….for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (1 Timothy 2:2)
Our requests, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving should be offered for everyone. And the “everyone” includes kings and those in authority.
It is hard to imagine how hard it was for 1st Century Christians to pray for those in authority over them, even as some of those same people persecuted them for their faith. And yet, God used the humble submission of his people.
I have heard it said government only cares about three things: keeping the peace, collecting taxes and self-preservation. I think this is a narrow and cynical view of society, but these three priorities do accurately describe pagan Roman politics.
This does not mean some leaders of the day were not concerned about higher ideals. In fact, I am pretty convinced there was a strong moral code among some 1st Century politicians, even in the context of paganism. But most of what I have read comes from the perspective of human superiority, rather than any accountability to a living God. And it is diminished by hypocrisy and class prejudice.
So it was hard to pray for a government that not only did not support the church, but in some cases sought to extinguish it. What can possibly happen when we pray for those in government?
First, God can help those in authority over us to lead us effectively. Good government is important, and while I believe a biblical value system is important in any society, the truths of justice and fairness for all are universal. And financial accountability is fundamental. Good government is good for everyone.
Secondly, God can bring government leaders to salvation. Saved government leaders are not necessarily good government leaders, but they are prepared for eternity. Our desire should not be to win those in authority over us so they will be on our side, but rather so they will be on the Lord’s side and ready to meet him on the final day.
And third, God can work in the lives of government leaders to help, guide and comfort them. People who lead us have emotions, dreams and disappointments. They need believers who care about them to pray.
I know there are rare occasions in the course of history when civil disobedience is necessary. And we are going to have disagreements with government. But most of all we should pray, even if we are in protest. If God doesn’t help those in authority over us be the leaders they should be, who will?
Dear God, give me a heart for those who lead me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.