This last year I had the privlege of contributing a section on the Christian’s involement in politics in BJU Press’s new textbook, Biblical Worldview: Creation, Fall, Redemption. We looked at the Christian’s political responsibility under these headings:
Praying for All People
Pressing for God’s Will to Be Done
Preserve the Good, Reform the Evil
Develop Christian Political Virtues: Prudence, Boldness, Humility, and Respect
In the first draft of this chapter I wrote what follows about prayer (the published text was cut due to space constraints and improved by fellow authors and editors; I present the initial draft here because it is fuller and blogs don’t have space constraints):
When God sent the Israelites into exile, they were a conquered, politically powerless people. They were scattered form their homeland for the purpose of breaking their political power. And yet they are told to pray for the city to which they would be sent. (Jer. 29:7). Prayer was still possible. Likewise, the Christians in first century Rome did not have any political power. Many Christians were slaves. But Paul makes prayer for those in authority a duty for all Christians (1 Tim. 2:1-4).
The content of these two prayers is significant. In Jeremiah the people are to pray for the welfare of the foreign city to which they were exiled. Israel may have been tempted to view the Babylonians simply as the enemy. They may have been tempted pray curses down on these enemies. But God says his people’s welfare will be found in the welfare of the people they live among. Though Christians are not exiles under God’s judgment, they are still exiles and sojourners in this present evil age awaiting the return of their King (1 Peter 1:1). They may face persecution, if only the credulous mocking that comes when Christians resist the debauchery around them (1 Peter 2:11-12; 4:4). Nonetheless, Christians should view the unbelievers around them not as enemies, but as neighbors. They should pray for their welfare.
Paul urges that Christians pray for all people, but he calls out kings and other authorities for special attention. In particular, Paul says that Christians should pray that rulers would rule in such a way that Christians can lead “peaceful and quiet” lives. This may be a way of praying that governments would live up to their obligations as laid out in Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17. Rulers who are a terror to bad conduct but a blessing to good conduct will lead to peaceful and quiet lives for all, including Christians. But this prayer goes beyond praying just that government would fulfill its responsibilities. Paul is praying that the government will permit Christian’s to fulfill theirs. He prays that Christians might live lives of eusebia, which means a life lived in the fear of God, a life that seeks to please God in every aspect of life. He also prays that Christians would be able to live “dignified” lives. A dignified person is not flippant about life; he knows that every moment is lived before God. Life may be enjoyed but it should be enjoyed with due recognition of the duty to live always before God and a watching world. Finally, Paul indicates that Christians pray for everyone because God desires everyone to be saved. This means that Christians should pray for the salvation of those in government.
Paul’s example here of praying the government would fulfill its God-given duties reveals that Christians can pray that their leaders would be enabled by God to promote justice in all that they do. Christians should pray that governments will defend those who are deprived of justice from their oppressors (Ps. 72). Christians should also pray that their leaders would be just, righteous, morally self-controlled, and aware that they will give an account before God for their actions (Acts 24:25).
Jesus’s model prayer instructs us to pray that the Father’s will be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” This would include God’s will about the matters of state (Matt. 6:10).
Finally, Christians should pray for the soon return of Jesus from heaven to establish his righteous rule on earth forevermore (Matt. 6:10).