Praying for Political Leaders from “The Other Side”
Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.
Yesterday, I offered a reflection in light of the celebration of Independence Day in the United States. Focusing on a passage from 1 Timothy, I encouraged us to pray for our leaders, and then offered a prayer for my leaders. Today’s reflection is a P.S. to what I wrote yesterday.
As Senior Pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, where I served from 1991 through 2007, I regularly prayed in worship services for our political leaders. During my tenure at the church, that meant I prayed for Presidents Bush, Clinton, and Bush (W). Usually, in the midst of my pastoral prayer, I would say something like, “We pray for our leaders, for President Bush and his administration, for the Congress and the courts, etc. etc.” (I never tried the Episcopal approach of praying for the president by first name, though I have found this quite intriguing.) I could have prayed for the president without naming him, but using the name seemed right to me. (I did not mention all members of Congress by name, as you might imagine, but did pray for “John” by first name when he, a church member, became our congressman.)
When we had transitions in administrations (in 1993 and 2001), it felt a little strange to say a different name in my prayers (Clinton rather than Bush, Bush rather than Clinton). I wanted to be sure I didn’t mess up and say the wrong name! In both transitional times, I heard from a few people in the church who were unhappy with me. For example, when I started praying for President Bush in 2001, one man was angry because he despised George W. Bush. He was offended by the inclusion of his name in our worship service. This got me wondering: How can we as Christians pray for “the other side” politically?
In part, the answer to this question comes from a clear application of 1 Timothy 2:2 to our context. Paul did not urge Timothy to pray for the Roman Caesar because Paul was one of Caesar’s big supporters. In fact, the Roman ruler during the time of Paul’s writing to Timothy was none other than the infamous Nero, who persecuted Christians in a most horrifying way. Prayers for leaders are not based on whether we agree with their policies, but upon the conviction that they serve under God’s ultimate authority.
As I thought about the criticism of the man who was upset because I prayed for President George W. Bush, it occurred to me that his complaint was ironic. If you believe that prayer actually makes a difference, then you might actually be inclined to pray even more for leaders from “the other side” than for those you support. The less you are happy with the president, the more you should pray for him. But, in fact, consistent prayer for our leaders is right no matter what their views and policies.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you find yourself more inclined to pray for leaders with whom you agree? Disagree? Do you think it’s right to ask God to change a leader’s mind about issues? Why or why not? Should this sort of thing happen in corporate worship? Or are these sorts of prayers better in private prayer?
PRAYER: Almighty God, indeed, all human leaders serve under your ultimate authority. They might be kings, but you are the King of kings and Lord of lords. Help me to be faithful in praying for my leaders, whether I agree with them or not. May I pray out of obedience to your Word and out of a conviction that everything on earth is under your sovereignty.
Lord, I may not understand how all of this works. But I don’t need to understand. I need, rather, to trust you, obey you, and offer my humble prayers to you.
All praise be to you, my King and my God. Amen!
Here’s how . . . .
This devotional comes from The High Calling: Everyday Conversations about Work, Life, and God (www.thehighcalling.org). You can read my Daily Reflections there, or sign up to have them sent to your email inbox each day. This website contains lots of encouragement for people who are trying to live out their faith in the workplace. The High Calling is associated with Laity Lodge, where I work.