The Holy Spirit teaches through the writing of the apostle Paul to Timothy (I Timothy 2: 1 – 4), that in addressing public prayers that are to be made:
First of all, I strongly encourage you to make:
- supplications, requests or prayers for needs, for that which is lacking;
- prayers, to commune with and talk with God in prayer;
- intercessions, to make petitions for and seek God’s attention on behalf of others; and
- giving of thanks, to express gratitude and grateful praise to the Lord for his blessings.
Specifically, such prayers are to be made for all men, for kings or those who are in the highest positions of authority, and for all that are in lower positions of authority. The goal of these prayers for rulers (Ref. 1) is that we as God’s people may both:
- live a quiet life, a tranquil existence, as a result of the absence of outward disturbances, and
- live a calm, tranquil life of inner peace while we reverence God by living an upright life which exhibits dignity and propriety of conduct which commands the respect of others.
These things for which we are to pray are good and acceptable in the sight of our God who has saved us, because He wants all men to be saved; He wants all men to come to a deeper, richer knowledge of the truth.
In exhorting that prayers of various sorts be made for all men, the Holy Spirit reveals the universal love of the Godhead for all men, and the evangelistic interest that God’s people should have. Christians should be concerned for the spiritual welfare of humanity as a whole.
Peaceful Civil Conditions are sought to Facilitate Evangelism
I Tim. 2: 1 – 4 states:
- “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; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”
- “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;”
- “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”
The Holy Spirit through Paul’s writing, in exhorting that prayers of various sorts be made for all men, reveals the universal love of the Godhead for all men, and the evangelistic interest that God’s people should have. Christians should be concerned for the spiritual welfare of humanity as a whole.
Praying for rulers and others in authority is based upon the premise that God rules in the kingdoms of men, that he rules over nations, and that God can by His providence orchestrate national and international events to the advantage of his people and to accomplish His eternal purpose. God’s eternal purpose is to save all people from their sins who allow themselves to be saved by coming to a knowledge of the gospel and obeying it. The advantage that we as God’s people seek, is peaceful civil conditions which will facilitate evangelism (Ref. 1).
Peaceful Civil Conditions are Achieved by God’s Providential Activities
God works through providence among the nations. God is the “ruler or governor over the nations” (Psalm 22:28). God is the “King of nations” (Jer. 10:17). God “… increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them: he enlargeth the nations, and straiteneth them again” (Job 12:23). The most High ruleth in the kingdom of men and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up or appointeth over it the basest or vilest of men (Dan. 4:17, 25, 32; 5:21). God changes the times and the seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings (Dan. 2:21). God determines the time or duration and the borders or boundaries of nations (Acts 17:26).
The general rule in God’s dealing with nations is, “righteousness exalts a nation” (Proverbs 14:34), but “nations that forget God” are consigned to hell or Sheol, i.e., the region of the wicked dead (Psalms 9:17).
Civil authorities are ministers of God, avengers of God’s wrath, the executors of his judgment against them that do evil, whether they be those of another nation or citizens of the same nation over which they rule (Romans 13: 1 – 7; Jeremiah 51:20; Isaiah 10:5). They are tools of God to accomplish his purposes even though they may not intend to do God’s will as illustrated by Jeremiah 51:20 where he prophetically referred to the kings of the Medes as God’s battle axe and weapons of war that would be used against the Babylonians; and Isaiah 10:5 referring to the king of Assyria as the rod of God’s anger sent against the children of Israel for their wickedness.
The Aims of Our Prayers for Government Officials
The purpose or aims of these prayers is not for the rulers per se, but are ultimately for Christians (Ref. 1). The first aim is to call on God to create through his providential activities, conditions that will be conducive to both preaching the gospel to our fellowman and to our being able to faithfully serve God by living a godly life that others will take notice of and want to emulate. When rulers exercise their authority in manners that result in a tranquil social order, this type of environment facilitates both living a Christian life and evangelism. In this regard let us remember that a ruler or a president is not the savior of a country. It is the gospel, not rulers or government, which has the power to save men (Romans 1:16). The gospel is only preached by faithful Christians (Romans 10:13 – 17). Where there is no vision or divine revelation (i.e., where the gospel is not being taught or studied), and where there is no adherence to God’s revelation, (i.e., where the gospel is not being obeyed), the people or the nation perishes (Proverbs 29:18).
The second aim of these prayers is to create an inner peace within Christians by casting our cares on God (I Peter 5:7), and trusting in Him as our shield against the fiery arrows that Satan may throw at us (Ephesians 6:16) by means of persecution by evil rulers or other disturbances they may create to hinder us in spreading the gospel and living a faithful Christian life.
God knows that upheavals in national life, wars, riots and civil unrest can upset proper concentration on spiritual matters. Satan knows this also and can use these devices, these cares of the world, to choke the word in hearts of Christians, tempt them to sin by getting caught up in the turmoil, mobs, and political strife of this world. resulting in their becoming unfruitful and lost (Matthew 13:22).
As Christians, however, we must be careful to do our work of living an upright life and preaching the gospel. The shield of faith is part of the armor of God in Ephesians 6:16 which is necessary to be able to stand against these wiles of the devil. In the Old Testament, God is said to be a shield for his people and trust in God is connected to His being their shield. Proverbs 30:5 says: “…he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.” I Timothy 4:1 – 2 is exhorting Christians to use the shield of trust in God by praying to him to request his promised care and deliverance from the temptations to sin that civil authorities may create by their sinful actions toward us. We hold on by faith (or trust) to God as our shield against the spiritual arrows that evil rulers throw at us by regularly praying to God to ask for his help and protection.
With our civil authorities currently becoming more and more adversarial towards the morality of New Testament Christianity, being in many cases enemies of the truth, praying for our rulers then is akin to praying for those who despitefully use us and persecute us as Jesus instructed should be done in Matthew 5:44. During the Wuhan flu (Covid-19) pandemic, state and local governments across this nation demonstrated this adversity in their edicts in which that they considered assembling to worship God as a “non-essential” activity under threat of arrest in many areas, in contrast to recreation and taking care of pets which were considered “essential” activities.
These prayers are the same as those that Paul requested of his brethren in II Thessalonians 3:1 – 2: “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you. And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men for all men have not faith. And the same as in Colossians 4:3 “… praying also for us that God would open …a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ…”
These prayers are similar to those prayed by Peter and John in Acts 4:29: “And now Lord, behold their threatenings, and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word.”
These prayers are similar to Jesus’ model prayer in Matthew 6:10 – 13: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” which is calling on God to providentially shield us from being tempted beyond what we are able to bear. The prayer “Thy kingdom come” calls for God’s providential help in expanding the borders of his kingdom, the church, here on earth.
May God help us to pray as we should.
Our Actions should be Consistent with Our Prayers
Since we are to pray for God’s providential help to create conditions that are conducive for preaching the gospel and living the Christian life, should not our actions as Christians be consistent with that for which we are to pray?
In addition to praying to God for his providential help to permit us to live a life that is absent of outward disturbances and an inner peace, we as Christians (1) must teach the gospel to our countrymen which will improve the morality of the nation as people are influenced by its teaches, and (2) must vote for those who we believe to the best of our knowledge will create the least hindrances to the preaching of the gospel and to our being able to live the Christian life (see Ref. 2).
At present we are blessed by God with a government in which we still are permitted to choose some of our leaders by voting in elections. Voting for faithful members of the Lord’s church for various political offices is the ideal situation and would be in the best interest of all of the nation. Unfortunately though, we live in a time where few members of the Lord’s church run for political office. More and more we find that the basest or vilest of men and women are the only choices we have to choose from for various positions of authority in our country. In a two-party political system, it is nearly always the case that one candidate from one of the two major parties will be chosen by election for a particular office. In such cases, we are left to make a judgment to decide which of the two candidates will create the least hindrances to the preaching of the gospel and to our being able to live the Christian life, and then vote for that particular candidate who will adversely affect the cause of Christ the least.
While one candidate may live a sinful life, his actions and ideology may not be focused on attacking and trying to destroy biblical principles and their influence on society. This candidate would be preferable to another candidate which may also live a sinful life, but whose actions and ideology is focused on destroying biblical principles and values, replacing them with man-made values, and thereby working to prevent the advancement of the gospel and the Lord’s kingdom. Given only these two choices, obviously we as Christians should prefer the first candidate over the second one.
Galatians 6:10 says in part “As we have therefore opportunity, let do good…” This verse teaches a principle that when we have the opportunity, we have a responsibility to act. At the present time, we still have the opportunity to choose some of our rulers through elections. We should not neglect this opportunity to influence these decisions. Often it may be the case that we have to vote for one candidate whom we cannot wholly endorse in order to prevent another candidate who is more evil from being elected to that office. If we do not act on the opportunity which we have now to influence the choice of leaders by voting, then we allow others to make that choice for us, others who do not share our desire to spread the gospel of Christ and who do not share our desire to live an upright life in reverence toward God.
Let us not be like the one talent man and do nothing with our opportunity (Matthew 25: 24 – 25). Let us pray as I Timothy 2:1 -4 instructs us. Let us act in a manner that is consistent with those prayers. Let us teach the gospel to as many as we have the opportunity to teach. Let us vote for government officials who as much as possible share our morals and beliefs as taught in God’s word, and who will hinder the least our teaching and practicing the gospel of Christ.
May God help us to lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. Amen.
- Wayne Jackson, Before I Die, Paul’s Letters to Timothy and Titus, Christian Courier Publications, pp. 51 – 55, 2007.
- Jared Jackson. “Did You Vote?” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: April 12, 2020. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1250-did-you-vote
Written by: RHT