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. 1 Timothy 2:1-2
In St. Paul’s letter to young pastor Timothy, he exhorts the saints of God to pray for those in positions of temporal authority. As we approach the election of local representatives, the governor of our state, and the president of the United States, it is good for us to follow this example and pray for the upcoming election and all of those elected. The Church seeks the good of our communities and our nation and we demonstrate that concern by prayers–not for one side or another– but all of those who serve that they may do so for the common good. What follows are a series of references from scholars on this text and how it shapes our understanding of this call to prayer for the civil magistrates.
Sainted Concordia Seminary professor H. Armin Moellering wrote, “It is an amazing audacity on the part of Christians to believe that their prayer for civil rulers moves God to control political events in a way that will be advantageous to the church. Only those who have stood at the foot of the cross can believe God cares that much. Neither is such prayer selfish. It is simply the awareness that what is good for the rulers is good for the church. The petition is not primarily concerned with escape from persecution but rather for that external quiet in which godliness best thrives. If a corrupt government tolerates disruptive explosions in society, the shock waves will rock the church. If there is a general decay of morals among the people unchecked by the rulers, the rot threatens also the health of the church.” (Concordia Commentary: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, St. Louis: CPH, 1970 p. 50-51)
Early Church scholar Thomas Oden writes, “Since petitions are lifted up for all, they are especially lifted up for magistrates, because they have the greater power to shape or distort others’ lives. This is consistent with Romans 13:1-5. Prayer is offered especially for all who are in high positions since their decisions are so laden with effect upon the destinies of others – for good or ill. Upon their judgement and prudence, the peace of the civil order rests. They can do great harm. Hence prayers are offered regularly for all who govern, from local magistrates to the highest authorities. Even when the ruler is unjust, the church prays to God to ‘make bad men good’ (Calvin). Even in the decades of ensuing persecution, the church did not fail to petition for the persecutors (Tertullian). Paul readily grasped how subtle is the temptation, especially amid persecution, to pray selectively only for some.” (First and Second Timothy and Titus. Louisville: John Knox, 1989, p. 90.
Another Early Church Scholar, J.N.D. Kelly writes, “Christianity was to have good grounds for hostility to the state…But the N.T. testifies to considerable loyalty to the imperial and civic authorities. In Judaism sacrifice was regularly offered in the Temple and intercession made in the synagogues for the pagan civil power. The custom soon took root in Christianity, and such prayers were established in the liturgy by the end of the first century. In general, Christianity down the ages has inculcated respect for the civil power, whether Christian or not, at any rate until it begins to exercise an intolerable tyranny. The theological basis has been the conviction that earthly power and authority have their appointed place in the providential ordering of the world.” (A Commentary of the Pastoral Epistles, Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987, p. 61)
My encouragement is simple: vote and pray. In our vocation as citizens, we are subject to the governing authorities. However, we also participate in the process. Some do by helping campaign for a candidate or related to an issue. Others perform their civic duty only in voting. No matter which candidates are elected next week, we pray for them that they may serve honorably, for the common welfare of all, and for the promotion of peace and quiet lives. May God bless our communities with faithful leaders who seek the good of all in their service.
Prayer – Lord, keep this nation under Your care. Bless the leaders of our land that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to the other nations of the earth. Grant that we may choose trustworthy leaders to contribute to wise decisions for the general welfare and to serve You faithfully in our generation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan