Summary: Sometimes we may be frustrated with our political system, with what our leaders do while in office, with our government as a whole. Yet, God calls us to obey the law, pray for our leaders, and above all, follow God.
Praying for Politicians
NASA recently reported it has received a record high number of 18,000 applications for its astronaut training program. NASA said it shows a growing interest in space exploration. Then people said, "Nah, we just wanna get off the planet before this election” (Jimmy Fallon). This year’s presidential election has been absolutely crazy. We have two candidates who are both large on personality, to say the least. Sometimes we may find ourselves so bitterly opposed to one candidate, and sometimes so frustrated with our own candidate. We may think our vote doesn’t matter. Yet, God’s word calls us to action when it comes to politicians and the government. We are called to do three specific things. First, God says to...
1. Obey the law. The verses that we read responsively from Romans chapter 13 tell us to be “subject to the governing authorities,” explaining, “There is no authority except that which God has established.” And then, in case we missed it, Paul says again, “The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:1). Thus he concludes, if you rebel against authority, you are rebelling against God.
Christians of all people should be law-abiding citizens. We should give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, as Jesus taught (Matthew 22:21). One pastor quipped, “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and not a penny more!” We should pay our taxes, as the rest of Romans 13 tells us (Romans 13:6-7). We should not speed. (I’m still working on that one.) We should view our government workers as ministers, as the British government calls them. They are doing God’s work, whether they realize it or not.
Do they always get it right? Of course not. Politicians are sinners. Government bureaucracies are full of sinners, which means they are full of sin. Anywhere you have fallen humans you have sin, even in the church. Yet, God tells us to obey our leaders as long as it doesn’t conflict with our obedience of God.
Think about Paul’s setting here. He lived during the reign of Nero, a Roman emperor known for his tyranny. Nero murdered his own mother, possibly his brother-in-law, and countless Christian believers. You can imagine how new Christians might think themselves above the law with such an evil person in charge. Yet Paul still told the people to obey their government authorities when it did not directly conflict with obeying God.
We don’t see the big picture. We don’t know what God is up to behind the scenes. In the Old Testament, God worked through evil nations such as the Assyrians and Babylonians to bring Israel to her knees. God worked through Persia to bring further conviction. In Isaiah 45:1 God calls the Persian King “God’s anointed,” the same word for “Messiah.” Even during captivity under a pagan nation, God was still at work behind the scenes to bring about his master plan. God is still at work in our nation and world today, even when we don’t see it.
Obey the law, submit to the government authorities over you. When they get it right and when they don’t, in either case, do the next thing, and that is to...
2. Pray for your leaders. In 1 Timothy 2 Paul says to pray for everyone, but then he specifically mentions “kings and those in authority.” Pray for the mayor, pray for your state and national Congressional leaders, pray for your governor, pray for your judges, local, state, and national. Pray for your president, whether you voted for him or not. Pray for the members of Cabinet. Pray for your pastor. Pray for the Blue Skies CEO, the Board of Directors, the Ambassadors, and especially the Food Selection Committee! (What a tough job!) Pray for your church board members. Pray for everyone you can think of, and particularly those in authority.
How do you pray? Paul mentions four ways: first, petitions, or asking for things; second, intercession, or asking for people, praying specifically for the needs of other people; third, thanksgiving; and fourth, prayers, which includes everything else. So you can pray for everyone, either a prayer of thanksgiving or a prayer of petition, “Help them, Lord!” It reminds me of the sage advice an African American preacher once gave me. You know how the people in an African American church get into the sermon? And they get into the prayers? It’s very active, audience participatory worship. Well, this pastor said it’s all well and good, but to take special note if you hear, during your sermon, “Help him, Lord! Help him, Lord!” You know you’re in trouble then.
What happens when you pray for leaders? 1 Timothy 2:2 tells us that we then get to “live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” Things go smoother for us. We are blessed, because God answers our prayers and helps our leaders to lead better.