Many people are caught in the dilemma of seeing things that are troubling on every hand from the leadership in our country including the advocation of things contrary to historical values of the republic. The repeated question of “what can we do?” is heard through the land and the answer is quite simple: pray. That answer of course opens another quandary because it begs the question, “how then shall we pray?”
Some would turn to the “imprecatory” prayers found in the book of Psalms where David in the midst of a lament addresses God by laying out his predicament before God and his submission to God’s sovereign care, yet requests that his enemies be destroyed and often suffer greatly. An honest and open lament with submission to God’s sovereign will is really the only condition in which such a request would not be found a mere complaint which would stir the wrath of God.
How then shall we pray?
The first reminder is that we have an obligation to pray for our leaders.
1 Timothy 2:1–3 (ESV) — 1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,
Notice that the admonition is for not just mere prayers but supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving. This is a call for whole-hearted prayer activity, more than just a little quicky. This would be like the request from Esther of Mordecai before she was to go to the king on behalf of saving her people.
Esther 4:16 (ESV) — 16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”
How then shall we pray?
We know we have the promise of God that the Holy Spirit will help us to pray according to the will of God.
Romans 8:26–27 (ESV) — 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
And the Holy Spirit through has made it known what the will of God is in our praying for our leaders: According to 1Timothy 2:1-3 we are to pray for all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. In other words that God would intervene, not to bring about our chosen political agenda but that our leaders might be led to make decisions that make for our being able to lead a quiet and peaceful life in an honorable way. In order to pray like that we must keep in mind that God has it all under control. So much so that even the heart of the leader is in the hand of the Lord to turn as He will.
Proverbs 21:1 (ESV) — 1 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.
How then shall we pray?
But it pains us to see legislation and orders come down that seem contrary to things we believe and treasure, so pray that the hearts of those in power would change. Again, God has made His will known for what He expects of those He has set in government oversight, along with our response.
Romans 13:1–7 (ESV) — 1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
Notice that we all have the duty before God to live in subjection to governing authorities and their responsibility before God as His servant is to lookout for the good of the people. Going back to Proverbs 21:1, it is our duty to pray when we see things to the contrary that the heart of our leaders would be changed by the One who has the power and authority to make that change that they would be set for the good of the people, rather than a given agenda.
Let us review the situation. Before we are overcome with anxiety, complaining, and bitterness, we need to pray. As we pray for our leaders, we should keep in mind that it is God who has ultimate control even to change the heart of those who are in authority. As we pray for those changes to be made it is for two higher purposes – for the good of all the people and for the ability to lead a quiet, peaceful, and honorable life.
Keep in mind that even when we consider those leaders to be in direct conflict with what we believe and on a contrary path that will create great misery, we still have an obligation to pray for them as we would an enemy.
Matthew 5:44–45 (ESV) — 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
There is one more principle to consider when those in authority make demands of us that are contrary to God’s word. First, we still have the obligation to pray for them as we see above. Secondly, we still have the obligation to be respectful as we see above. But thirdly, we have the obligation to obey God rather than man.
Acts 5:29 (ESV) — 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.
How does that look? When we are commanded to do something that God forbids or forbidden to do something had God commands, we must obey God rather than man, not making a scene or calling attention to ourselves unless the situation warrants a testimony. Again, our cause is to lead a quiet, peaceful, and honorable life before God in total subjection to His word.