As of now the United States of America has elected Senator Barack Obama to serve as the new President, Commander in Chief. Additionally, many others have been elected to various political offices among the various levels of federal, state, and local governments. We may or may not like the choices that have been made but they are what they are.
So how should we respond now? The Apostle Paul offers some timely counsel from a passage originally written to an evangelist serving Christians who had no political rights to speak of:
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2.1-4, TNIV)
One would be hard pressed to dispute that Christians are being taught to pray on behalf of and offer thanks for the governing officials. But what should we be praying for?
First, it should not be overlooked that part of this prayer is the offering of thanksgiving for those elected to office. There is little difficulty in offering thanks for an elected official that we voted for. But can we offer thanks for those officials we did not vote for and have disagreements with? Scripture demands that we do so.
As we do offer thanks, we also offer intercessory prayer as well. The purpose of this intercessory prayer on behalf of the elected officials is the desire that peace would result, leading to godly and holy living so that all would come to know the truth. The content of our prayers must be shaped by this purpose. This means the desires of our prayers will be utterly different from the desires of the nation.
So what would the content of our intercessory prayer be? It does seem reasonable to believe that if the ultimate desire is for every elected official to serve towards the end goal of all people living peaceful and holy lives within the knowledge of the truth, then our prayers first would be that all elected officials acknowledge God as the Sovereign Lord. Many officials will make this claim but it increasingly appears as though their real belief is that the nation, represented by their particular political ideology, is sovereign. At the root of war and political dissensions is the fight over who will be in control and who will have the power. What sort of peace would envelop this world if all of its political leaders would recognize that only God is powerful and in control? At the root of all politics is the belief that the quality of life is dependent on a specific political ideology. How would life be if the political leaders of the United States and the rest of the world would recognize that good life only springs forth from the acceptance and embracing of the truth manifested in God’s revelation – Jesus Christ?
It is tempting to dismiss the purpose of such prayers believing them to be neither pragmatic nor realistic. However, if this is our belief then it is us, the church, who disbelieve the sovereignty of God. Our intercessory prayer is not conditioned upon the degree of success prayers may or may not produce nor should prayers be determined by whether or not we will personally experience their results. Our prayers are to be offered regardless, trusting God to bring about his will in his own time and own way.
As the United States of America prepares to be led by Barack Obama among other elected officials, let us do pray for the President and all other elected officials. Let us offer thanks for the leadership and service they provide. But let us also pray that they will acknowledge God, not just in times of distress or when it is politically expedient but instead that they will acknowledge God as the One Sovereign Lord and that their decisions and actions will reflect their confession. Further more, let us offer this same prayer for the political leaders of all nations, ally or not “…that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness… … to come to a knowledge of the truth.”