In less than six weeks President-elect Donald Trump will be inaugurated into office. As the date approaches the media is abuzz with forecasts of what will happen next. No matter the candidate or year, election season is often a cause for anxiety for many in our nation. To be sure, this particular election cycle has heightened the anxieties of many and revealed just how divided these United States have become.
In his previous post, Reggie Horne posed the question, “How is it that I should respond to the state of our society and culture now that this election is complete?” His answer was threefold; we must pray, we must remember the ministry of reconciliation to which we have been called, and we must remember that God is sovereign.
I’d like to take a moment to expound on the first of these three calls to action: prayer.
Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:1-2, “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.”
While Paul instructs Timothy to pray for all people, he makes special emphasis on “kings and all who are in high positions.” Notice, Paul not only tells Timothy to pray for kings and leaders, but to give thanks for them. Some of us may need to let that sink in for a minute.
Paul is not alone here, his sentiment echoes that of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount; “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
Here’s the thing, prayer is more than asking for “stuff” and seeing how God answers. Prayer is a discipline and a grace through which God shapes and sanctifies us as we commune with Him. Paul doesn’t tell Timothy to offer thanksgiving for kings and leaders because they are so great. Rather, Paul reveals how the posture of our hearts toward others either enables us or disables us toward peacemaking.
C.S. Lewis wrote in Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer that, “Discussions usually separate us; actions sometimes unite us.” Christians living in the United States today must make prayer our first action towards unity. Any other action won’t be a product of our wholly leaning into the Holy Spirit, who alone is able to change hearts and minds. However, through prayer God will prepare our hearts to take the healing work of the gospel into our divided culture. Furthermore, our sovereign Father will hear our prayers made on behalf of our leaders and all people, and He can be trusted to answer with all wisdom, compassion, and justice.
Four Suggested Prayers:
Pray for the President and others in high positions.
It’s important for us to remember that people are not equal to their position or role. We were all created to be image-bearers of the Creator and are valued by God.
This article by Kevin DeYoung has been a helpful template for my personal prayers for our current administration. I would recommend adding a portion for giving thanks for these leaders as well.
Pray for your enemies.
First, let’s define enemy. Is it a person on the other side of an issue than you, a Republican, or a Democrat? A genuine enemy is a person who is actively opposed to or hostile toward you.
Honestly, when I spend time in prayer for my “enemies” I often find that I’ve been more of an enemy toward them then they to me. If that is the case, let God deal with you and your heart, and go be reconciled with them.
If there is somebody who is actively opposed and hostile toward you, pray diligently for them. Ask God to have mercy on them, change them, and bless them. Pray for justice, peace, and future unity. Remember, we have been called ministers of reconciliation through the power of the gospel.
Pray for the centrality of the kingdom of God.
In addressing the issue of anxiety, Jesus charges His followers to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). As our culture wrestles through division and tensions run high, we Christians need to hear and respond to our King.
Rather than putting trust in our own reasoning or ability to lead, we need to pray. The simple act of praying is a response to Jesus’ charge as we intentionally look to Him first. So, pray that your attention be increasingly drawn to Jesus and His ability to rule with all power and wisdom.
Pray for your heart.
I love that that the Lord’s Prayer, also in chapter 6 of Matthew, begins with “Our Father” because it reminds me of His sincere desire for involvement and His deep love for me as His child. We can be honest with Him without fear.
With that truth in mind, take some time to be honest with your heavenly Father, and yourself, about any cynicism, anxiety, or hate that may be lurking in the shadows of your heart. Ask Him to help you give thanks genuinely for those whom you are not thankful. Ask God to help you see your enemies the way He sees them so that you can love them the way He does; the way He loves you.