Two recent events in the news caught my attention. The first is Pastor David Platt of McLean Bible Church in Virginia was preparing to lead his congregation in a time of communion when he was told that the President of the United States was headed to the church to ask for prayer. Oh, and he was only a few minutes away. Second, Franklin Graham declared a day of prayer calling on Christians to pray for President Trump, with specific directions.
The two events stood out to me because, while we may not necessarily have the president showing up at our churches asking for prayer, they nonetheless bring up some interesting questions about praying for our leaders. Questions such as: Should we pray for our political leaders, including the President? If so, how should we pray for them? How do we pray for them without being political? How should I pray for my political leaders with whom I have some fundamental differences? How should I pray for those leaders who are not Christians? Is it appropriate to pray for our political leaders in a worship service? I admit that I too struggle with these questions.
Fortunately, I believe the Bible offers us a way forward. Here are some things I believe the Bible says when it comes to praying for our leaders.
We need to pray for our leaders
The Apostle Paul urges the church in Ephesus to make, “petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2) A couple of things are worth noting. One, Paul doesn’t exempt anyone from praying for our leaders, and there is no leader or person that we should exempt from our prayers. Secondly, it does not matter is they are Christians. Most likely, when Paul wrote this, the majority if not every person in authority in the Roman empire was not a Christian, and yet Paul urges the church to pray for them. Finally, Paul makes no mention of the context in which to pray for our leaders. In the worship service? In our personal devotion times? In our small groups? The answer seems to be ‘yes’ to all three.
We need to pray for the success of our leaders
Yes, you read that correctly. Now, you might be thinking: Does this mean I have to pray for the success of our leaders agendas even if I disagree with it? No, praying for their success does not mean praying for their will to be done, but rather God’s will be done. Psalm 2:10-11 warns leaders to be wise and to serve the Lord. Proverbs 11:14 also warns that nations fall for lack of guidance. Here’s the point: No leader can be truly successful without the wisdom of God guiding them. I think the Apostle Paul understood this which is why he wrote to Timothy that praying for our leaders can lead to living a peaceful and Godly life.
We need to pray for God’s Grace
It’s hard enough for those of us who are pastors and leaders in the church to try to discern the voices of those in our church. But how about trying to discern the voices of 350-400 million people! Will leaders make mistakes, Yes. Do leaders in our churches make mistakes? Yes! Our leaders need God’s grace. James 4:6 shares that God, “gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” When, not if, our leaders make mistakes, the church can offer something more than the world does. While the world typically offers condemnation and seemingly unending criticism, the church can pray for and offer grace. Our leaders need to know this grace.
So, what does praying for our leaders look like? In closing, I want to offer you the prayer Pastor Platt prayed over President Trump. May it serve as a starting point and even a model of how we can pray for our leaders.
O God, we praise you as the one universal king over all. You are our leader and our Lord and we worship you. There is one God and one Savior—and it’s you, and your name is Jesus. And we exalt you, Jesus. We know we need your mercy. We need your grace. We need your help. We need your wisdom in our country. And so we stand right now on behalf of our president, and we pray for your grace and your mercy and your wisdom upon him.
God, we pray that he would know how much you love him—so much that you sent Jesus to die for his sins, our sins—so we pray that he would look to you. That he would trust in you, that he would lean on you. That he would govern and make decisions in ways that are good for justice, and good for righteousness, and good for equity, every good path.
Lord we pray, we pray, that you would give him all the grace he needs to govern in ways that we just saw in 1 Timothy 2 that lead to peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way. God we pray for your blessing in that way upon his family. We pray that you would give them strength. We pray that you would give them clarity. Wisdom, wisdom, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Please, O God, give him wisdom and help him to lead our country alongside other leaders. We pray today for leaders in Congress. We pray for leaders in courts. We pray for leaders in national and state levels. Please, O God, help us to look to you, help us to trust in your Word, help us to seek your wisdom, and live in ways that reflect your love and your grace, your righteousness and your justice. We pray for your blessings on our president toward that end.
In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.