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?