Yesterday, I recounted the prayer service at the Indiana Statehouse. I suggested that, humanly speaking, it was such a success because Matt Barnes has worked to serve God by building trust with many leaders over many years. You might ask, "How can I minister to civil servants who God calls his servants?" Or "How can I go beyond talking and theorizing and actually be involved in seeing Christ glorified in civil government?"
Here are a few Scriptural guidelines to get you started:
Kiss the Son yourself. Psalm 2:12 says: “Kiss the Son.” In context, kings and rulers are those specifically called to bow before Jesus and to see that they serve him. But the verse ends: “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” If you want to see your leaders submit to Christ, you must submit to him and commit to obeying his word. Earthly rulers will not listen to those whose lives and attitudes are inconsistent with their profession.
Know your governmental officials. Romans 13 says of the civil magistrate: “He is God’s servant for your good” and “the authorities are ministers of God.” If these are God’s ministers appointed for your good, you should know them. If you live in the United States, can you name your city and county officials, state representative and state senator? Have you met them? What is on their hearts? Remember that they are real people. They hurt, they joy, and they need redemption, just like all of us. To the extent appropriate, do you know about their personal lives such that you really can pray for them appropriately? If you do not know who your representatives are, begin online. Then, look for other ways to know them better. If you struggle to know what to say when you meet them, ask, “How can I pray for you?” It’s a disarming question, asked sincerely.
In addition to you knowing them, you might ask yourself, “Do they know me?” We are not to seek self-glory, but elected officials are usually elected because they do things like remembering people. If they don’t know you, the problem might not be theirs. One caveat: don’t test their knowledge of you. My grandfather served as a state representative, and he wisely instructed me to simply state my name whenever I reached out to shake hands with people of higher rank, even if they should know me. If you do the same, you’ll save them from embarrassment when they forget your name.
Finally, it’s my experience that most elected officials are a lot of fun to be around as people, even if I don’t agree with their positions. Again, it’s probably partly why they were elected. As you get to know them, you might just make some new friends, if nothing else.
- Pray for them. Every day. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 says: “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.” Lead your children to pray for them. These who serve are usually under great stress. They face pressure from all directions. So, God call us to pray for them. Jesus also promises that whatever we ask in his name, he will do. The fruit will be peace and quiet.
Need to know how to pray? Ministries such as Capitol Commission can help. In Indiana, you can sign up for regular prayer requests and even be tweeted daily reminders from Matt Barnes to pray for certain individuals in authority.
- Honor the emperor. Those were the words of Peter in 1 Peter 2:17 to Christians living under Nero. Consider honoring your leaders by writing a personal note to them to thank them for their service and to reassure them of your prayers for them and their loved ones. Few people despise others praying for them. As a pastor, it is always encouraging to hear that others are praying for me. Paul knew the value of such encouragement and so told the Thessalonians: “To this end we always pray for you...”
The more you honor your leaders, the more you are compelled to honor them. Once you’ve told your leaders you are praying for them, it becomes a lot harder to sit behind the safety of a computer screen and lob derogatory electronic grenades at God’s ministers.
- Measure your words regarding policy decisions. “The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips” says Proverbs 16:23. Begin by encouraging leaders in the wise decisions they make. Christians have a reputation of only being heard when they want to complain. Work to change that. Then, when the time comes to bring criticism or petition for certain action, make your speech judicious.
All Scripture quotes taken from the English Standard Version.