“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority…” (1 Tim 2:1-2)
Here in New Zealand, we’re just over a month away from our latest national election (September 20). It’s a strange thing – I’m not exactly excited about the election, but I should be. How many people in the world would give anything – how many people down through the years have given everything – for the right to vote as freely as I can? (That’s if I can be bothered, in a land of non-compulsory voting.)
I’ve written elsewhere about how and why Christians should be involved in the political process, about why we should care enough to vote, and about why we should put serious thought into our decision at the ballot box. (Although, if you’d like the internet to decide for you, click here.) But as important as our vote is, Christians make an even more important contribution to the political process. It’s our prayer.
There’s really not that many things we’re specifically told to pray about. So when it does happen, we should pay particular attention. So 1 Timothy 2 is an important passage on prayer:
“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. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:1-4)
There’s at least two crucial ideas in these verses:
(1) Most obviously, we must pray for our political leaders. That’s true for those living in western democracies (most of you), but it’s also true for leaders in all political systems everywhere. And it makes sense that we commit them to God in prayer, since – despite outward appearances – their power is not their own. God entrusts people with political leadership to fulfill his good purposes (Romans 13), and he controls and directs the hearts of even the most powerful world leaders (Proverbs 21:1). So pray for your leaders.
(2) The role of secular government is not to promote the gospel itself. But we should long for governments to lead their nations in such a way that God’s people can get on with their core business, unhindered: to live lives of peace and godliness, and to proclaim the news of God our Saviour, so that people are saved. So, knowing God’s desire for governments, we are to pray that this comes about.
This is probably the most distinctive Christian contribution to the political process. Yes, praise God, most of us can vote. Most of us can act in other ways, we can speak out, and we can protest in much the same way as our non-Christian neighbours. But we can do something they can never do: Pray to the God of the universe.
Your most important contribution to the political process happens not when you step into the ballot box, or when you write a letter to your MP, or when you take part in a peaceful protest march. It happens on your knees.
Wherever you find yourself, interact with your governing authorities first and foremost by praying for them – praying that they will govern well, so that you can get on with godly living and proclaiming the gospel.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the governing authorities you’ve placed over me. Please enable them to govern in ways that are pleasing to you, and which uphold the values and ideas taught in the Bible. In particular, please work through my government so that your people can live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. In Jesus’ name. Amen.