First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.”
Today is Independence Day in the United States, a day of patriotic celebrations for citizens in my country. I thought it would be appropriate for me to offer a reflection that is suitable for this day, even though quite a few readers of Life for Leaders do not live in the United States. If you’re from another country, what I write will be relevant to you, though the date won’t have the same significance as it does for my American readers.
In one of his letters to Timothy, the Apostle Paul urged him to offer “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings” for all people (1 Tim 2:1). Then, becoming more specific, Paul added that prayers should be offered “for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity” (2:2).
I wonder why Paul felt it necessary to urge Timothy to pray for his political leaders. Could it be that this sort of prayer might easily haven been neglected, even by such a faithful Christian as Timothy? After all, Timothy lived in a society where the rulers were anything but Christian. Increasingly, they were becoming hostile to Christians, not to mention Christian values. How tempting it might have been to pray for all people except leaders of secular, even pagan government (which was rife with worship of the gods and even the emperors).
Yet, Paul wanted to be sure that Timothy prayed for kings and other leaders. The context makes it clear that these prayers include thanksgiving. Yes, even though the Roman government and its local leaders were far from what a Christian would prefer, Timothy was still supposed to pay attention to ways in which God was blessing him through the state. For example, Roman domination of the Mediterranean world made travel much easier and safer than it had ever been, a situation that allowed for the rapid expansion of the early Christian movement.
Most people I know, no matter where they live or what political views they hold, are not altogether happy with their government. How easy it is for us to complain, perhaps even to protest. It’s good for us to exercise our freedoms as citizens, to be sure. But let us not forget to pray for our government, and our leaders, in particular. As we see our government doing things that are consistent with God’s kingdom, we offer thanks to God. And where we see need for improvement, we ask God to guide our leaders into his righteousness and justice.
So, on this day, as an American, I offer thanks to God for much that is good about my country. I pray for my leaders, asking God to give them wisdom and to bless their leadership. No matter the country in which you live, I invite you to join me in prayers for our leaders.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION:
Do you pray for government leaders on a regular basis? In what context? If so, why do you do this? If not, why not?
What difference might it make in your life if you prayed for your leaders more consistently?
Gracious God, on this day in which Americans celebrate their independence, I offer prayers for my country and its leaders.
First, I thank you for all the ways you have blessed us through the United States. Though our nation is far from perfect, it has nevertheless been the source of much goodness, both for American citizens and for the world. In particular, I thank you today for the freedom we have to worship you and live out our faith without fear. In today’s world, this is nothing to take for granted . . . even though I do so often take it for granted.
Second, I pray for my national leaders today. I pray for President Obama and his administration, for those who serve in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, for members of the Supreme Court and the federal courts, for the leaders of the U.S. Military and for all who serve in the federal government. Our nation faces such great challenges, both at home and abroad. Thus, we ask you to grant to all of these leaders your wisdom. Give them hearts that seek you and your truth. Guide them in your ways.
All praise be to you, King of kings, because you are the ultimate authority in this universe. You are always right, always good, always gracious, always just. Amen.
P.S. An earlier version of this devotion appeared at The High Calling, and is used by permission under a Creative Commons license.