Jesus Christ…. has made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father (Revelation 1:5-6)
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
As will be obvious from the number of ‘prayer guides’ in this series, we believe prayer should be our first and continuing response to the current pandemic and lockdown. Judging by the number of visits to the first ‘how to pray’ article, many readers clearly agree!
Christians are enjoined to be good citizens, to be ‘subject to the governing authorities’ (which receive their authority from God) (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17) ), pay taxes (Matthew 22:21; Romans 13:6), and do good to all (Galatians 6:10). In particular, we are to pray for those in authority so that “we live a quiet and peaceable life” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). In Paul’s understanding, this social stability is good for both society’s well-being and the proclamation of the gospel (1 Timothy 2:3-4). In its priestly role, the Church is to represent and intercede for the state before God, and exercise a caring, fatherly role, mindful of people’s, even leaders’, frailty and weakness.1)There are, of course, limits to obedience to the state, which can become an enemy of Church. We must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). As D A Carson comments, “when the state tells us to defy or disown God”, we must reject its authority; Christianity’s allegiance to the state is always “contingent, conditional, partial”. The Church is not only priestly, but also prophetic, and there are times when its calling is to represent God before the state, to declare His words, to defend His laws, to exhort and rebuke, even it means getting stoned or sawn in two!
In the midst of the current crisis, praying for our leaders is paramount. But it is not always easy, both to persevere and to know exactly how to pray. In his book, ‘Secrets of a prayer warrior’ (2009, Derek Prince Ministries) Derek Prince offers some insights on 1 Timothy 2:1-4, which many help.
- Prince sees Paul’s ‘first of all’ not as signifying the first thing he wants to say, but as defining the “first great activity” of a local congregation. The priority of a group of believers meeting together is “supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks” – in other words, prayer.
- The purpose of believers gathering together (and the Lord is present wherever two or three gather together in His name – Matthew 18:20) is to reflect the purpose of the Temple, as a “house of prayer for all nations” [my emphases] (Isaiah 56:7; Mark 11:17). This defines both the primacy of prayer when we meet together and it’s essential first focus.
- Paul emphasises this point by prioritising prayer, not for missionaries, evangelists, pastors, vicars, or even the sick, but rather for “kings and for all who are in authority”, ie in modern phraseology, for the government.
- There is a purpose for this. Paul urges us to pray for those in authority in order “that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and reverence”. Derek Prince interprets this as meaning that we are to pray that the “government will do its job properly”; in others words, “we are to pray for good government”. Good government, he says, “provides a framework, a situation of law and order and administration, in which each one of us can go about our daily life and business meeting a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence”.
- Finally, good government is “good acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour”, because it creates the conditions within which the truth of the gospel can be proclaimed to everyone everywhere and people can “be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth”. The goal of praying for leaders is ultimately for the furtherance of the gospel, the advancement of God’s Kingdom (as it was for Rees Howells and his associates during WW2).
Prince concludes by suggesting two possible reasons why we may have less than good government. First, it is because professing Christians are simply just not praying or showing any concern. Second, it is because we pray, but without knowing the will of God. As above, the Bible provides clear principles for the latter, but understanding how these apply in our specific times and circumstances is central to our prophetic task and calling.
This brief exposition of 1 Timothy 2:1-4 does not of course provide all the answers! But I hope it’s enough to encourage us to persevere (Luke 18:1-8; Thessalonians 5:17) and not to lose heart (2 Corinthians 4:1; Hebrews 12:3) or become weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9).
Most gracious God, we humbly beseech thee, as for this Kingdom in general, so especially for the High Court of Parliament, under our most religious and gracious Queen at this time assembled: That thou wouldest be pleased to direct and prosper all their consultations to the advancement of thy glory, the good of thy Church, the safety, honour, and welfare of our Sovereign and her Dominions; that all things may be so ordered and settled by their endeavours, upon the best and surest foundations, that peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and piety, may be established among us for all generations. These and all other necessaries, for them, for us, and thy whole Church, we humbly beg in the Name and Mediation of Jesus Christ our most blessed Lord and Saviour. Amen.
Notes [ + ]
|1.||↑||There are, of course, limits to obedience to the state, which can become an enemy of Church. We must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). As D A Carson comments, “when the state tells us to defy or disown God”, we must reject its authority; Christianity’s allegiance to the state is always “contingent, conditional, partial”. The Church is not only priestly, but also prophetic, and there are times when its calling is to represent God before the state, to declare His words, to defend His laws, to exhort and rebuke, even it means getting stoned or sawn in two!|