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Pray for All Who are in Authority

Prayer is an important part of a Christian's life. The Scriptures tell us to "pray with ceasing" (1Thess. 5:17), which means that prayer must be a never-ending habit and part of our daily routines as long as we live in this world. Jesus presented a great example of prayer, for He was constantly engaged with His Father through prayer. If we imitate the Lord's example of prayer, then we will know what it means to pray without ceasing.

Among the many prayers that Christians are obligated and privileged to make are those given on behalf of persons in authority. Consider carefully the instructions of 1Timothy 2:1-4:

1First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

In a general sense, this passage demands that we pray for all men. The objective of our prayers for them should be that they would be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth according to the will of God. In a more specific sense, this passage directs us to pray for persons in authority. The objective of our prayers on their behalf is also given here, and we should pay close attention to it.

Notice that we are to pray for persons in authority "so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity." Our specific interest in praying for governing authorities is actually our own welfare. This may seem selfish at first, but this is not the case. The individuals in authority are also covered by our prayers for all men, so we have interest in their personal, spiritual well-being also. However, our particular interest in their roles as governing authorities has to do with the responsibilities they have in those roles. God has ordained the authority of their offices for the good of all men, for the reward of the good, and for the punishment of evildoers (Rom. 13:1-4; 1Pet. 2:13-14). They have not obtained authority for their own private benefit but for the benefit of all men. Therefore, we ought to pray that they may fulfill their duties in these roles well so that we and all men can live in tranquility and quietness.

Such a prayer is similar to that which God commanded of the Jews when they were going into exile in Babylon. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God said, "Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare" (Jer. 29:7). It was likely unthinkable to the Jews to consider praying for the welfare of their own conquerors. After all, these were the people that destroyed Jerusalem and the temple and deported the Jews into captivity. However, God explained that this was practical for them because the welfare of their captors would be their own welfare. Consideration of the Jews' situation reminds us that, while we are citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20), there is wisdom in soliciting God's blessings upon the earthly nation of which we are citizens.

The instructions of 1Timothy 2:1-4 do not require us to pray for persons in authority to succeed in advancing their political agendas or personal ambitions. The specific objective given for our prayers is "so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity." Many political agendas and personal ambitions run contrary to this God-given objective, so our prayers may actually invoke a providential barrier to our leaders' political intentions. In the case of the Jews in Babylon, God certainly did not expect for them to ask Him to bless the godless works of the leaders of Babylon, but rather they were to pray for the welfare of the city. Likewise, we are not to pray for the success of politicians who have godless agendas, but rather we should pray that our governing authorities will do what is right in the sight of God so that the nation will be benefitted.

As we offer these prayers to God on behalf of all who are in authority, we should recall the principle of Proverbs 14:34: "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people." Prayers for all who are in authority should be given with a view toward righteousness, for it is righteousness that will benefit the nation most of all. "When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when a wicked man rules, people groan" (Prov. 29:2). Therefore, if we would see our nation exalted, seek our own welfare and the welfare of all men, and lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity, then let us continuously pray for all who are in authority. "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior."

Stacey E. Durham



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