Citizenship Confusion: Praying for those in Power

During the pastoral prayer this past Sunday, the reverend at my church prayed that God would grant the leaders of our country wisdom (or, something to the same effect). And, it startled me.

I knew it was biblical to pray for those in authority, but this prayer sounded so foreign compared to the language and rhetoric that is so often used by Christians (myself included) in political discourse. He did not pray for wisdom for the Republican leaders or the Democrat leaders, or the Tea Party, or the President, he prayed for those in authority.

The biblical basis for this prayer is in 1 Timothy 2:1-4:

First of all, then, 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 Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

It is hard for me to imagine what the Christian political conversation would sound like if the church was truly committed to following this command, because our prayers would (re)form. If we offered thanksgivings for all our leaders, could we mock them with political jokes? If we offered supplications, for wisdom, guidance, justice, righteousness, on behalf of our leaders, could we slander them and hope that their policies failed? Could we easily believe false rumors about them? Could we truly hate them?

Consider the rest of this passage. Paul tells Timothy that he is to offer these prayers so that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life. Is our political involvement peaceful? Do we seek a quiet life, or do we desire to be well-known and important? Is our political discourse dignified and godly?

These are all difficult questions, and I certainly squirm under the weight of their conviction, but as citizens of heaven, I believe that we must allow these verses to form us through prayer. The process of acknowledging to God that God wants us to be thankful for our authorities, He wants us to offer supplications on their behalf, He wants us to essentially bless them, even if they are dictators (or kings), will alter our attitude towards them.

This, of course, does not mean that we cannot offer legitimate and just criticism, but it does mean that we must be able to offer this criticism while still offering thanks. And it means that we must truly hope all things for those in authority. Rather than believe that our country can only be saved if certain politicians are removed from power, we should be offering supplications on their behalf, intercessions, praying that God would give them wisdom and a sincere desire for justice and righteousness. Can you imagine what the Christian political discourse would sound like if we took 1 Timothy seriously?

About Alan Noble

(Co-Founder/Editor/Columnist) is a part-time lecturer at Baylor University. He received his PhD in Contemporary American Literature from Baylor, writing on manifestations of transcendence in 20th Century American Lit. He and his family attend Redeemer Waco, a PCA church. Alan's passion is studying how believers can be a faithful presence in culture to the glory of God and the edification of others. In addition to editing, Alan writes his column, Citizenship Confusion for CaPC.

---Follow Alan on Twitter @TheAlanNoble and on Facebook.

---For questions, comments, or interest in speaking engagements please email me at noble.noneuclidean [at] gmail [dot] com.

  • http://electexiles.wordpress.com/ Drew Dixon

    You don’t really call him a “reverend” do you? That is such a weird title.

  • Rich

    I find it interesting that it startled you. This sort of prayer is a part of the Anglican liturgy, specifically a part of the Great Litany which is a long prayer that covers many topics that many churches pray every Sunday:

    “That it may please thee so to rule the hearts of thy servants,
    the President of the United States (or of this nation), and all
    others in authority, that they may do justice, and love mercy,
    and walk in the ways of truth,
    We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.”

    You can find this in the Book of Common Prayer (which is readable online @bcponline.org)

  • http://goodokbad.com/ Seth T. Hahne

    I call mine “the speech-maker.”

  • Alan Noble

    I dont think it startled me because it was foreign to the pastoral prayer, but because it was foreign to my conversations outside the church.

  • http://electexiles.wordpress.com/ Drew Dixon

    @Seth that is funny because we recently had someone visit our church who described our pastor in that very way, “You guys have a good speech-maker.”

  • Carol

    I’ve been stunned plenty of times during church by my pastor’s very obvious (right ward) political leanings. I believe I would be startled if I heard him pray the same way.

    But the Bible teaches truth, and we are called to follow God’s Word for our life especially in our relationships with others. Even those we don’t know or don’t agree with.


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