First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercession, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 1 Timothy 2:1-2
I sometimes wonder, when God listens to our words regarding the government, what does he hear?
Our nation is in the middle of a polarized season. This is not news. It took COVID-19 to interrupt the increasingly divided political rhetoric of an election year. When we talk about our government, the words are often pro or con. They may be filled with criticism and anxiety, or identification and hope.
In contrast to this, Paul urges words that are first of all prayerful. He uses several words to describe this prayerfulness, but it’s striking that he puts prayer first. When we pray we are reoriented out of this pro or con dichotomy. We are rescued from the tyranny of being for or against.
When we pray for people in positions of authority, we are reminded of several truths.
First, God is the highest authority. There is an authority that is higher than governors and presidents. His understanding of our present crisis is more comprehensive than any group of researchers on earth. His ability to command resources is more potent than any executive officer.
Second, we are reminded that God has an agenda that is of greater importance and urgency than any earthly government. In verse 3, Paul reminds us that God desires all people to be saved to come to a knowledge of the truth. In the midst of health or disease, in the midst of bull markets or recessions, God is working to save people by communicating what is true about Jesus Christ.
Third, this reminds us that people in positions of authority are not mainly right or wrong, but mainly in need. Our president is in need of understanding. Our governor is in need of resources. Remember how Solomon, overwhelmed at the beginning of his reign, asked God for the wisdom which he lacked.
Fourth, when we come to God with this in mind, we also remember that our primary identity is as children of God. This virus has not differentiated between Italians or Chinese or Americans. When we come to God in prayer, we remember that we are not first of all Republicans or Democrats, but first and foremost we are children who have a Father who loves them.
Jesus promised us that if we ask our Father in heaven for fish, he won’t give us a snake. When we ask for bread, he won’t give us a stone. If we earthly parents who are selfish and limited know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will our Heavenly Father give what is good to those who ask.
Finally, this all reminds us that prayer makes a difference. God is sovereign and he has chosen to work through believing prayer. Prayer is an important work that we can do right now. Prayer is the work of those who have been justified by grace. In prayer we actively depend on our Father who is able, resourceful, and who really does know best.
So let’s make prayer our primary orientation. Let’s talk through this season with prayer and thanksgiving and supplication leading the way in all our talking.
Let’s continue to pray for our president and our governor and our mayor. Let’s pray for federal, state, and local governments. Let’s pray for the CDC, for hospital administrators, and school boards.