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. 1 Timothy 2:1-4
“First of all,” Paul tells Timothy, in his charge to him to “wage the good warfare” (1 Tim 1:18), you should pray “for all people.” This we generally understand; most of us have a list of people for whom we pray. My list includes family members, coworkers, people in my church, friends, missionaries, and those I know have current needs. Sometimes it includes a person with a heartbreaking story that’s making the rounds of social media. Too rarely does it include the people that Paul singles out here for intercession. Yes, we are to pray for “all people”, but I think Paul knows we will naturally remember to pray for those close to us. Instead, he reminds us to also, and specifically, pray for “kings and all who are in high positions.”
For those of us in the United States today, that list should probably include national leaders like the President and Cabinet officials, the Supreme Court justices, and leading senators and representatives. It should also include state and local leaders of influence. Your children’s school superintendent or your mayor could likely use your prayers. Do you know who these people are?
There are many reasons to regularly intercede for these leaders. In this passage Paul gives one specific reason: “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” So one of our prayers for our leaders should be that they preserve (or restore, when necessary) religious freedom. I lived in Central Europe for many years, where for much of the twentieth century communist regimes had severely limited Christians’ ability to preach the Gospel, practice their faith, or even get higher education. There are too many historical and contemporary examples of governments across the world persecuting and harassing Christians or inhibiting them in their attempts to live the peaceful, godly lives that please God and bless a nation.
Paul reminds Timothy in the next verse that God “desires all people to be saved.” It is not the role of the government to proclaim the Gospel and make disciples; that’s the job of Christians. But we can demand and pray that government protects our freedom to do so.
We can also pray that our leaders would make and execute laws that fulfill the God-ordained role of government to be a “servant for your good” (Romans 13:4), and for the good of all people. We can pray they would protect the vulnerable in society, and not just those who can lobby lawmakers. Pray they would have the moral courage to do what is right in the face of many pressures to do otherwise.
We know from Scripture that God often used pagan kings to advance his purposes. So we can pray that non-Christian leaders would lead with integrity and in ways that honor God. We don’t have to like or agree with a leader to pray for him or her; after all, Jesus told us to pray for our enemies. The kings that Paul told Timothy to pray for were not godly men. Despite this, or maybe precisely because of this, Paul tells him to pray for them. Unlike Timothy’s context, in which “kings and those in high positions” would almost all have been non-Christians, some of our government leaders are followers of Jesus. How much more should we pray that God would guide and sustain them as our brothers and sisters in Christ, especially in light of the unique challenges and temptations they face.
Complaining about government leaders, on social media or around the dinner table, has become a national pastime. Criticism is easy and popular. But as Christians, our responsibility is to “first of all” do the hard, persevering work of praying for them. Please join me in a renewed commitment to take that responsibility seriously.
- Pray for the President and Cabinet officials, the Supreme Court justices, and leading senators and representatives.
- Pray for your state’s governor, judges, and leading senators and representatives.
- Pray for your city’s mayor, council, superintendent of public schools, and other influential local leaders.
Vice-President of Operations, Christian Union
Selected Resources to Explore for a Cultural Revolution in Government
ARTICLE (2 pages): The Role of Government—and Christian Citizens by John Stonestreet
John Stonestreet, president of The Chuck Colson Center and BreakPoint Radio Co-Host, writes a succinct and salient article related to the questions many American Christians ask today. What is the role of the government and how should Christians live today and interact with their governing officials?
BOOK (625 pages): Politics According to the Bible by Wayne Grudem
This is a massive work that comes as a great blessing to the Church in the 21st century. Grudem leaves few topics out of his broad-ranging discussion of how Biblical truth informs the political process and issues of our time. The text is best used as a reference and can be consulted on a case-by-case basis as questions arise.
AUDIO (1:31:41): Vocational Panel on Government
This panel discussion was recorded at the Christian Union Conference, 2014. The panelists were Fernando Cabrera, New York City Councilman and Senior Pastor of New Life Outreach International in the Bronx, Marlise Streitmatter, who served as Deputy Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Transportation, and previously worked at The World Bank and the U.S. Department of Defense, and Scott Turner, businessman, motivational speaker and former Texas state representative.
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