It is easy to become frustrated with politics and government. It is easy for us to throw up our hands as Christians and say, “Well, politics is not the essence of Christ’s kingdom, so I’m just not going to invest much (if any) energy there.” Some find it discouraging because it seems that we are often “losing” political battles. But friends, we are only really losing when we are unfaithful to Jesus. Even the martyrs know that they won even though they lost in the face of persecution from earthly authorities as they stood for truth (Revelation 6:9-10). If we are being faithful in Christ, then we are always winning. So, it might be a good time to ask if you are being faithful to God’s call on your life with respect to your leaders, especially as lawmakers take up their work afresh across our land in the month of January.
There will always be considerable debate about what God requires of us as we relate to government. But we are all to pray for our leaders; that is one indisputable truth. Paul urges in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 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.”
So, a key question for you to ask yourself is this: Am I praying for my leaders?
If you need motivation, notice three things about these prayers commanded in 1 Timothy 2:
They are important. God, through Paul, “urges” that we pray. It is no light suggestion; rather, it is a work of great importance to the Lord.
They are intense. We sense the intensity that ought to characterize these prayers as Paul piles up the terms “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings.” Such prayer requires work. It requires time, knowledge, and perseverance.
They are fruitful. Culture changes through these prayers. Put negatively, if we do not pray for our leaders, we should not expect peace and quiet in our life and culture, just as we should not expect to be healthy and live if we do not eat. God uses means. When we do not engage in the means, God, in the normal course of life, does not bring about the ends. But, when we do pray according to his will, he hears us and gives what we ask (1 John 5:14-15).
If you are not presently engaging in such prayer as a part of your regular discipline, here are a few steps you can take:
Repent. Ask God to forgive you for not obeying his word. He will.
Contact a few of the people who are in such high positions and ask them how you can pray for them. You will be amazed by the responsiveness of many - they are burdened with personal and family concerns and rarely have people offer simply to pray. Elected officials and most who are appointed have publicly posted email addresses. They are easy to contact.
Commit to pray for one per day by name. When you have family devotions, assign children different leaders to pray for and review the needs specific to each.
Follow-up with those leaders. Check back to see how God has answered.
Sign up for daily reminders to pray for leaders in your state through Public Servants Prayer.
A Word of Personal Testimony
Last week, my family and I attended the annual Indiana Statehouse Prayer Service on the opening day of the General Assembly. Matthew Barnes, a good friend with Capitol Commission ministries, is the unofficial chaplain of the statehouse, organizes the half-hour time of prayer that ends just an hour before for the new legislative session begins. He gathers people to call on the Father in Jesus' name through the power of the Spirit. I have written about it in the past here and here. I will keep writing about it because over the last eleven years you can see what a visible difference it is making – and because so many Christians need examples of those who are serious about praying for their leaders. The Lord is changing the tone of the statehouse and he is also changing the hearts of specific individuals.
This year, some 400 attended the prayer service, and many more would have come were it not for inclement weather. A wide range of Christian leaders – pastors, chaplains, public servants, journalists, lobbyists, and others pray for workings of the state. It’s fascinating and encouraging to hear these leaders pray for employees under their charge, the work that is before them, and their desire to see God glorified. It helps me know how to pray better too. The prayer service has become part of the fabric of opening day – and for that I am grateful.
After the service, sandwiches are served, and people linger in the atrium. There, in a quite informal setting, as our children ate lunch on the floor of the atrium, the governor moseyed over to greet them, and they were also able to meet our state senator for whom they pray by name in our family devotions. Legislators, their assistants, lobbyists, citizen advocates, those who serve in the supreme court chambers, journalists, other church leaders and mill about happy to talk. Many of them have a great heart for prayer; one of the governor's aides is known for his fervent prayers for the persecuted church. When people know that you are praying for them, further doors of ministry begin to open as well. Mixed in with the pleasantries and personal concerns were discussions of bills being drafted, cases being considered, and more. Informal personal introductions were being made right and left to connect people who will help with the work of crafting bills, hearing cases, and writing news articles. I am deeply thankful to be able to see Jesus at work in his people.
That Statehouse Prayer Service is the first of many prayer meetings that will be held through this session. Most will be small and quiet - in offices, automobiles, and homes. Jesus is calling you to the same work today.
This testimony is not to say that somehow all of the work these lawmakers are doing is good or that the motives are always right. The point is simply that God is opening many new doors of ministry and he is working to fulfill his promises through his people’s prayers. King Jesus wants us to be engaged in relationships with our leaders – and what better place to start than through prayer. Not everyone lives as close to their statehouse as we do, but everyone resides just as close to the throne room of God. If you pray the way Paul exhorts us to pray, you will inevitably have further opportunities with those for whom you are praying.