Pray for Those in Authority

Prayer

One of our specific obligations in prayer is to pray for those in positions of civil authority. Paul made this clear in his first letter to the young evangelist Timothy:

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

Not only did Paul teach that Christians are to pray for their leaders, he explained why we are to pray for them. There is a specific desire for which we should pray that is according to the will of God. Before we consider this, we should first be reminded of the purpose for which God ordained civil authorities.

The Role of Government

Although human governments involve themselves in many areas of life, the role for which God ordained them is rather limited. Paul wrote, “For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil” (Romans 13:3-4). God uses civil authority to act as His minister in punishing evildoers. By implication, this means that civil authorities are also to protect the innocent. Paul’s instructions to Timothy also indicate that God desires the civil authorities to provide and maintain an environment in which we can “lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:2).

Remember Our Responsibility Regarding Authorities

As civil authorities have been given a certain role by God, so too have we been given a responsibility toward those in power. Paul told the Romans, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1). Peter wrote, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. […] Honor the king” (1 Peter 2:13-17). We cannot ignore our civil leaders. We must pray for them and submit to them.

However, our submission has limits – we cannot act contrary to the will of God. When the apostles were commanded to do something that was contrary to the will of God (stop teaching about Christ), they replied, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). This is why it is so important that we pray for our leaders. If we follow the will of God and they reject the role God has given them, we will have trouble.

Our Prayers for Our Leaders

In praying for our leaders, for what types of things should we pray? First, let us notice some things that are not necessarily among the things we must include:

  • We are not necessarily to pray for a certain form of government (democracy, republic, monarchy, etc.) – Our country places a high value on democracy. While this can be good, a democracy only works when the country is made up of moral people. Otherwise, the majority can decide to persecute, rob, and even kill any minority group they wish. God ordained a role for government, not a form of government.
  • We are not necessarily to pray for the health and safety of the leaders – Often this is good as it avoids instability within the government. But there are times when a leader’s death means safety for God’s people. Joseph had to flee to Egypt with Mary and Jesus because of the infanticide being carried out by Herod (Matthew 2:13-16). After Herod was dead, an angel informed Joseph that it was safe to return to Israel (Matthew 2:19-21).
  • We are not necessarily to pray for the leaders’ success – If they are seeking to carry out the role which God has ordained, good. But often their ambitions are contrary to their divinely given role.

The scope of our prayers for our leaders is narrowly defined by Paul. He said we must pray for them “so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:2). This is accomplished by them fulfilling their divinely given role. Paul said, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior” (1 Timothy 2:3). Therefore, this is the first priority for which we should pray regarding civil authorities.

What Is a Tranquil and Quiet Life?

There may be many things that we might associate with a tranquil and quiet life. But there are certain things from a Biblical standpoint that we should consider. There is one thing that each of these has in common – freedom.

  • Freedom to work and provide for ourselves – Paul instructed the brethren in Thessalonica, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). Some want to be free from working and having to provide for themselves, but Paul said that working is included in the “quiet life” a Christian should live. To the degree which we are able, it is important that we provide for our own (1 Timothy 5:8) and not be dependent upon others (2 Thessalonians 3:7-10).
  • Freedom to assemble with our brethren and worship – Both of these activities are vital for Christians. The Hebrew writer said, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Regarding worship, Jesus said, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Assembling and worshipping are not optional.
  • Freedom to teach the gospel to others – Jesus told His apostles in the Great Commission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Though not every aspect of the Commission applies to us today, we still have the responsibility to teach the gospel (1 Peter 3:15; Philippians 2:16; 1 Timothy 3:15).
  • Freedom from persecution – Persecution can come either from the government as they act as a minister of Satan rather than of God (cf. Revelation 2:10), or from some other individual or group that ought to be punished by a properly functioning government (Romans 13:4). Persecution seeks to destroy the church as Saul nearly did in Jerusalem, driving the disciples out of the city (Acts 8:1). But the absence of persecution helps the church to grow. Notice what happened after Saul was converted and the persecution abated: “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase” (Acts 9:31).

If these freedoms do not exist, our responsibilities before God remain unchanged. But it is preferable in God’s sight – and certainly in ours as well – to have these freedoms than to not have them. When we are free to do these things, then “we may lead a tranquil and quiet life” (1 Timothy 2:2).

Why Is This Important?

Paul said it was “good and acceptable in the sight of God” that we are permitted to “lead a tranquil and quiet life” (1 Timothy 2:2-3). But why does God see this as good and acceptable? The answer is in the next verse: “Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). The implication here is that a government that does not meet its divinely given role is a threat and an obstacle to the spread of the gospel.

The purpose of praying for a tranquil and quiet life is not for our own comfort or prosperity. Those are certainly benefits, but the primary purpose is something far more important than that. The purpose of a tranquil and quiet life is so that the gospel can be taught freely and openly so others can hear it. Once they hear it and believe it, they can obey it without interference. Those who have obeyed it can continue to follow the Lord and lead others to Him. These things can happen amidst persecution, but they happen far more effectively without persecution.

So pray “for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:2-4).


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Comments

  1. Very good. There are times when the Christian’s prayer should in fact be for the replacement or overthrow of a particular government or regime. The objective is “that we might lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty.” Any regime that is bent upon destructive and counterproductive policies is not a God-ordained government, per the description in Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2. The regimes of Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot and Hitler did not work to produce the desired effect as stated by Paul in 1 Tim. 2, and in fact they produced the opposite – they killed millions. Christians need to banish from their thinking the notion that God directly and miraculously “ordains” specific governments or forms of government. God doesn’t vote, but he allows humans to vote, and this means that people deserve the government for which they vote and which they allow.

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