with, it’s prayer. No Christian that I know would say, “I’ve mastered prayer.” Even after spending much time with Jesus, his disciples still asked, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). There is always room for growth when it comes to praying and petitioning our great God.
One of the things I often encourage the people of our church to do is pray the prayers of the Bible. Pray the Psalms, pray the Lord’s Prayer, pray the prayers of Paul, or just pray Scripture itself. However, there are categories that we can use in order to guide and aid our prayer times. Rather than trying to pray for anything and everything, aim to be more specific in prayer.
In this post, I want to look at how to pray for our governing authorities. The apostle Paul writes, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
In this passage, Paul moves from the general to the specific. Yes, pray for “all people,” but pray in a special way for those who are in “high positions.” Why? So that “we may lead a peaceful and quiet life.” In other words, pray that our governing authorities faithfully fulfill their God-given calling to uphold what is good and punish what is evil. This is the substance of what Paul writes in Romans 13:1-7. As he puts it, “he (the king) does not bear the sword in vain” (13:4 cf: 1 Peter 2:14). No one wants to live in a chaotic and rebellious society where the rule of law is not upheld.
But Paul gives a further reason for praying for those in high positions – that believers might lead a “godly and dignified” life. There are times where it is appropriate to exercise civil disobedience (Acts 4:19, 5:29), but our hope and desire is always to follow the commands of Christ while also submitting to governing authorities. Peter writes, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people” (1 Peter 2:13-15). Our desire as Christians is that “obedience to Christ” would be in harmony with “obedience to the emperor.” Often that is not the case, but the direction of our prayers should be to that end.
By now, I hope you see the critical importance of praying for our governing authorities. What is interesting is that Paul and Peter were writing their New Testament letters around the time of Emperor Nero. Those of you who know your history will remember that Nero was one of the most brutal and tyrannical of Rome’s many emperors, and no friend of Christians. This may be shocking to us, but it is simply in keeping with the words of Jesus, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). You might not be a big fan of your governor or premier or senator, but pray for them nonetheless.
There are many ways to pray for governing authorities. Obviously, we can pray for God-given wisdom to make decisions and to write policies and legislation that is in keeping with Scripture and biblical values. As I write this, President Trump has tested positive for COVID-19 within the last week, so we can pray for his health and a swift recovery. Pray also for the salvation of our governing authorities. It is God’s desire that these leaders repent and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4). Pray that they would see the infinite love of Jesus in giving Himself for lost sinners. Lastly, pray that God would use the kings of this earth to bring glory to His great name.
Never forget who the true Sovereign really is. “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He will” (Proverbs 21:1). “The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom He will” (Daniel 4:17). Always remember that our God is on the throne! He is the true Sovereign and none can compare (Psalm 93:1). However, let’s also remember that He uses kings and rulers to accomplish his eternal decrees. Part of our responsibility is to pray for them.
May we be about our Master’s business and not be negligent in this aspect of prayer.