It has begun to cross my mind that the responsibility Paul charges to us who are believers, to pray for our leaders (1 Tim 2), is quite important. This will become a more pressing need in the coming months in the U.S. as elections approach. As people, in general, tend to be bitterly opposed to those who hold differing viewpoints, it seems that there is a sobering re-focus needed – that we can only blame and complain about a leader, and likewise praise him or her and bask in the light of them having a success which we agree with, if we are fulfilling our responsibility to come before God and be earnestly asking that He bless these leaders, elected or otherwise, with His wisdom, compassion, and vision. If there is a fault, if we find some huge defect in our leaders, but we are silent in prayer for them, then we give our tacit approval to their policies which we so detest. In many respects (but only to a certain extent, of course), those who are silent in prayer for their leaders are assenting nods to their decisions, whether they explicitly agree with what happens or not. If we are praying for them, then we will be moved by compassion to ask God to lead their hearts, or the hearts of the leaders around them, into something that more pleases him. That is of utmost importance, to have compassion for our leaders. Anyone can blame; that is quite easy, really, and the world is great at that. Not everyone will pray. That is the blessed duty of the believing, to pray divine blessing onto our leaders, and according to Scripture it is our obligation.
In the U.S., where there are two bitterly opposed parties, in the vast majority of everything you’ll read from the leaders on both sides of the aisle, the funny thing is that the motivation, the goals, are the same. Despite how much they vilify each other, you will almost always find that while the means and proposed methods differ dramatically, the end goals and the aims are shared – to create a better country for the next generation, to improve the lives of the people, to give kids more opportunities, to make the nation and the world a better and brighter place. Frankly, I think it is silly to hear Christians so vilify elected leaders, when it is quite obvious that they will not make perfect (or seldom even very good!) decisions – they are broken people! Living in the Texan, Bible Belt South, I have often heard certain leading American politicians criticized vigorously, but never once, not a single time in a hundred conversations, have these criticisms ever been qualified with a compassionate note, or a call to prayer for God’s wisdom for them. This is a curious thing, to me, that those names which are comically almost dirty words in conversation are not referenced more often in prayer, or in a prayerful manner. Why would we expect our leaders to make good decisions if we are not constantly providing the one thing we can for them, prayers for heavenly wisdom? Are they lost causes, beyond the reach of grace and divine wisdom? Are we not the ones with the power to change things? With our votes, yes, but let’s compare the effect of one individual vote with one earnest prayer from a believer. It is a potential example of us letting our culture and its political view expression tendencies hijack our faith, when we are more interested in being a source of passionate criticism than in being a fount of compassionate prayer.
I am confronting this entire idea strongly because it needed confronting strongly in my own soul; I am quite engaged and have my own soapboxes and opinions on it all, but I completely lost sight of the need to pray for all our leaders – not forgetting those whom we support and not excluding those whom we do not. That must be the crucial and all-important part of the conversation, the prayerful compassion, and then the rest. Please do not misunderstand me… this is a difficult thing to address, especially when you see something which you wholeheartedly feel is not going in the right direction, or something that is unequivocally not in line with what you believe, etc. I am not only speaking of the U.S., of course, but also of China, my new home. It is an interesting shift to come here and find myself under new leaders. But whether our leaders are Democratic, Republican, or Communist, they are in need of our prayers. We may not agree with much of what they do. Sometimes poor (or even horrible) choices are made, or there is corruption and greed. Human leaders will disappoint and we should not be surprised by this fact; rather, we in the believing community ought to be making sure we are earnestly asking God, by his mysterious providence, to accomplish his beautiful purposes using broken people in imperfect political systems. The world will stop at criticism; we shall go the extra mile of earnest prayer, truly believing in its efficacy.