An Authority Over All
By praying for those who are in power we are acknowledging that all governing power is ultimately derived from God.
"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time." (1 Timothy 2:1-6)
Scripture proposes something radical in its command to pray for “kings and all who are in high positions.” It does not order Christians to celebrate or condemn political leaders, both of which are possible at one time or another. Instead, the word of God says that we are to offer supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings for those ruling over us. Or, as we would say in a democracy, on our behalf. The command is radical because it suggests at least two things Christians believe about those who are in power.
First, by praying for those who are in power we are acknowledging that all governing power is ultimately derived from God.
As one theologian has remarked, we pray because we are helpless. There is no individual or system of government in all the world that is not under the final authority of the Lord. We take comfort that ours is a God who sets up and deposes kings.
As it is the case that all governing power comes from God, so is it the case that all governing leaders are ultimately accountable to God. And so we pray for them to rule well, wisely, and justly for all people.
Second, this prayer demonstrates to a watching world where our ultimate loyalty lies.
As the church, our marriage is to the Son of God, not a political party. We all have convictions, beliefs, and ideas about which party or political philosophy is best. But that cannot come before our prayers for leaders to rule with justice, mercy, and to promote human flourishing. Instead, we ask that God will give our country leaders who best permits us Christians to live lives that are “godly and dignified in every way.”
Tomorrow is Inauguration Day. On that day, the 46th President of the United States of America, Joseph R. Biden, will be sworn into the highest office in the land. There is no shortage of feelings about this presidency, and what might be its outcomes. Even still, we Christians acknowledge in our prayers who is ultimately in charge and where our ultimate loyalty lies.
Rather than partisan infighting, may the church in America be marked by a desire for “all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” over these next four years.
Will Stockdale is a Ministry Associate in Washington, D.C. He is also the Co-host of The Will & Rob Show.