The political conference season is drawing to an end, and parliament will re-open next week. Since Paul urges us that “requests, 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” (1 Timothy 2:1-2), then now seems a good time to be praying for all our political leaders.
And since too there’s been a huge turnover in the leadership of many of our political parties, now is a good time to remind ourselves of who is leading which party, and of the massive challenges they each face in their own way.
- Theresa May – unless you’ve been living in a cave the past few months, you’ve probably realised that Theresa May is now Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party. She has a massive task on her hands in leading the government through the Brexit negotiations, whilst also keeping an eye on all the other issues that PM’s would normally concentrate on. Pray that she is able to make a success of Brexit, as she keeps promising.
- Jeremy Corbyn – for the second time in 12 months Jeremy Corbyn has been elected leader of the Labour Party, but he seems more estranged than ever for 80% of his MPs. Pray that he’s able to bring unity back to the party, and that the party can provide meaningful and constructive opposition to the government during this crucial time.
- Tim Farron – incredibly, Tim Farron is now the longest serving leader of our mainstream British political parties. With only 8 MPs he still faces the herculean task of reenergising the Liberal Democrats following their battering at the 2015 election. Pray that he chooses wisely the issues to focus on, and that he and his party still manage to be heard despite their shrunk size.
- Diane James* – you’ve probably never heard of her, but Diane James has now been leader of UKIP for over three weeks. Having won the EU referendum argument, UKIP faces a huge challenge on working out why it exists and what it now stands for as a political party. Pray for guidance and wisdom for Diane as she leads the party through that process. That’s a picture of her at the top of this post.
- Caroline Lucas & Jonathan Bartley – Caroline Lucas is now the most experienced leader from this group, having previously served as leader of the Green Party from 2008-2012. She’s now back co-leading the party with Jonathan Bartley. Pray for the two of them to successfully bring climate change and green policies higher up the political agenda, and ensure the UK has a greener energy, transport and industrial strategy.
All these people have a huge opportunity to shape the future of our country. If you ever wondered about the ability of a fringe party to impact the nation then just think about what Nigel Farage achieved with UKIP over the last 20 years. Pray that all of them would lead their parties in the national interest rather than out of self-interest or factional-interest. Pray that through their interactions, the best policies for the future of Britain would be implemented in the coming years.
*I wrote this last night, and already since then Diane James has stepped down as UKIP leader, claiming she didn’t have enough support within the party to be able to successfully do the job. Seems in many ways symptomatic of the crises affecting so many of our political parties. And even more reason to be praying for them…
Mark Williamson also blogs regularly for One Rock, a training organisation developing missionary leaders across the globe. He’s passionate about good films, good food, getting into deep conversations, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna. You can follow him on Twitter @markonerock.
Early this morning, my phone rang. With early morning raspiness in my throat, I pick it up, “Hello?”
“Mr. Borthwick, this is Donald Trump’s office calling. Please hold for the President-elect of the United States.”
“Is this a joke?” I ask (Republican presidents don’t often call people in Massachusetts, a historically Democratic state). Silence on the other end indicates I’m on hold.
The next voice I hear begins, “Paul, this is the Donald Trump. As you may know, I’m continuing this week with some huge decisions to make about my leadership team, both domestically and internationally. I’m wondering if you could stop and pray with me for wisdom so that my decisions foster the greatest long-term good in our country and across the world.”
I hang up, stunned at the call, but the phone rings again. This time it’s the Secretary General of the United Nations calling with a similar request. Then the President of China calls, followed by the Prime Minister of Israel, the Sultan of Oman, and the President of Venezuela.
Sound far-fetched? In one respect, it is. Neither President-elect Trump nor any of these other leaders has ever called me, and I’m pretty sure they never will. But they really don’t need to call me. God has already called. God calls all of us to pray for our government’s leaders and our world leaders. Paul exhorts us in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 to offer “requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving… for everyone” “kings and all those in authority.”
I’ll get to some of the details on how to pray shortly, but first, a question:
Why Do We Fail To Pray For Political Leaders?
Many of us may feel reticent to pray for these leaders because we feel inadequate or too small to make a difference at the national or international leadership level. Others of us, however, fail to pray because we simply don’t like some of the people who lead our nation and our world. Maybe the President-elect is not the choice we voted for. Or we might see a political leader as “too conservative” or “too liberal.” We may see their political positions as unbiblical. We may view other national leaders as enemies of the Gospel or as obstacles of our own national interests.
But the Bible doesn’t give us the option not to pray.
A few years ago, about the time that the man who was then our U.S. President was alienating a large portion of the Christian population because of his public stance on some volatile social issues and his private (though public) personal moral failures, I was urging a congregation to remember our political leaders in prayer. An audible snicker echoed across the audience, most of whom – I’m guessing – came from the other political party. It was as if they were responding, “You’ve got to be kidding! Pray for that guy?”
I paused and reminded my brothers and sisters that the commands concerning prayer for those in authority and submission to the authorities were written by New Testament writers who were living under the horrors of Roman emperors like Nero, leaders who would ultimately persecute, displace and kill many first century Christians.
In other words, the New Testament writers don’t give us license to stop praying for our political or our international leaders if we don’t like them or they are not from the political party we favor or they are not people that we wanted elected.
It’s obviously a greater challenge to pray for those who are unjust or not in keeping with our personal convictions. Christians around the world testify of the challenge to pray when the political rulers are despots, oppressors of Christianity, and advocates of un-Christian or even anti-Christian behavior, but the command is still clear – God calls us to pray for those who lead us politically. And the plural form in 1 Timothy 2:1 – “kings” – indicates that we must incorporate the leaders of other nations into our prayers.
Prayer for political leaders flows from a perspective built on the foundation of the sovereignty of God. We pray believing that the whole earth is under his sovereign control. He is the Lord of history – past, present, and future. The people in positions of leadership are incorporated into his sovereign plan.
According to Paul in Romans 13, “there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” The Scriptures repeatedly teach that every political leader rules at God’s command (2 Samuel 12:7-8; Isaiah 41:2-4; 45:1-7; Jeremiah 27:4-7; Daniel 2:21, 37-38; 4:17, 25; Proverbs 8:15-16; Job 12:18). It may seem unfathomable to us to consider the dictators and immoral and lying leaders of our world as under God’s sovereign plan, but the Scriptures affirm that these historical leaders and the events that follow them are part of God’s long-term design and directive. Even the “beast” of Revelation 13 is ultimately given his power by God (Revelation 13:5, 7, 14, 15). We may not comprehend God’s long-term plan, but the Bible clearly affirms it.
Nigeria is a country torn by Muslim-Christian tensions, especially in the northern part of the country. At a student mission conference sponsored by the Nigeria Fellowship of Evangelical Students, I was impressed by their sense of God’s sovereign work in history expressed in the prayer guide that these students had created.
Expressing their belief that God is the Lord of the whole world, they urged prayer for their President, their Government officials, their judges and the local legislations – even the ones supporting the imposition of rigid Islamic Sharia Law, something very oppressive to Christians. They went on to encourage prayer for the sustaining of the democracy, the improvement of the economy, the defeat of corruption, and the spread of the Gospel.
I brought that prayer guide home to direct my prayers in my own region, state, and country, as well as for leaders in other nations of the world.
In part 2, we’ll examine how to pray for our political leaders.
Given the state of the world and the sorry condition of our beloved America, at the same time as we exercise the power of the pen by informing ourselves and others, we also need to wield an even more powerful weapon — the power of prayer.
This prayer was penned by FOTM’s reader pnordman years ago for Richard Nixon. The prayer has been published in many publications, and Patricia received a gracious thank-you note from Ronald Reagan when she had sent him a copy when he became president.
You can also read her prayer on pnordman’s website, here.
Holy Spirit, we come before You this day in humility and gratitude to plead for Your blessings upon those who govern to insure our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Grant them in abundance Your gifts of: WISDOM: that they may always be guided to place the spiritual good of communities and the nation as the highest good.
UNDERSTANDING: that they may recognize the simplicity of truth.
COUNSEL: that they may recognize the will of God under circumstances that discourage lesser men and women.
FORTITUDE: that they may be given the spiritual and physical strength to accept the inevitable burdens of leadership with courageous endurance.
KNOWLEDGE: that they may know the vastness of their mission and yet retain humility of spirit and charity for each and every soul.
PIETY: that in the manifold duties of their offices they may always find time to communicate quietly with You and therein find peace for their souls.
FEAR OF THE LORD: that they would forego worldly honors and recognition rather than bow to the will of evil men.
May You bless and direct our leaders for as long as it is Your will for them to guide the destiny of our nation and the world.
LORD, we thank You that You hear our prayer. Please remind us, too, that You are still in control! Amen.
Lord Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords.
We come now praising your mighty power and endless authority. Your kingdom lasts forever and your dominion has no bounds.
We lift up to you our nation’s leaders who have a God-given duty to exact justice, defend the rights of the poor and needy, and give the land the rest that it so desperately needs. Almighty God, strengthen them with integrity and character to act righteously and not out of selfish ambition. Protect them from all evil powers that maneuver to coerce them. Grant them abundant wisdom so that they may know your ways – to labor for the good of Creation and all of us who daily depend on it for life and health.
For the glory of your name and the coming of your kingdom. Amen.
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Header Photo Credit:
“Capitol at Sunset” by Flickr user vgm8383 used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License.