On Praying for Government | Clint Humfrey
1 Timothy 2:1-4
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.
3This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,
4who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
We are to be praying with diverse prayers, for diverse people, and diverse authorities.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made ...
Paul exhorts Timothy to prayer. And only Timothy, but for the public worship of the church. 1 Timothy 2 is going to address, as Paul put it in v15, “how one ought to behave in the household of God”.
So the church is to pray. Paul says that he desires “that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarrelling”. So not moving to the fists, but moving to the knees.
If we didn’t know what prayer is, Paul gives us four words to illustrate the diversity of prayer.
Although all prayers will have a family resemblance, each prayer is unique with different features.
The diverse prayers are summed up this way: requesting for special needs, bringing others into the presence of God, making a bold appeal for others, and thanking God for them. In English, it is supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings.
If you don’t know how to pray, start by thinking about these categories. Mix it up. Maybe you struggle to pray because you are only thinking about one way.
Try praying with thanksgiving to God for someone else. Another time, try to be bold in appeal to God on their behalf. Paul wants Timothy and the church to have diverse prayers.
...for all people
Who should we pray for? Paul says, “... for all people”. In other words, all kinds of people, diverse people can be the subjects of our prayers. This means that we will not limit our prayers only to people like us. We will pray for people who are different from us. We’ll pray for people who speak different languages, from different cultures, different countries, different political views, different incomes.
Pray for your own soul. Pray for those close to you. But don’t stop there. Pray for all people, all kinds. The prayers of the church can have a global scope.
This is why it is helpful to get news of situations around the world, and to pray about the diverse people in those situations. When I was a bible college student, people would talk about being a “global Christian”. Even if you don’t become a foreign missionary, you can be a global Christian, by praying for all people, diverse people, all kinds of people across the world.
Now we might pray for regular folks, citizens from around the world. But should we pray for governments? Are we cynical enough to think that praying for governments is a waste of breath?
Paul didn’t think so, which brings me to the second verse. We pray for all people...
Verse 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.
There is no qualification on the kings or ones in ‘high positions’ that makes them worthy of our prayers. It is not only for the wise government official but also for the foolish. We don’t merely pray for those who agree with us. We pray for those who occupy an office, or a role appointed under the providence of God.
The second and third chapters of 2 Timothy deal with various roles or ‘offices’. Husbands and wives have diverse roles. Overseers and deacons have differing roles. Paul had a role by appointment of God, to be a preacher and an apostle (v.7). And there are roles for the “kings and all who are in high positions”.
In each case, we may not always agree with how people are carrying out their roles. We might think they are not functioning well. But we don’t have to sit back. We can pray for these diverse authorities like the government.
When it comes to rulers, sometimes, the supplications to God are that a ruler would be removed. This is a bold prayer, but also a Christian prayer. John Stott said:
“When President Marcos was toppled in 1986, Filipino Christians attributed his downfall ‘not to people power but to prayer power’. What might not happen if God’s people throughout the world learned to wait upon him in believing, persevering prayer?”
Queen Mary of Scotland is reported to have said, “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the assembled armies of Europe.”
Do governments feel the watchful accountability of the church’s prayers?
Do they care more about the church’s prayers or more about the churches’ votes?
Our diverse prayers for diverse authorities will hold them accountable before God. But we also pray for our governments for a very practical reason. Paul gives the reason in the second half of verse 2 “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way”. We ought to pray for governments to preserve order in society, just as overseers are required to manage their household well (3:5). When Christians live in a well-ordered society, we have the opportunity to promote the gospel widely and make disciples freely. Little evangelism and discipleship happen in times of war or anarchy.
We have to remember that our government leaders are under a lot of pressure. As Shakespeare said, “uneasy is the head that wears a crown”. Justin Trudeau is a human being. He needs our prayers to lead our country in wisdom, rather than folly. We want to live in peace so that we can spread the gospel. Do we believe that God is able to change our leaders through our prayers? As Proverbs 21:1 says: The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD;
he turns it wherever he will.
There is another reason we must pray for our government and all diverse authorities around us. We must intercede for them, for they are held accountable to God. As Psalm 2: says, “10Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.”
That prayer of accountability is also the hopeful prayer of salvation for all kinds of people, even prime ministers, premiers, mayors and officials. It is the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ:
“Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”
Will you begin to pray for your leaders, government officials in your town or city; praying for your province and your nation with its elected officials, staff and civil servants? Will you pray for our Prime Minister and Premier that we would live at peace in this land? Will you pray for the lost sinners in our government, that they would kiss the son, Jesus Christ, lest they perish in the way?