Pray for your country’s leaders (a meditation)

God’s people should make petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings on behalf of all people—on behalf of kings, and all who hold high office, so that we may lead a tranquil and peaceful life in all godliness and holiness. ~1 Timothy 2:1-2

It’s Summer of 2016, and here in the United States we find ourselves in the midst of another heated political battle. Some days it seems the country has never been more divided. Some days it seems that individual political parties have never seen so much internal turmoil. But really, historically, there’s nothing new under the sun (Solomon, Ecclesiastes).

Politics have always been heated and the issues complex. Some politicians have fared better than others at navigating the opinions and felt needs of a diverse population base while remaining popular. Opinionated news media and social networking where anyone can say what they want with little thought rarely helps.

As citizens of the United States, we have a great privilege that much of the world has not shared: we can vote for a person based on our convictions, beliefs, and conscious. We might not agree with everything a candidate does, but we do get to cast a vote and we get to do so without feeling threatened by a dictatorial governing force.

And if we are followers of Jesus, as citizens of heaven, we have a greater privilege, in fact a greater duty: to pray for those in charge.

Paul told young Timothy to teach the people in the church to pray in various ways “on behalf of all people.” Since we can’t realistically know the prayer needs of billions of people, there is some obvious generality to this command. We have people who are family, neighbors, friends, co-workers, and classmates who we do know well and we can pray for specifically and regularly.

But how do we pray for “all people”?

One way that Paul went on to specify was to pray for the governing authorities. With our news outlets and social media, it is far easier for us to become skeptical and angry toward those in government than it is to pray for them. Yet, the Bible calls us to be different than what we see on the news or Facebook.

It doesn’t matter if we like a politician or not, it doesn’t matter if we agree with their positions or not, and it doesn’t matter if their last name is Bush, Obama, Clinton, Ryan, or Pelosi. We are to pray.

The reason we pray is for the good of the people of our land. Paul said it was  good thing for us to be able to live “tranquil and peaceful” lives and especially as Christians in our pursuit of “godliness and holiness.” Paul went on to say as well that this is good as we seek the salvation of others, because God desires all people to be saved from the greatest of kings to the humblest of servants (2:3-4).

So, we must pray.

We are to pray for the character of the political leaders. Better to be led by men and women of honesty and integrity than by those who lack. We are to pray for wisdom in leadership. Better to be led by those who are able to discern well the direction of the age and offer real solutions than by those who can’t see what’s likely to come and cause great problems. We are to pray for leaders who listen well. The Bible tells us to be slow to speak and quick to listen, so better to be led by those who will take the time to listen to different views and opposing sides, as well as their own constituents, and then work to develop solutions that are best for all.

And, since we as Christians believe that the hope of the gospel and the love of God are for people of all backgrounds, ages, social class, education, etc., we are to pray for the salvation of those in charge. Not that they would use religion merely as a platform to appeal to certain people, but to see true life change. It is better to see another join us in God’s family and better to be led by someone who knows the grace of God and has a genuine love and concern for all people, then someone who caters to just a small group that can benefit him or her.

Let us pray, then, for our president, senators, representatives, governors, and others in government office, in the hope that they will make a greater, more positive impact in our country and world.

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.

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