I Timothy 2:1–2
First of all, I encourage you to make petitions, prayers, intercessions, and prayers of thanks for all people, for rulers, and for everyone who has authority over us. Pray for these people so that we can have a quiet and peaceful life always lived in a godly and reverent way.
All of us have heard people say about our government officials “They are all a bunch of crooks.” You also may have uttered these or similar words. Surveys show that people in our land do not trust their government. Even on television broadcasts, we have heard people in other lands express the same opinion.
We also know how difficult it is for some children to submit to parental authority. As a teenagers we must admit that we chafed under parental authority. When a clash of wills occurs, teens feel a strong hostility toward their parents.
The desire for individual freedom is so strong in our society, many find it difficult to be subject to authority. Even in the workplace some people resent being told what to do. Therefore, it is beneficial on this Fourth of July, when we give thanks for our government, that we should be reminded to pray for all in authority.
Who Are Those for Whom We Should Pray?
The Scripture for our meditation today urges us to make prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving “for rulers and all who have authority over us,” (I Tim 2:2)
If you are a Republican, you may find it difficult to pray for a Democrat president, or vice versa. However, God calls us to pray for the leader of the land, no matter who fills the office. Christians, who believe that God sent His Son to die for all, have a higher reason to pray. Out of love for God, generated by His undeserved love for us, we gladly pray for the spiritual welfare of others, especially that most influential leader, the President.
There are, however, many others in authority. There are the members of Congress, federal judges, and other national leaders. We are to intercede also for them. It makes no difference to which political party they belong.
In the state and local governments, the mayor, justices of the peace, and local representatives even emergency managers are among those for whom we should pray. The police officer who stops us for a traffic violation is worthy of our respect and prayers. God commands, “Place yourselves under the authority of human governments to please the Lord.” (I Pet. 2:13).
Parents have been given authority over their children. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Eph 6:1). All of us know that children do not always find it easy to obey.
Our Savior understands that. He experienced all the stages of life, including the teen years. He became our substitute, obeying God’s will in being subject to all authority. The righteousness which is an important part of eternal life has been earned for us by Christ in all stages of life. God’s Word assures us that in Christ we have the righteousness of God. (II Cor. 5:21)
In the passage for today, the plural “rulers” indicates that we are to pray for the rulers in other countries as well. “No government would exist if it had not been established by God. The governments which exist have been put in place by God.” (Rom 13:1) And Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mk 12:17) God’s grace extends toward all people in all places. God so loved the world that He sacrificed His Son, Jesus, for all.
What if the ruler is a tyrant or a dictator? Are we to pray for such an authority also? The two phrases in today’s passage, “all people” and “all,” allow for no exceptions; they include everyone who has been placed by God in a position of authority. The criteria for deciding if we should pray for a certain person in authority is not whether we like them or whether we feel they deserve our prayers. In God’s sight, outside of Christ there are no good people. All have sinned. All deserve nothing but punishment and eternal damnation. Yet God is good to all – “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Mt 5:45)
John the Baptist said of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29) Jesus came to take upon Himself our sins. He has paid the price for our disobedience and rebellion against God. “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8) The Roman Caesar was a tyrant and a pagan. Nevertheless, God said through Paul, “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.” (Rom 13:1) The apostle Peter also wrote, “Honor the emperor.” (I Pet 2:17) Therefore, whether good or bad, kind or harsh, rulers need our prayers.
Jesus prayed for those who were treating Him harshly and unfairly. In reality, we are among the ones responsible for His suffering and death. As His love and compassion for us penetrates our inmost being, we are led to pray for those who hate and persecute us. Jesus taught, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Mt 5:44) Even if a person in authority becomes our enemy or persecutes us, Christ asks us to pray for that individual.
Why Pray for Those in Authority?
What need do authorities have for our prayers? They are in the driver’s seat. Scripture urges us to pray for those in authority so that we can live quiet and peaceful lives. It is the task of government to maintain order so that the Church can carry out our Lord’s commission to make disciples of all nations. Without government, which has the authority to punish evildoers, society would be in chaos. Swift and certain punishment helps keep evildoers from committing crimes. For our own sake, therefore, we need to pray that our government officials enact and execute just laws and maintain law and order.
Those who have been entrusted with authority do not always administer fairly. Indeed, one finds many complaints in the Old Testament regarding injustice. “You who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate.” (Amos 5:12) If you have been the victim of injustice administered by some level of government, you know how frustrating that can be. We need to pray for justice in the land for all. God is interested in our temporal as well as our spiritual and eternal welfare.
Sometimes those in authority, be they government, parents, or supervisors in the workplace, act unfairly – by ignorance or by evil design. It is not always possible to make the right decisions, especially in difficult cases. It is not possible in every instance to know all the facts. Not all those in authority have the wisdom of Solomon. But we pray for wisdom for those in authority so that they may make decisions that are fair and benefit all of society.
Those in authority often are pressured by rich and powerful people to make decisions favorable to their cause. Most of us are acquainted with such favoritism and conflicts of interest. God complained about the leaders in ancient Israel for giving in to such temptation: “Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts.” (Is 1:23) “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” so the higher the authority, the more our prayers are needed. Pride precedes a fall. Those in authority need our prayers to help them avoid falling for such temptations and injuring society. When we remember that God desires that those in authority be a benefit to us, we are eager to pray that they govern according to His will. As sons and daughters of a merciful God, with His Spirit in us, we desire to help those in authority do their job so that we can do ours – proclaim Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.
We may not be inclined to pray regularly for those in authority. However, as we remember the blessings that authority brings to our lives, we will find it easier to pray for such people. Look at the many blessings that we have in our country through our form of government. While not perfect, our country has prospered, and the Christian Church has largely been free to go about the task of making disciples of all nations. Imagine what our life would be like without authority. Even those we may dislike and resent the most – whether bosses, parents, or government leaders – are good and necessary. As many children have said in their later years, “At the time I did not appreciate my parents and what they did for me, but now I do.”
As we hear and believe that God loves us in Jesus despite our unworthiness, we are moved to respond. God sends the Holy Spirit to empower us to do so. In reverence for God, we submit to His will and walk in His ways. God, in His loving care for us, has provided authorities for our individual good and the good of His Church. May we thank Him joyfully, today and always! Amen.