The Apostle Paul wrote: “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).
How did this become a focus for Paul? After being stopped in his tracks on the road to Damascus, Paul received his commission from God: You are “my chosen instrument to carry my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel” (Acts 9:15). This charge profoundly impacted Paul.
As God’s chosen instrument to carry God’s various names, Paul came to love God. Even as a lover treasures names of his beloved, Paul, in his 13 letters, used various names of God 1500 times! Paul was God besotted.
In God’s commission to Paul, the Gentiles were given preference. Paul, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, loved his people so much he wished he could be cursed so that they might be saved. Yet, he focused on the Gentiles. In his letters he refers to Gentiles 53 times – and to his beloved Israel only 24 times. Would a Montana State University fan go to twice as many University of Montana games as MSU games? Hardly! Would a life-long Democrat hang out with Republicans twice as much as he did with Democrats? No. As Jesus loved these Gentiles, Paul did too – for Christ’s sake.
Where did Paul find “Gentiles, kings and the people of Israel?” – in capital cities. Like 29 Old Testament prophets who ministered to kings, Paul also sought to minister to kings. Of the 19 cities in Acts where Paul took the gospel, 15 were capitals! These capitals were the “internet” of Paul’s day. People streamed to these capitals for commerce, taxation, adjudication, art and religion. From their capitals folk could return home with the greatest treasure – the gospel. Eventually, Paul made it to Rome, the heart of the Empire. There he wrote: “All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household” (Phil. 4:22).
The pattern of ministering to leaders still continued 1500 years later. For example, John Calvin dedicated most of his books to political leaders. In the dedication of his magnum opus, “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” displaced Calvin wrote Francis, King of France: “Even now, when exiled from our home, we nevertheless cease not to pray for all prosperity to your person and your kingdom.”
And so we pray for our leaders today:
Courage – Ancient of days, you know political expediency may trump a leader’s conscience. Grant each leader courage to trust you are the defender of godly decisions (2 Sam 10:12). Our leaders represent us – “the people”– but ultimately, they need courage to represent you.
Perseverance and Patience – Almighty God, when our political leaders act courageously and make godly decisions, they must be able to press on through inevitable tests and trials. Even when careers are at stake, help them persevere in what is good (James 1:12; 2 Tim 4:7). Also, give them your patience in working for the good of the body.
Humility – Eternal God, you raise up all kinds of people to places of authority. “I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge me” (Is 45:4). Even fools can be in authority (Eccl. 4:13). Political leaders deal with immense sums of money and are often treated like royalty. They may want to appear to be more than they are. God of armies, keep them from arrogance for you put your battle armor on against the proud (James 4:6). God of humility, help them heed your example. Lead them so they may rightly lead us (1 Pet 5:5; Isa 66:2, James 2:1-9).
Teachability – Alpha and Omega, when a political leader is wise and resists the temptation of pride, a teachable spirit will be evident (Prov 9:9; Eccl 4:13). Master Teacher, keep teaching all of us.
Moral Integrity- King of kings, political leaders regularly encounter strong temptations like greed, deceitfulness, sexual immorality, and alcohol/drug abuse. Acting on these temptations can destroy their lives, families, and their ability to lead (Ps 25:21). They are often away from their families and churches – perhaps with little accountability or fellowship. God, strengthen them to resist temptations.
Self-control – Spirit, political leaders also face daily temptations with conflict – tensions are often high. Partisan politics make demands too. To some extent the formal process and the decorum of the institution help. But, when our leaders are in the crucible, while they can’t control their circumstances, they can respond well to those circumstances. Give them the fruit of self-control (Prov 25: 28; 2 Tim 1:7). “Self-control is better than political power” (para-phrase of Prov 16:32b, “The Message”).
Virtuous Constituents – God, help us be prayerful, respectful, peaceable and articulate in our relationship with our leaders and each other. Bless our fellow citizens. Have mercy. May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.