“Christians don’t respond this way; they pray!”
The words came off the tongue of the Chicago megachurch pastor in response to many in his congregation who hissed at the mention of President Clinton’s (who was in his second term at the time) name. In a prophetic moment, the pastor left his message and taught his congregation what Christians should do regarding their leaders.
And he took them to our passage today, 2 Timothy 2:1-4:
1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
1 Timothy 2:1-4
New International Version
These are easy verses to apply when we agree with the mayor, governor, or president (or prime minister). It’s easy to pray God’s blessings on church leaders, elders, and pastors when we think they’re doing a great job. But what do we do when we don’t agree with them—when we don’t think they’re doing a great job?
Mostly, we complain about it. We murmur, threaten, posture, sound off on Social Media, and make sure our social circle realizes our level of disgust with those in authority with us.
While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with distancing ourselves from the bad leadership of those in authority over us, the very best thing we can do is pray for them. Prayer moves the hand of heaven. Prayer moves our hearts. Prayer changes things.
While the passage certainly extends “for all people”, the seasoned Apostle specifically points out “kings and all those in authority”. And it is because these people have the greatest impact on everyone’s lives.
“When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice,” Proverbs 29:2 (NIV) reminds us, “when the wicked rule, the people groan.”
It’s hard to find exceptions to this Proverb in real life. Although the Gospel seems to flourish best under the most oppressive governmental and political situations, this is certainly not ideal. And I don’t think we’d argue that.
But when our leaders are righteous, we are able to “live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness”. In other words, when we can live out our faith in other ways when we’re not having to defend it and fight for it.
God is pleased by His people connecting with Him through prayer—in all situations. But how much more are we transformed into the image of Jesus when we go to Him in prayer for our leaders instead of trying to bash them every chance we get?
There are two ways we can put this into action today.
- Write down the name of your city’s mayor, state’s governor, country’s president (or prime minister), and your pastor and elders (or whatever leadership structure your congregation has). Pray for them daily. Pray for their wisdom. Pray the Lord surrounds them with Godly counsel. Pray they would come to faith in Jesus (if they’ve not made that profession known yet).
- When other Christians approach you complaining about someone in authority over you (political leader or church leader), challenge them (gently!) to pray about that. Ask them if they have prayed yet? We’re to hold each other accountable: Christianity is a team sport. Then offer to pray with them about that leader or situation.
I don’t know the result of that pastor telling his people, “Christians don’t respond this way; they pray!” But I can flat guarantee one thing: they left that day with a different perspective on how Christians treat their authorities.
May God bless you as you apply the truth of 1 Timothy 2:1-4 this week.
Interested in more like this? Consider my book: 31 Days of Spiritual Wisdom: A Month in the Proverbs. Moving through a selection of verses from a chapter of Proverbs for every day of the month, I walk readers through a journey of spiritual formation applicable to everyday life. The goal? Knowing how to apply the wisdom of Scripture so we grow in our faith, become wiser, and show the world the life-changing power of Jesus.