Praying for our world leaders is something that is extremely necessary during these tense times that we live in. But exactly how do we pray for our government officials if the issues that they are proposing are in direct contrast to our personal belief system?
It seemed relatively easy for most Christians to support and pray during the past Bush administration. However, there appears to be a struggle within the hearts of some believers to authentically and contritely support our current President and his administration because of their "personal faith" and "political issues".
This to me, is highly hypocritical. The scripture doesn't support favoritism in prayer. Believers like these, are again standing out as "two-faced".
Most Christians that effectively pray for world leaders have sound knowledge of the scriptures. They approach God with more than a complaint or disagreement about a political platform. They initiate prayer by both the pattern and the spirit of scripture.
The basic premise to pray for our world leaders is outlined in 1Timothy. Prior to his execution, the Apostle Paul living under the rule of Nero (who would feed Christians to lions) writes,
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior …” (1Timothy 2:1-4)
We rightfully use these verses as a model for corporate prayer. But beneath the flow and variety of prayer that Paul introduces, there is a motive of godly intention that is much more relevant and important than the model itself – that being, Paul’s clear conviction of God’s omniscient sovereignty. Paul’s background of Judaism taught him that God placed kings and rulers in set places as He desired.
“He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings” (Daniel 2:21)
Paul diligently studied and advanced past his peers regarding the scriptures.
“I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions” (Galatians 1:14)
He was well aware that in the Old Testament, when the Jews would go into captivity, it was because God was divinely chastening them. Throughout the ages, Israel spent hard time under the Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians and Babylonians. Their sentence would only be complete once they returned back to God. A prayer meeting that would call for the removal or correction of kings in office because of their “political or theological” perspective would have been meaningless and in direct contrast to God’s sovereign wisdom and will. In addition to that, when the Jews were under the headship of a "God chosen king", it would be contemptuous for the men to gather in prayer and request that God judge and remove the authority that He had placed over them. We just don't see that kind of behavior. On the contrary, David modeled godly order and loyalty by highly supporting King Saul, even though Saul was both disobedient and often times in God's way. It's seems evident that the Apostle Paul was aligned with David's protocol of submission to authority. It appears that Paul was more apt to support God’s divine decisions in prayer, rather than strive with them.
“Woe to him who strives with his Maker!” (Isaiah 45:9)
In the natural, it would have been totally acceptable and politically noteworthy if Paul commanded Timothy to pray Nero out of office or pray that Nero’s agenda would fail. However, Paul refuses to do either. He states that we should “pray” for these men to succeed and not to be spiritually corrected or purged from office.
In the following century, an apologist by the name of Tertullian, followed the same spiritual tone as Paul did. His writings to the early church are in unison with Paul’s apostolic instruction.
“Christians do not engage in the foolish worship of the emperors. They do better: they pray for them. Christians can afford to be put to torture and to death, and the more they are cast down the more they grow; the blood of the martyrs is seed.”
Tertullian, like Paul and Christ, made it clear that the priority was not on the efficiency of an earthly kingdom but on an eternal kingdom – which the reward of the martyrs would verify. Even Christ made it clear when He said, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36).
Tertullian goes on to say,
“We pray for all the emperors, that God may grant them long life, a secure government, a prosperous family, vigorous troops, a faithful senate, an obedient people; that the whole world may be in peace; and that God may grant, both to Caesar and to every man, the accomplishment of their just desires.”
Tertullian’s prayer is unusually different – unlike the prayers that we hear today. Possibly because much of the American conservative church is self righteous … they have lost their fear of God along with their reverence for His chosen kings. Pride drives much of our contemporary prayer meetings. Pleads to “remove, overturn, purge, replace and judge” are catchwords that encircle the names of our modern day leaders. Hearing a tone like this can be quite appealing to your flesh – especially if the elected official’s views are in contrast to your own; however, God is not in such prayers.
Other martyrs like Cyprian, the Bishop of Carthage (249AD) also concurred with Paul and Tertullian’s scope of prayer. Immediately prior to his execution, Cyprian defended himself before the Roman proconsul, he said, “We pray to God, not only for ourselves, but for all mankind; and particularly for the emperors.”
I’m not certain where these men caught the idea of proper reverence in prayer, perhaps it was passed down throughout the ages by men like Daniel. While under the Babylonian rule and King Nebuchadnezzar said,
“And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings” (Daniel 2:21)
Or the psalmist that stated, “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3)
It will remain unknown as to where these men of God caught their vision for spirit led prayer. We can only look back in awe as to the price that it cost them – their very lives. They were not consumed with fixing an earthly government whose king would continue to limp and falter, they were too busy serving the King of Kings.
As for the church today, there are several lessons that we can learn from our error of prayer.
1) Any man that prays for a current elected official to be removed, replaced or taken out is essentially rebelling against God’s divine installment of that office – the scriptures are void of such a practice
2) Once a man develops a habit of disrespect towards God’s anointed (our current President), it will be just a matter of time before that same man holds contempt, distrust, and disrespect for every other leader that falls underneath the highest office in our land
3) A continued lack of supportive prayer for God’s officials will eventually cause internal bleeding to the one who has judged instead of prayed. Eventually, that man will be weakened and fall to the same criticisms that he once maintained against God’s anointed
In closing, if you continue to struggle with our President’s agenda, rather than condemning his elected seat of office, please consider praying after the spirit of this following prayer, taken from Prayers that Avail Much.
Father, thank you for the United States and its government … I pray for President Obama, the national and local government, our judges, our military and all those who are in leadership positions in this country. Please protect them from the evil that is in the world and keep them safe and free from all harm.
I also pray that you give the men and women in leadership positions the understanding, wisdom and ability to keep this country in your Will. I ask that you guide the president’s heart and cause him to make decisions that will promote godliness. Please keep evil and wicked men from influencing our president and his cabinet. Keep his office based on things that are scriptural and near to your heart.
I pray for the Supreme Court. I ask that the men and women that hold the seat of justice there make righteous judgments, that they reach just and fair conclusions. Help the judges to inquire diligently, that they may make godly and sound decisions. Turn their hearts to change past decisions and make new decisions that uphold goodness and godliness in our nation.
I ask that you cause the leaders of this country to make decisions that increase the integrity of our nation. Grant them the wisdom and insight needed to deal with this nation’s finances and foreign policy, that you may cause us to prosper and be a blessing to other nations.
May your Word multiply in our nation’s capital so that our leaders may be better able to cooperate with your plan and purpose.