Matney: Let us pray for our leaders
As of this writing, Joe Biden has been declared the new President of the United States, but there are court cases pending to challenge that. But regardless of who the next president is, the Bible encourages us to pray for God to help and guide those in leadership so they will lead fairly.
The apostle Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 2:1-2, “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.” The Living Bible paraphrase says it this way: “Pray much for others; plead for God’s mercy upon them; give thanks for all he is going to do for them. Pray in this way for kings and all others who are in authority over us, or are in places of high responsibility.”
I would like to unpack these verses of scripture just a little. First, notice there is an urgency in Paul’s directives: I urge, then, first of all, pray. The exhortation is, “Before you do anything else, pray for your leaders.” We can do more than pray, but until we sincerely pray for our leaders, we need to be careful what we say and do. We urgently need God’s love, compassion, gentleness, kindness, wisdom, guidance and direction in what we say, how we say it, and what we do.
Exodus 22:28 says we must not curse God or a ruler of our people. In Jude 1:8-10 we are warned to not reject authority or speak evil of dignitaries. We’re told that even Michael the archangel would not revile or slander the prince of evil, Satan himself. Michael left Satan up to God’s judgement. So, we too must be careful not to slander our leaders, but rather, as Paul said, pray for them and give thanks for them. Let us do this first, before any other activism.
Over the years, through many different administrations, I’ve felt it was my sacred responsibility and privilege to pray for our leaders at the national, state and local levels and in our churches and other community organizations. And, even though I’ve not always agreed with them, I do pray for blessing, wisdom, protection, mercy and guidance for them. They carry a lot of responsibility and it is urgent we pray for them. They need our prayers.
Praying for those in authority may not make them a better leader, in our opinion, but it will make us a better person. Compassionately praying for our leaders will better prepare us to speak truth to power and bring God’s healing love into our hurting nation.
Next, notice the verse tells us to give thanks for our leaders. This can certainly be difficult when we whole-heartedly disagree with them, but scripture reminds us in Romans 13:1 that, “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.” We can be thankful that God has chosen them, even though we don’t understand why.
We can give thanks for them, not as a personal feeling, but simply as a matter of principle and as disciplined obedience to God. Ultimately, we may be able to see them with compassion as a fellow human being who needs God’s love, acceptance and forgiveness just as we do, and as we give thanks for our fellowman, we become better human beings ourselves.
Finally, I would point out from these verses in 1 Timothy that Paul said to pray for kings and all those in authority. In Paul’s day, kings were absolute rulers and Nero was the Emperor of Rome. Kings could be very narcissistic and Nero was not a godly man, and yet Paul said to pray for all leaders in authority. The apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:18, “Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.” So, though we feel our leaders are ungodly and unreasonable, we are called to pray for God’s wisdom, guidance, direction and help for them.
Jesus said the same thing in Matthew 5:44. He said, “love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” If we’re to love, bless, do good and pray that for those who curse us, use us and persecute us, how much more should we do that for those who need the wisdom to lead our nation?
A final note: Paul finishes his exhortation to pray for our leaders by saying, “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” If each one of us would follow Paul’s exhortation and Jesus’ teaching to pray for our leaders, we would experience greater peace and quiet in our own mental health and in our families, schools, work places, community and nation. Let us pray for our leaders.