“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).
As Christians we are no longer struggling orphans who have to keep looking out for ourselves. Because of the work of our matchless “older brother,” Jesus, we are adopted into the family of God. We now have a heavenly Father and new brothers and sisters. So, following Jesus is about healthy relationships – with God and with each other.
As the early church expanded with this good news, the first leaders were overwhelmed with caring for so many new family members. They determined that their foci needed to be “prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). Remarkable. Are those what our priorities would be?
Although at one time Paul opposed these followers of Jesus, by God’s grace he suddenly changed direction. Then, as one chosen by God to carry the good news of the gospel, the Apostle Paul taught: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6). Part of this expression takes place in prayer. “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone, for kings and all those in authority” (1 Tim 2:1-2a).
Paul first urges us to concentrate on all kinds of prayer for “everyone.” Who is “everyone?” “The gospel is a gift of grace and can never favor any class or strata of society” (Glen Parkinson). Who can be included in our prayers? “Conservatives, liberals, the homeless, the wealthy one percent, the nondescript, the famous, the criminal, the hero, every race, every political persuasion, people with degrees, healthy people, disabled people, young and old, homemakers and career folk, singles and people who are single again, married couples and single parents, heterosexuals, homosexuals, soccer moms, illegal aliens, CEO’s, drug dealers, military folk, adult children still living at home, movie makers, tenured professors, celebrities, plumbers, cartoonists, engineers, lobbyists…everyone” (Glen Parkinson, “Rulers, Gospel and Government,” p. 47, 2014). Do you sense how your soul will stretch as you build bridges through prayer – for everyone?
Once our souls begin to expand with faith expressing itself in love, Paul specifies that we are particularly to pray for “kings and those in authority.” Will you love your neighbor – your legislator – by praying for her – for him? If not, how will we get past being stuck with politics as usual? Our state legislators are now at the halfway point of their term – transmittal – pressure is mounting. Will you pray privately for these public servants? Will you gather with others to pray for them?
What shall we pray for those who lead us? As a place to start, consider these suggested prayers:
- Repentance and Faith – Jesus, you chose to inaugurate your earthly ministry with these words: “Repent, the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt. 4:17). Write those words upon all our hearts.
- Salvation – God, all of us – including political leaders – need you to forgive our sins. We need new life that comes through faith in Jesus Christ.
- Protection and Strength – God, please watch over the families and businesses of our leaders while they are away – serving us. Give our leaders health and strength to maintain their rigorous schedules.
- Wisdom – God, you know our leaders are regularly called upon to make very difficult decisions that affect many. Give them wisdom to reflect your Trinity – seeking both the community’s wellbeing as well as the individual’s. Grant them wisdom to understand the people they work with and the people they represent. They are inundated with revenue estimates and other kinds of information. Let them know your divine wisdom is available (James 1:5).
- Discernment – Lord, help our leaders distinguish between right and wrong decisions. Grant godly discernment (1 Kings 3:9). Help them to foresee unanticipated consequences. Give our leaders a depth of understanding and keep them from political superficiality or arrogance.
Notes: In a later edition, I’ll include requests #6-12. May I suggest you contact your leaders? They are most accustomed to receiving either demands or the brunt of their constituents’ anger. How refreshing to hear from someone who is praying for them. Ask how you can pray more specifically for them, their families, and their communities. Some of the ideas for this list came from Capitol Commission – see www.pray1tim2.org. If you sign up for “Montana” at this site, you will be sent a daily prayer reminder for six different Montana legislators.