The United States has elected a new president, but my candidate did not win. My Sunday school teacher observed that the Apostle Paul said we should pray for the king. I fail to see the application of that Scripture to my possible predicament.
Christians in the United States have two ways we can and should influence the direction of our nation. First, we can vote for our political leaders. Second, we can pray for those who win the election, even if they are not our choice. Both are important responsibilities and great privileges. Jesus says in Matthew 5:43-48 Christians should love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them. If that is the case, no matter how one feels about the president who was elected, we should still pray for him.
Praying for the president in these perilous times should be a priority in our churches. When the Apostle Paul instructed Christians to pray, “… for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives” (1 Timothy 2:1b-3a), he stated first the principle that Christians should be in prayer “for everyone.” Prayer for all people is a Christian responsibility. It is significant that Paul then singles out only one specific group as an example—“kings and all those in authority.”
Why this specific group? Perhaps it was because with Nero on the throne of Rome and many other rulers who were hostile to Christianity ruling in the provinces, praying for these leaders would not be something churches normally would do. But Paul said Christians must pray for even ungodly, pagan, persecuting and, in some cases, mentally ill leaders. Surely if Christians were to pray for the wicked Emperor Nero, no other political leader should be excluded.
Those who govern possess great power they can exercise for good or for evil. By praying for political leaders, Christians have the potential to influence positively the affairs of the nation. Good government is important for the welfare of all the nation’s citizens. Our prayers also may help open the hearts of our leaders to hear the voice of God speaking to them, giving them wisdom to lead us through these difficult times “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Savior” (1 Timothy 2:2b-3a).
Pray for our new president. With all the pressing problems and crises confronting him, he needs all of us to pray more fervently for him and our nation than ever before. Pray for the president as if your own future, the future of your family, church and community will be greatly affected by how well he does in the job—because everything will be affected. Pray for our new president—whether you voted for him or not! It’s the right (and smart) thing to do.
Pastor, The Church at Clarendon
General secretary, North American Baptist Fellowship
Right or Wrong? is sponsored by the T.B. Maston Chair of Christian Ethics at Hardin-Simmons University’s Logsdon School of Theology. Send your questions about how to apply your faith to firstname.lastname@example.org.