It is not easy being in politics. The job is so difficult that even God, speaking through the writings of the Apostle Paul, urges us to pray and intercede for national and political leaders who serve in positions of authority (1 Timothy 2:1-2). As did Paul, we too live in an age of political spite where most everyone, even seemingly devout Christians, have decided that it is okay to bash political leaders on every level from local to national with reckless abandon. Politics is truly a cutthroat industry, and the antics of politicians such as Toronto Mayor Rob Ford or the broken promises of a national health care roll out do much to provide fuel for the fire of disparaging comments.
Oh, one might defend that the First Amendment gives us the right to “call out” these dreadful so-called “public servants,” but what is often true is that when we harshly criticize and insult those who hold office, we do so simply because we ourselves have no solution to offer for the problems and issues at hand. It is just easier to curse the darkness than to actually provide illumination, because solutions take critical thinking. Criticism requires little thought. Change means effort. Rhetoric involves not much more than a poor attitude coupled with little determination to actually make a difference.
Understanding that nasty criticism is propagated through attitudes that are directly opposed to God’s plan regarding how we are to view our political leaders and offers little to no value in tackling the important matters we face, how do we as ordinary Christian citizens affect meaningful change and still do so in a manner that is pleasing to God? Thankfully, the Bible answers that question.
First and foremost, the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2 commands us to pray for our political leaders. The Rev. Billy Graham stated, “It is a great privilege, as well as our responsibility, to pray for our government leaders.” In fact, Paul utilizes about every possible word for prayer to communicate this truth. In the KJV, we find the words “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks” are to be made for kings and those in authority, but what I find most compelling is that Paul declares that this is to be done first! Before we criticize, we should pray. Before we castigate, we should intercede. Before we lambast, we should tell God we are thankful for our politicians regardless of party affiliation. It is becomes very difficult to try an individual in the court of public opinion when you’ve just thanked God for them while on your knees in the privacy of your own prayer closet.
Further, we are not to pray for their demise. We are to pray respectfully (1 Peter 2:17) and with the understanding that government authority is established by God (Romans 13:1). We also pray knowing that God’s Word says, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Proverbs 21:1). If you want a new politician, pray to God about the one you already have.
Using Scripture, we can pray effectively for our politicians in many different ways: that they will accept wise counsel (Proverbs 11:14; 15:22); that they will trust in God (Psalm 21:7); that they will be protected from Satanic influence (2 Thessalonians 3:3); that God will grant them discretion, foresight, and understanding in making decisions (1 Chronicles 22:12); that God will pour out His Spirit on them (Proverbs 1:23); that God will move them to opinions that are in agreement with His Word (Psalm 119:105); that God will protect them and their families from harm (Psalm 21:11; Ezra 6:10); that God will enable them to carry out the duties of their position with humility (1 Peter 5:5); that God will provide strength and perseverance for them (1 Chronicles 16:11; Isaiah 40:31); that God will equip them to make honorable choices (Hebrews 13:20-21); that they will possess the courage to stand for what is right regardless of who urges them to do what is wrong (Proverbs 2:11-15); and that they will exercise compassion toward those they lead and serve (Colossians 3:12).
To this, I have no doubt that someone will argue that their politician of choice doesn’t deserve to be prayed for, much less thanked for. But lest we forget, the Apostle Paul wrote his epistles to Timothy during the reign of the infamous Roman Emperor Nero, a fellow historically much more difficult to live under than any politician in America’s history. At the helm of his empire, Nero would order the suicide of senators he wanted rid of, and Christians were sadistically tortured and killed through methods of crucifixion, feeding them to the lions, and using them as human torches.
When it comes to our political and governing leaders, God’s Word speaks clearly on where we are to begin–in prayer. Rather than degrade, let us contend for solutions and be lights in the midst of darkness. As Daniel Webster once said, “Let our age be the age of improvement…Let us develop the resources of our land, call forth its powers, build up its institutions, promote all its great interests, and see whether we also, in our day and generation, may not perform something worthy to be remembered…And, by the blessings of God, may that country itself become a vast and splendid monument, not of oppression and terror, but of Wisdom, of Peace, and of Liberty, upon which the world may gaze with admiration for ever.”
Rev. Sonny D. Thomas Sr.
Calvary Free Will Baptist Church