Scriptural Prayer Principles
I am in the ministry of encouraging people to “Pray Scripture Back to God.” This is the ministry that the Lord has brought me to and in the course of this ministry I hear some very bizarre prayers. Recently Psalm 109, and praying it regarding President Obama has come back onto Facebook. How this passage was used, I have no definitive clue, but it is time to talk about the issue of praying scripture back to God regarding our governmental leaders.
As you read this, remember, my audience. You see, the Word talks about those who cannot “…accept the things of the Spirit of God…” (1 Corinthians 2:14). So my audience is the Christian, who I hope will put aside their partisan beliefs and see what scripture clearly says, THEN they can decide how to pray, AFTER they clearly see what scripture says. I repeated this thought regarding scripture’s clarity because God Himself “…explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits…” (1 Timothy 4:1) and this is especially true today as it relates to politics.
So, I would like to use this occasion to bring some clarity to praying for our president, WHETHER you like him or not. Let’s see if we can do that, okay?
First of all, I believe that my political preference should have NO EFFECT on this article if I am “…accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). And my commitment to you, is that it will not. It MUST NOT, if this Bible is for all of us (and in the context of this article, I mean all who are saved), no matter our political persuasion, gender, ethnic background, etc. If the Bible caters to one over the other, then the Holy Spirit made a mistake, and therefore the apostle Paul made a mistake when he penned the words (talking about Holy Writ), “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for [all of us, for] our instruction…” (Romans 15:4)and the rest of the verse tells us WHY this is so important, “…so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
Secondly, let me admit that I have always struggled with trusting newspapers, but especially now, during the year of the presidential election. Did the article exaggerate? I don’t know. Did the congressman say something inappropriate? I don’t know. But there is something that I do know, and that is praying scripture back to God.
Finally, here’s the outline of this article. We will discuss, 1) God’s View Of Leaders, 2) Man’s View Of Leaders, and 3) Praying For Leaders. Let me state right here, that I believe the Word of God to be the infallible word of God, completely inerrant as it was written, and that historical evidence, bibliographical evidence, external and internal evidence all show us that the Word of God, as it has come to us today is nearly 100% accurate, to the extant writings (the last number I read was 98+% accurate) and that the VERY FEW words that we do not know with absolute certainty have NOTHING to do with doctrinal content. So I have no problem saying that I believe EVERY WORD in my Bible. There are however, some translations that, when I compare them to others tell me that I must be very discerning about which version I use. So, I will use the NASB (New American Standard Bible, copyright 1995) in this entire post. So, before we even get started, here’s the bottom line in all of this, The Word of God, and what it says.
1) God’s View Of Leaders (Romans 13:1-7)
1Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. 3For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 4for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. 5Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. 6For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. 7Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
Let me point out that scripture not only says, “…there is no authority except from God…” (Vs 1) but the verse finishes with it saying that “…those [governing authorities] which exist are established by God…” “Established by God”? It makes it sound like God will have as a leader whom He wants to have as a leader…He, the God of the universe. The One who spoke the words and the worlds leapt into existence “Established” our governing authorities…Don’t miss that! If you want to blame someone, now, because of the past, or because of the future, blame God!
Look at verse 2, the clear issue is that we are to NOT oppose God’s will. The verse, in part says, “…whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God…” Here’s the question you have to decide, no matter WHO the leader is…in this country, in another country, in this period of time, or in another period of time…like when Nero was running the Roman empire and murdering Christians unmercifully (which, by the way, is when Paul lived and wrote to us). The question is, what is God’s will in allowing individuals to become one’s leaders. Some will argue that you cannot know God’s will. I would disagree and simply point to 1 John 5:14-15 and James 1:6-7 which make pretty plain to me, that if I pray and DO NOT know God’s will, why am I praying? Now don’t be confused, I am NOT saying that I can know every bit of reasoning behind God’s will or know His full will, He clearly tells us in Isaiah 55:9 (and other places) that “…My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.” So here’s my question to you, “While you may not know why God allowed someone into office (either that you agree with or do not agree with) what has the Holy Spirit laid on YOUR HEART to do?” Saying it another way, what is God’s will in YOUR LIFE regarding this issue?
Now verses 3-4 give us some wording that, if you agree with a particular leader, you will readily agree with, but if you disagree with the leader, you will say, HOW do I reconcile these parts of these verses? Namely, that the leader will “praise” you (Vs 3) and be a “minister of God to you for good” (Vs 4). I think that no matter which side of the aisle you prefer, the way we should reconcile these, is NOT to expect God to give us a perfect leader (remember Nero, when Paul was writing, 2000 years ago), but by looking at verse 5, which tells us to be under “…subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake…” For “conscience’ sake” because they are the “servants of God” (Vs 6). Let me use an extreme example from scripture. I’m not comparing leaders here, I am showing you God’s view of leaders. The Lord put into the heart of Nebuchadnezzar to conquer the Israelites, because of their sin, and He explicitly says, that Nebuchadnezzar is His servant (Jeremiah 25:9, 27:6 and 43:10). Again, I am NOT comparing President Obama to Nebuchadnezzar, I am merely taking away the argument, from those that believe President Obama is NOT a servant of God, by showing that if Nebuchadnezzar was, then based on what Romans 13:6 tells us, so is President Obama (again, I am not comparing President Obama to Nebuchadnezzar).
Now that this foundation is laid, let me go to verse 7, which is why the previous emphasis was so important, namely, whether you like the guy or not, give him [President Obama] “honor.”
2) Man’s View Of Leaders (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Either you want him in or you want him out!
I cannot tell you how many times I hear us pray this verse, like this, “Oh Father, if Your people, who are called by Your name, would humble themselves and pray and seek Your face, then You will hear us from heaven and fix Washington DC.” Now I know that NONE of you would ever admit that…after all, you see the fallacy in that kind of a prayer when you read it. But think about it…isn’t that what you hope?
And what about folks who WANT President Obama to stay in office…is it appropriate to pray for a hedge of protection? I would say, “No.” In fact, I teach on this very simple, practical teaching, often, that nowhere in scripture, do we read about praying a “hedge of protection.” Why? Because, hear me now, BECAUSE, our God is ALREADY protecting us! That’s why you don’t need to pray for a hedge of protection. Folks, since Psalm 103:19 is still true, “…His sovereignty rules over all” I fear that we are actually telling God that we do not trust Him by us praying, asking for Him to protect us. Let me use an extreme example to make my point here. When someone is going on Holiday and you want to pray for their protection, pray Exodus 23:20 “Behold, I am going to send an angel before you [I believe the context here is that the Angel is Jesus] to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared.” We all know that not every plane makes it across the ocean, but in praying Exodus 23:20 we recognize that their plane will end up where God, the Sovereign of the universe wants it to end up. And wherever the plane ends up, He has already prepared that place for them AND He has been alongside them the entire way. He will do what He wants, and our job is to submit to Him, because WE CAN TRUST HIM! And if (most likely “when”) the plane makes it to the expected destination, God has prepared that place for them!
3) Praying For Leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
Finally, how should we then pray for our leaders? Let’s look at this passage. “1First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Let me rewrite it as a prayer: Father, I am grateful for the emphasis that Paul placed on this subject. Show me how You want me to pray and give thanks for all people, but especially our President, and all who are in authority. Lord, You desire that we lead tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity. And because this is Your will, I trust that no matter who is in authority, my peace, godliness and dignity will be evident to all. We know Lord that when this happens, because it is good and acceptable in Your sight, men will be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.
I often teach that we in the 21st century West are just as guilty of worshipping idols as those we read about in scripture. How? By worrying. Whether you worry about who will get in office or who will stay in office, whether “your man” is in or whether “your man” is out, I believe that ANYTHING you worry about is a worry because you have chosen to not trust God with it and therefore set it up above God. I say this, because if the Lord was first in your life, and He was who you trusted, AND submitted to, you would trust his decisions. Listen, get involved with the process and vote your conscience, but at the end of the day (maybe even at the beginning of the day), thank God for whoever He puts into office! 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I have rewritten this verse and not been zapped yet, so let me give it to you, “In everything give thanks, for God has something up His sleeve!” Make sure you vote. It is your responsibility, but trust that God is in control and He will have as a leader whom He wants, for whatever reasons He has in mind.
Let me go to a sobering Samuel passage (1 Samuel 12:20-25). He is facing people that are just like us, only 3000 years removed. One election cycle Samuel’s words are for the Democrats, and another election cycle they are for the Republicans. The Israelites asked for someone else to lead them, rather than God, and here was Samuel’s words to them: 20Samuel said to the people, “Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. 21“You must not turn aside, for then you would go after futile things which cannot profit or deliver, because they are futile. 22“For the LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself. 23“Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way. 24“Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. 25“But if you still do wickedly, both you and your king will be swept away.” I believe this should be sobering for those who have put their trust in government. If you have put your trust in government, it will be evidenced by your WORRYING about the results. This demonstrates where your true trust is, namely, in idolatry or in God.
Let me finish with 2 Chronicles 7:14, as I pray it for you and me, whichever side of the aisle you’re interested in. “Father, forgive us, Your people, the ones called by Your name, for being so reluctant to humble ourselves and pray. Oh Lord, we’d rather trust in ‘our-man’ than seek Your face. In fact, when we seek You, we typically seek Your hand, instead of Your face. Forgive us Lord. Father, let us realize how we have set our government up as an idol before You, and turn from that wickedness. We know Lord that when we do turn from that wickedness, You will hear us from heaven, forgive us of our sins, which in this case is the sin of idolatry, and You will heal our land, my land, where I walk. And Father, I believe that as You do this, as You heal my land, You will heal others’ lands, where they walk, and eventually Lord, You will heal our entire land. But it begins with me, humbling myself before You.”