Praying for those in authority
Whom do you pray for? When you petition God the Father, which person do you talk about the most? Given that the average person prays about 8 minutes per day, that’s not a lot of time to discuss other people.
If I were to measure, from most to least, the time I spend on the people I talk to God about it, the list would look pretty close to – myself, my wife, my kids, my job, my extended family (sometimes), people in my church (occasionally), and then a rare ten seconds for people I don’t know who are dealing with circumstances that deep down I’m thankful I’m not personally going through.
Looking back on that list, I see a whole lot of me. Myself, my wife, my kids, my life’s circumstances. It’s low hanging fruit to bash myself for being so self-oriented toward God. I’ve heard many preachers, when teaching about prayer, make the point that we’re too self-focused.
On the one hand, though, it’s hard to pray for people we don’t personally know. We don’t know their issues and hang-ups. We don’t know where they struggle, so it feels a little hollow to continually pray “God help them…with…their stuff”. But just because it feels awkward or difficult seems like a flimsy reason to exclude those outside of my life’s circle from being brought up before the Creator of Heaven and Earth.
On the other hand, when I look back over my list and I look at the motivation behind the ‘me’ and the ‘my’, it comes down to the fact that I’m looking for peace in my life and the world around me that I know. I desire for life’s events to go well. I don’t mind the work involved, provided I can see that the outcome is beneficial. Deep down, I long for the time when sin won’t derail what God made us to do, and I’m asking God for just a taste of that now.
So which approach is better? Praying about my stuff (which I know all too well) or praying about other people’s stuff (which I don’t know hardly at all) ? We could talk circles around these questions for quite a while and do nothing but increase our frustration level.
Perhaps instead of getting all twisted up about what we’re bringing to God in prayer, we should focus on what subjects God tells us He wants to hear about in our prayers. Paul gave direction on what topics Timothy and the church in Ephesus should be bringing to God. Remember, Ephesus wasn’t a ‘Christian’ city. It didn’t have God-focused government. Their history, laws, and business practices weren’t Biblically rooted. It was a cosmopolitan metropolis with people from all over the known world passing through. Their ideas of ‘higher powers’ in the world primarily came from Greek and Roman gods, Egyptian gods, pagan gods, and Jewish myths.
So, how does the one true God expect a Christian to pray in the midst of all that?
1 Timothy 2:1-2
First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority
Paul tells Timothy that every subject we could possibly communicate to God – needs, discussions, interventions, and thankful acknowledgments – are all fair game when talking to God about our stuff and everyone else’s stuff. But what I find interesting here is that Paul calls out a very specific group of people that the Ephesian believers shouldn’t forget to pray for – kings and all those who are in authority.
While I might pray that a certain candidate win an election, how long has it been since I petitioned God on behalf of President Obama? Or prayerfully interceded on some issue between God and the President? Or thanked God for something the President has done?
But Paul didn’t just specify the top individual in a society as being the subject of our prayers, he said to pray for all those who are in authority. Honestly, I don’t recall ever petitioning God on behalf of our town’s mayor or city council. It’s very rare that I have asked God to send the gospel message to our county representatives or, for that matter, even the local school board.
Paul’s point is that those who have authority in our society need us to approach God on their behalf. Paul is serious about this, too. He’s urging believers to pray for leaders.
I think we’re going to need more than 8 minutes.