Tone It Down
This is a time when people are praying not only for personal things of which we are typically inclined, but for political things that are to the fore of public life right now. The natural inclination is to try to ascertain how to pray and for what to pray at times like these- unsettling political seasons. We know that we are to pray for those governing. It is a foregone conclusion that we will also pray for those impacted by those who govern. We pray for the governing and the governed. And, we are in a day where justice is what matters most to most. So, that is the dominant subject of prayer for the governing and the governed.
My appeal to those who read this and commit to pray is that we do not fail to remember the spirit in which we should pray. There is a posture from which our prayer should be lifted up. Paul urged us “that all requests, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for everyone- for kings and those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (I Timothy 2:1-2). The underlying, stated reason for the prayers for public leaders is so that we may all live in peace, not turmoil. Specifically for those of us who believe, it is so that holiness and godliness might not be threatened as we try to live congruent lives that do not force us to conflict with civic authorities as we worship God and serve people.
We want peace and quiet for all and opportunity for unmolested holiness for those who believe. We need leaders who allow both and set an environment where both are nurtured. The end game is an environment (peace and quiet) and an edifying presence (godliness and holiness). The spirit of that prayerful life should then be lifted in the tenor of these hopeful ends.
For all who are concerned about justice for the oppressed, continue to pray. For those who want the civil authorities to come to faith in God, continue to pray. For all who want God’s Kingdom to come on earth as in heaven, continue to pray that society is not resistant to His presence. But, for all who pray, pray for those who lead to lead that their leadership will remove obstructions that might otherwise hinder worship and service of God and people. Pray for growing peace and godliness.
The spirit of this request is mentioned a second time in verse 8 where Paul said, “I want people everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer without anger or disputing.” It would seem to go without saying that anger and irascibility are not good accompaniments of prayer. But, perhaps that should not be assumed. Perhaps people pray angrily. Justice prayers can sometimes sound like that. I have heard some. Prayers against sometimes carry stronger emotion than prayers for. They can sound argumentative in questioning God’s care and judgment. They can give a flavor of frustration until the answers come. Perhaps this is an understandable caution.
Paul was likely an angry praying person prior to conversion. After all, he was marching to Damascus to arrest and assault Christians. He may have been one whose primary prayers were for authorities to slam the hammer down on the Christians. It drove him to Damascus to bring the wretched heresy to an end. He was, after all, well-meaning. Perhaps that is why his reminder to Timothy was to warn well-meaning, praying people to resist prayers against injustice and in favor of prayers for justice; more prayer for peace and less for upheaval of the order we do not like. Perhaps he remembered his angry praying days and did not look fondly upon them. Perhaps he learned to lean into God’s goodness and the hope that God is able to lift up and fix even that which is most broken in society. Let’s pray like that. Right prayer in the right spirit wins others, is music to God’s ears and stirs our souls toward godliness and holiness.