Pray For Our Leaders
Pray For Our Leaders
I Timothy 2:1-2
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.”
Good evening. Our text for the lesson tonight is from 1 Timothy 2:1-2. I would like for us to take some time and reflect on the instruction given in these verses.
In our recent trip to Virginia we passed by Washington DC and took note of the vast increase in the activity around that city since we had last visited many years ago. Every country of the world has its seat of power, its capital. London for the UK, Paris for France, Berlin for Germany, Rome for Italy, Vienna for Austria, Moscow for Russia, and Washington DC for the United States Republic.
The people who live in Washington DC see more of the government officials of this nation than those who live anywhere else between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. If a Senator or Member of the House of Representatives or Supreme Court Justice or Secretary of the Cabinet or representative of foreign nation enters a public assembly in any other city, their arrival and departure are noted in the media and great attention is paid to them. In DC there are so many political chieftains in the churches, the streets, the shops, that their coming and going raises no interest. Just as the Swiss seldom look up to the Matterhorn, the Jungfrau, or Mt. Blanc, because those people are used to the Alps, they live with them – so those in our capital are accustomed to walk among mountains of official and political eminence and do not see them as a great novelty.
Morning, noon, and night those in DC meet the giants, but there is no place on earth where the importance of Paul’s injunction to pray for those in high office ought to be better appreciated. At this time, when our public men have before them the rescue of our national treasury from appalling deficits, and the immigration question and the global warming question, and there are so many opposing thoughts and ideals, I would like to quote our text with a heavy emphasis—words written by the scarred missionary to the young theologian, Timothy: “I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority.” Paul starts “I exhort therefore ...” This form has the meaning of "I command." Paul is not revealing what would please him, but that which is the will of God. “First of all ...” Indicates the primary importance. “Supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings ...” The general meaning of this is "all kinds of prayers". “for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority...” These are to be given for all men including bad rulers as well as for good ones. This includes all who are in authority regardless of rank, taking in the administrative assistants in government as well as heads of state.
In reading this I am reminded of Paul’s writing in Romans 13:1-2 – “ Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.”
I suggest to you four or five reasons why the people of the United States should be making earnest and continuous prayer for those in eminent places.
I. First, we should pray for those in authority because that prayer will put us in the proper attitude toward the authoritative people of the nation. After you have prayed for a person you will do them justice. There is a bad streak in human nature that impels us to assail those that are more powerful than ourselves. This is not just here either; the Australians call it “the tall poppy syndrome”, and they define it as “We take delight in unfairly knocking down those who are in positions of leadership in our country”.
A. We seldom fully like those who in any department have risen to greater heights of authority. You will hear things like, “They are a political accident” or “They bought their way there” or “those who elected that person are blind” and there is an impatient waiting for the person in power to come down more rapidly than they went up.
1. The best cure for such cynicism is prayer. After we have risen from our knees, we will be wishing the official good instead of evil. We will be hoping for them benediction rather than a curse. If they make a mistake, we will call it a mistake, instead of malfeasance in office. How much happier we will be; for wishing one evil is diabolic, but wishing one good is saintly, it is Godlike.
2. After all, did not our Lord say in Matthew 5:44 – “... love your enemies, ... and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,”? Does not the apostle enjoin us in Romans 12:14 – “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”? If we are to pray for our enemies--should we not also pray for those who have been appointed by God?
B. There are investigating committees set up to be watch dogs, keeping watch for misdeeds and misbehavior. Sometimes these are set up with the one hope of finding something wrong. We see this in the denominations, the general assemblies of the Presbyterian Church, in conferences of the Methodist Church, in conventions of the Episcopal Church, and we find it also in the House of Representatives, and in the Senate. There are always men glad to be appointed to serve on the “Committee of Misconduct”.
1. After you have prayed, as in the words of the text – for all that are in authority, you will be moved to say, “Gentlemen, Mr. Chairman, excuse me from serving on the “Committee of Misconduct”. Last night, just before I prayed for those in authority, I read that chapter in Corinthians about charity which ‘hopeth all things’ and ‘thinketh no evil.’“ “The Committee of Misconduct” may be an important committee, but I declare that we are incompetent for its work when we have prayed for those in high position.
2. I cannot help it, but I would rather be a St. Bernard than a bloodhound, rather be a hummingbird among honeysuckles than a crow swooping down upon a field of carcasses.
II. Second, we should pray for those in authority because they labor under so many perplexities. D.C. holds thousands of people who expect preferential treatment, and communications are full of applications and lobbying efforts. Officials are at their wits’ end to know what to do, when for some openings there are ten applicants and for others a hundred! Then there are the lobbyists each shouting for their own agenda, some even with differing propositions for the same objective. And there are the constituents, not only the ones of the official but those of their colleagues with a seeming endless stream of requests and demands to justice for real or imagined hurts.
A. Perplexities arise when people want a position for which they have no qualification, as we hear people sing, “I want to be a worker,” when they offer the poorest material possible for that position.
1. There are the foolish waiting to be sent to foreign nations as ambassadors and men without any business qualifications wanting to be installed as consuls, and the unlettered, capable in one communication of wrecking all the laws of language, desiring to be put into positions where most of the work is done by correspondence.
2. If divine help is needed in any place in the world it is in those places where patronage is distributed. In years gone by awful mistakes have been made. Only God, who made the world out of chaos, could, out of the crowded pigeon-holes of public men, develop symmetrical results. For this reason – pray to Almighty God for all those in authority.
B. Then there are the vaster perplexities of our relations with foreign governments. For directions in such affairs the God of Nations should be implored. The demand of the people is sometimes so heated, so unwise, that it must not be hearkened to.
C. There will never be a year when those who are in authority will not need the guidance of the Almighty. Only God can tell the right time for a nation to do the right thing. To do the right thing at the wrong time is as bad as to do the wrong thing at any time.
1. Look at it this way; in all national affairs there is a clock. The hands of that clock are not always seen by human eyes, but God sees them, not only the hour hand, but the minute hand, and when the hands announce that the right hour has come the clock will strike, and we ought to be in a listening attitude.
2. In retrospect we can not know for a certainty what may or may not have happened in any instance but imagine what may have occurred if the Cuban missile crisis had come at a time when other chiefs were in charge, when measures and counter measures had not reached the stage they were at.
D. You see, there are always in places of authority, impetuous people who want war, because they do not realize what war is, or there are designing people, who want war for the potential of making profit.
1. They are somewhat like the child who foolishly says, “Let’s throw some cats in the pond” and then watches as his friends are clawed by the panicked animals. He receives no wounds yet will be quick to point out that his friends should have done thus or so differently.
2. War is an expensive proposition both in lives and material. Those who beat the drums for war never themselves get hurt. They make the speeches.
3. Then there are those who instigate for war because of some great injustice and in the resulting conflict all those who instigated never as a consequence get so much as a splinter under the thumbnail, and they all die peacefully in their beds.
III. Third - Prayer to God for those in authority is our only way of being of any practical service to them. Our personal advice would be to them, for the most part, impertinence. They have all the facts as we cannot have them, and they see the subject in all its bearings, and we can be of no help to them except through the supplication that our text advises. In that way we may be of infinite reinforcement. The mightiest thing you can do for someone is to pray for them.
A. God hears our prayers and God answers prayer. In Psalm 91:15 – “He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.” And in Psalm 145:18 – “the Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth.” Then in 1 John 5:14 – “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”
1. Every genuine prayer is a child’s letter to their Heavenly Father, and He will answer it; and as we may receive a plea from our child for something not in their best interest and instead give them something of greater worth -- so God does not in all cases answer in the way those who send the prayer hope for, but He in all cases gives what is asked for or something better when asked “according to His will”.
2. At the time of our Civil War, prayers went up from the North and the South and they were answered by the ending of that war. You cannot make me believe that God answered only the Northern prayers, for there were just as devout prayers south of the Mason-Dixon Line as north of it. God gave what was asked for, peace. I suspect there is not a good and intelligent person in this country who does not believe that God did the best thing possible when He restored to this nation in 1865 to a glorious unity.
3. Think of the predicament of the Israelites on the banks of the Red Sea, the rattling shields and the clattering hoofs of an overwhelming host close behind them. Trapped between the waters and the advancing army -- they crossed the waters.
i. How was the crossing affected? By prayer. Exodus 14:15-16 - “And the Lord said to Moses, "Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. "But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.” That is, “Time to stop praying and take the answer.”
ii. Then the water began to be agitated, rose into walls of sapphire. It was obliged to stand still, and there, right before the Israelites, was a road, with the emerald gates swung wide open. They passed dry-shod on the bottom of the sea as hard as the pavement of Pennsylvania Avenue.
4. One might say Oh! What a God they had! I say: “What a God we have!” What power we see shown in Joshua 10:12 when he prayed to the Lord that the “Sun, stand still over Gibeon; and Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.” Read Joshua 10:13 – “So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped... the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day.” The Omnipotent does as He will with the great orbs of worlds, with wheeling constellations and circling galaxies, swinging easily star around star, star tossed after star, or sun and moon held out at arm’s length, and perfectly still as in answer to Joshua’s prayer. To God the largest world is a pebble. God is the creator of all things He can do all things.
IV. Fourth - There is another reason why we should obey the Pauline injunction of the text and pray for all that are in authority. That is so very much of our own prosperity and happiness are involved in their doings. A selfish reason, you say. Yes; but a righteous selfishness like that which leads you to take care of your own health, and preserve your own life.
A. A prosperous government means a prosperous people. Damaged government means a damaged people. We all go up together or we all go down together. When we pray for our rulers, we pray for ourselves, for our homes, for the easier gaining of a livelihood, and for better prospects for our children.
B. Do not look at anything that pertains to public interest as having no relation to you. We are touched by all the events in our national history, by the signing of the compact in the cabin of the Mayflower, by the small ship, the Half-Moon, sailing up the Hudson, and by the events that have happened in our own lifetimes.
C. If touched by all the events of past America, then certainly by all the events of the present day. Every prayer you make for our rulers, if the prayer be of the right stamp and worth anything, has a rebound of benediction for your own body, mind, and soul.
V. Fifth - Another reason for obedience to our text is that the prosperity of this country is great, and we want a hand in helping its continuation; at any rate I do. It is a matter of honest satisfaction to a soldier, after some great battle has been fought, and some great victory won, to be able to say: “Yes! I was there. I was in the brigade that stormed those heights. I was in that charge that put the enemy into flight!”
A. If this nation stands aright with God, the day will come when all the financial, political, and moral foes of this Republic will be driven back. By our prayers we may stand on the mountain top and beckon our leaders on and ask God show them a better way. Yea, in answer to our prayers the Lord God of Hosts may from the heavens command them forward swifter than troops ever took the field.
B. American citizens! Our best hold is on God. We have all seen families in prayer, and churches in prayer. What we want yet to see is this whole nation on its knees.
C. We have as a nation received so much from God. Do we not owe new consecration? Are we not ready to become a better churchgoing, peace-loving, virtue-honoring, God-worshiping nation? Why not now let it take place? Let us pray that the God of Nations, who has dealt with us as with no other people, by the square and the level and the plumb of the Everlasting Right adjust the cornerstone of our future. Inside that cornerstone a scroll containing the names of all the men and women who have fought and prayed and toiled for the good of this nation, from the first martyr of the American Revolution down to the last one who bound up a soldier’s wounds. Pray that cornerstone to be struck with the Gospel hammer, in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Then pray that this nation rise in Godly fear and that if it be the will of God we live in a divinely founded, divinely constructed, and divinely protected Republic. “To God be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, majesty and dominion, both now and forever. Amen.”
Certainly, in reading our text it seems that Paul is being a bit unrealistic when he calls us to pray for all those in authority; not just those whose policies we like, but all those who rule our nation. When politicians are more concerned in tearing each other to bits than in the welfare of the nation, who feels like praying for them? Who feels like praying for those whose particular kind of politics we dislike; those whom we believe to be dishonest and abuse their position; those whom we think aren’t doing their job.
We can be very cynical about our politicians, those in authority. We hear; “Oh those guys need more than our prayers!” “If he isn’t a crook before he’s elected, he will be soon after!” “Politicians are just a bunch of thieves and crooks!” Our distrust of politicians has so hindered us that we don’t even want to pray for them. Yet we are to pray for them all, those in the party we support and those whose politics we don’t like. They are all involved in the government. They are all people whom Paul says “are ordained by God”.
It would have been much easier if Paul had said that we should pray for most people, or for those in authority whom we believe to be doing the right thing. Instead he says that “petitions, prayers, intercessions, and givings of thanks, be made for all men: for kings and all who are in high places”.
Being a person in authority is never an easy position. A leader makes decisions and it doesn’t matter what course of action is decided upon, there will always be those who will disagree and criticize loudly that the politician is incompetent. Then there are the constant pressures of public office and there are also the temptations. Great responsibility rests on their shoulders – how will they respond? If force is indicated, what kind of force will be used, what countries will oppose any such attempt, what measures need to be taken to ensure that this will not lead to additional conflict? Should we commit our military forces to help, and if so in what way are we jeopardizing peace on this earth and on and on. Certainly on any single point we may feel we have the right answer but I don’t think that there is anyone in this assembly who should want to be in the position of those in authority.
No wonder Paul encourages us to “pray for those in high places”. Don’t sit back and criticize them. Don’t rubbish their policies or decisions. Pray for them. We may not always agree with them, but we can still take them to God in our prayers. We can go to
God and ask him to give our leaders wisdom and understanding to act in a way that will bring peace and keep peace. We can ask God to guide them, strengthen them, and give them the resolve to do what is best for this country and for the world.
As Christians, God’s children, even though we may disapprove of the decisions people in high office are making, nevertheless our love for them causes us to pray for them. Just as Jesus loves each one of us and intercedes for us at the throne of God even though we don’t deserve it, so too we will pray for those who have taken up the burden of high office and take their needs before His throne.
Because the love of Jesus permeates you and me and because our eyes have been opened to the needs of our neighbor in every corner of our community; the need for education, social welfare, crime prevention and detection, export and import, the need to respond to the terrorism, the struggles of immigration and climate change, -- then politics is laid on our consciences. Politicians need our support and the guidance of the Lord as they seek to find the right path of action.
As God’s people in a world where there is so much violence, suffering, and pain, God grant that we may see the unique role He has given us. May we take all those who carry a heavy load of responsibility to almighty God in prayer.
We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.
Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
Invitation song ???
Reference sermons by: DeWitt Talmadge and Vince Gerhardy
Where and when we meet
Chardon, Ohio 44024