One of the first things I do upon waking each day is to pray for our political leaders. I whisper a prayer for God to be gracious to my wife and children. Then I ask God to give humility, wisdom, and righteousness to our leaders—particularly President Trump, Governor Reynolds, and Mayor Haila.
Between Two Worlds
The relationship between the civil government and the New Covenant church is an interested and complicated topic. Today, our church is finishing a series in the prophet Hosea. It’s reminded me just how much the Bible criticizes political leaders. My non-scientific guess would be that from Genesis through Revelation we find far more pointed criticisms of political leaders than we do specific prayers for them.*
Years ago, I was stunned to realized just how little weight the New Testament gives to civil government. There are a few injunctions to obey our leaders (Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13-17), which go beyond mere civil authorities. There is one command to pray for them (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Apart from this, there is very little. It is almost as if the apostles understood that we have a King, that we have been transferred to his kingdom, that his kingdom is not of this world, and that we live as aliens in this world and ambassadors for the coming world. God calls us to live as though Christ’s kingdom is inaugurated and the kingdoms of this world are passing away. That’s a very different perspective than was ingrained in me as a young Christian.
Supplications, Prayers, Intercessions, Thanksgivings for All People
Nevertheless, the Bible commands us to pray for every type of person—including those who rule us. We’re to pray (not for persecution, as I’ve heard Christians encourage) that the rule of political leaders would allow us to live a “peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (The Scripture never commands Christians to pray for the persecution of the church, though I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard Christians commend it.) Several years ago, I counted it an honor and privilege to open the Iowa House of Representatives in prayer. These leaders are important, appointed by God for our good. And so, I pray for our leaders and those in places of authority—for the just and the unjust.
Praying the Scripture
I recently began reading through 1 Peter daily. 1 Peter 2 struck me as a wonderful guide praying for our leaders. This morning was my turn to pray in our corporate worship service. So, I crafted my prayer around that text. Here it is in full, offered as a guide for you to join me in praying for those in authority over us.
A Prayer for Our Leaders
Our Good and Sovereign Father,
We thank you for choosing us and making us royal priests. We praise you for giving us citizenship in your holy nation, calling us out of the domain of darkness into your kingdom of light—all through the mercy granted through the blood of Christ.
We long for the day that we will be raised from the dead to live and reign with you in new heaven and earth where righteousness dwells.
Until then, we live as exiles, aliens, displaced people. We walk in fallen flesh, as sojourners in a world that is hostile to our faith.
Give us grace to abstain from the passions of our flesh, which wage war against our souls. Give us humility and courage to live honorable lives amongst people who condemn us without cause. May they see our good deeds and give you glory.
We thank you for the good gift of human government, for those you have sent to punish evildoers and to commend those who do good. We pray for President Donald Trump and the US Congress, Governor Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Legislature, and Mayor John Haila and the Ames City Council. We intercede for all the departments, advisors, and administrations with whom they work. Grant them all remarkable humility and wisdom, thorough righteousness and integrity, complete patience and love for their people—particularly as they consider how to lead and protect us in these days.
Teach us to honor them and be subject to them in ways that honor you and silence the ignorance of foolish people. Teach us to live as people who are free—but to never use our freedom as an excuse to do evil. In both our subjection and our freedom cause us to live as your servants. Conform us to the image of the Chief Servant, who did not count freedom, power, or wealth as a reason to please himself, but laid aside his rights and preferences, becoming a slave to serve the interests of others. May such humility be ours as we honor our leaders and love our brothers and sisters.
Teach us to be subject to our rulers with respect—even when they are unjust. Teach us to endure sorrows while suffering by being mindful of you. You have called us to suffer while doing good because this is how the Messiah served us and the example he left for us to follow. Teach us to live, not with threats but with faith, entrusting ourselves to your Son—the One who judges justly.
Our healing does not come through liberty or restriction but through the wounds of Jesus. We were straying like sheep, but you have brought us to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls. Let us be content with him.
In Christ’s name,
*Whether Christians applaud or discourage such criticism is an equally complicated game. In my personal experience, it largely depends on the political party of the one criticized.