Summary: We are commanded to pray for all people, even for kings. Were the people of God to obey this command, we could change our world, and in the process, honour God.
“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. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Apparently, one of the most difficult commands of all Scripture is that which commands Christians to pray for “all who are in high positions.” At least, that is the obvious conclusion, if the paucity of public prayers for government officials, or even prayers for those who direct our great corporations and businesses, is any indication. Perhaps we fail to pray for such people because we have become so clearly polarised politically, attributing unworthy motives to those with whom we disagree.
Though I do not suggest withdrawal from the political process, I must remind the people of God that though we are not of the world, we are nevertheless in the world. We are responsible to live in such a way that we serve as salt in a decaying world and as light in the midst of a darkened world. It is our presence as Christians that delays the progress of moral and ethical rot through righteous lives and through exercising godly discernment as we participate in the selection of national, provincial and municipal leaders. We reveal the grace of God through holy and godly lives that reflect the love of God and we thus create a desire for goodness in others who witness our righteous demeanour.
The message this day seeks to lay a foundation for “religious liberty.” Religious liberty is the doctrine that asserts mankind’s freedom to worship according to the dictates of the heart—a freedom the state is charged to protect. The tendency in recent years appears to witness states intruding ever more deeply into the realm of the Faith, seeking to compel agreement with and practise of an unspoken, though nevertheless very real, state religion of niceness and quiet tolerance of every deviant behaviour. Addressing the Southern Baptist Convention, the former American Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, spoke of the necessity to protect religious freedom. Ms. Rice stated her conviction that “people everywhere are entitled to religious liberty.” Later, she followed that statement with the affirmation that “government simply has no right to stand between the individual, and the Almighty.” Each true Baptist would utter a hearty “Amen.”
How may we change the situation in which we find ourselves? How can we transform government, assuring freedom to worship as we believe right? The answer provided in Scripture gives no comfort to those who wish to organise a noisy march or a raucous demonstration; the answer given in the Word of God debars us from even imagining that we can castigate government or speak ill of those who give their time to direct the affairs of state. Instead, what we discover in Scripture is that we are responsible to change government—one prayer at a time.