Editor’s Note: The following was taken from the lesson that I prepared and taught for September 20, 2020. The first 8 verses of 1 Timothy had been supplied as the lesson text and some thoughts, but not the detailed content. (I enjoy the opportunity to develop a lesson on my own from the text, though, reading the Bible itself, as well as Bible commentaries.) It seemed fitting, though, that we encountered a verse about praying for government leaders, in this time when the U.S. is embroiled in what I think can accurately be described as “election cacophony”.
Here are a couple of verses that are probably getting shared a lot these days on social media by those who see the events surrounding the U.S. election, and desperately want to bring God’s will to bear (or else fear that the current situation may be God’s discipline on a nation who has not sought His will). I say “probably” because I actually don’t have any social media accounts, as a decision our family made to protect our teenage kids.
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
1 Timothy 2:1-2 NIV
To be clear, I have no desire to get political here (or on this site in general). I would rather focus on what all people need to know about Jesus, since that’s a lot more clear to me than political science. As we learn about Jesus and His teaching, and as we listen to the Holy Spirit (after we have chosen to follow Jesus), I know that we can find all of the answers for how to respond to – and perhaps even become involved in – both the politics and the discourse of our day.
So, I applaud those who refer their Facebook followers back to this passage. I think that we can all agree that now is a good time to pray for leaders. This includes world leaders, as well as leaders of our nation, state, and city. I think that people in authority here probably includes leaders of businesses and schools, too. I’m certain that we should pray for those who lead in the church. We should probably even pray for those who write articles like this one.
As you know, in today’s contentious political environment, we are sometimes told to essentially hate everyone who doesn’t agree with us, especially in government. However, in this passage, Paul doesn’t make these prayers for authority contingent on the recipient’s choices, claims, or character. In fact, if you think that praying for certain people in authority is difficult, the Christian Standard (cited below) reminds us that the current emperor of Rome when Paul wrote this letter was Nero! If Paul can pray for Nero, I know that we can pray for our leaders, whether we agree with them or not.
What sorts of prayers can we pray for our leaders, though?
- We can pray for their salvation, if the fruit of their words and lives indicates that they don’t yet know Jesus.
- We can pray for their growth in their walk with Jesus, if they profess Him as their Lord and Savior.
- We can pray for their wisdom in leading. Many decisions in these roles of authority require more insight than the currently-available facts. Leadership choices, especially when choosing between options that appear to be equally good or equally difficult, often need God’s insight to know what path will be best in the long run.
And, I think that we can pray that their actions will let the gospel of Jesus Christ spread. Paul mentions the ability to live “peaceful and quiet lives”, and I think that we would all appreciate the opportunity to worship without persecution. (Having said that, those who follow Jesus under persecution are probably stronger in their faith and rely on Him more than those who live in comfort and external peace. So, consider what you are really praying for.)
For what it’s worth, the latter part of this verse is generally what I pray for with respect to leaders in our country: peace.
Paul doesn’t tell us to pray that rulers would do our work for us, though. We must never expect legislation or laws to take the place of our personal obligations to tell people about Jesus, help believers grow in their faith, and continue to invest in our own spiritual health. I’m proud of those in our country who established freedoms from following a state religion, so a constitution that promotes following Jesus isn’t bad. It’s just not a substitute for the ministry of the church, making disciples like Jesus commanded His followers to.
So, please pray for the leaders of your country, region, town, and community today. (And, if you live outside of the United States, we would appreciate your prayers, as well.) God works through all kinds of leaders, but if Paul can pray for Nero, we have no excuse not to pray for our leaders as well.
- Christian Standard, Volume CLV, Number 9, pages 86-88. © 2020 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.