In times like these it is especially difficult to take seriously a passage like 1 Timothy 2:1-4.
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. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4 ESV)
Since Barack Obama assumed office in 2009 it has been hard to personally stomach the illogical ideological and moral collapse of the United States of America. Never has there been a more blatant disregard for the constitution, religious freedom, free speech, and inalienable rights. Politically, this has been the most frustrating period of my life as we watch our nation no longer promote work and education but instead reward the lazy and encourage ignorance.
Yet, in all of this, I have done as the Bible says and prayed for our President.
When I awoke Sunday morning to the news reports that we had negotiated the release of an American soldier in exchange for the release of 5 high ranking Taliban officers, I was immediately shocked. Without needing one contextual caveat to the story, I understood that this was unprecedented for America. Yet, I also suspected that as the context of the story was unveiled, that the situation would grow more disgraceful. And it certainly has done so.
For those of you who will say, “But what if that was your son?” If that were my son, I would be ashamed of him for committing treason against his country. I would be ashamed of him for disobeying orders. I would be ashamed that he abandoned other sons and daughters on the battlefield.
I would not raise my son in any way that would lead him to have sympathy with terrorists. I would not speak in Arabic to his captors and praise a false god even if it meant my son would be released. I am sensitive not only to treason against my country, but apostasy against my God. What about the sons of the soldiers who died when they, like a good solider would, followed the orders of their nation and looked for this coward? What about the sons of every family that has been put at risk because of his actions? What about the families of those who have died, and will die because of the 5 moral monsters we released? In a society that has a moral compass, Bergdahl would not be welcomed as a hero. He would be hauled in for court-marshal. The man deserves to stand trial not only for treason to his country, for disobeying orders, but also for the deaths for which his cowardice is responsible. If you should ask me how I would feel if that was my son – your question alone disgusts me. There is no amount of emotion and sympathy that is a sufficient substitute for truth. Your question disgusts me as a man, as a Christian, and as an American.
And don’t tell me it is the policy of our nation not to leave anyone behind. I have 1 question, what about Saeed Abedini, an American pastor who has been detained in Iran since 2012? Mr. President, your silence on this issue is hypocritical and deafening.
Yet somehow, Biblically, today, I am commanded to pray for my President. 1 Timothy being written to a pastor, I am not only to pray for my President, but I am to lead my church to do so as well. As a good soldier of the gospel this is a command on which I cannot relent. By order of God I cannot spiritually abandon my President. I must obey.
So how do we pray today?
1) We pray that our President would make decisions that would foster peace.
The desire of the Christian for society is the desire of God, peace on earth, goodwill toward men. Yet we are a more divided country than we have ever been. The last decade of national elections has bore this out statistically. This is not a problem invented by Obama, but one that has been certainly exasperated by him. We need to pray for our President and for all of our nation’s leaders that the peace of our nation, its dignity, and its morality would return as a platform issue that would replace all of the partisan squabbling over things that ultimately make no difference when a people is so divided.
2) We need to pray for our President publicly and privately.
The heart of 1 Timothy 2 is instruction for corporate and private worship. I must say that praying for my President and my country before my church is something that I have neglected to do. He is a man who carries an incredible weight of responsibility not only as a steward of our nation and its resources, but as a steward of God’s grace. If we have a proper Christian worldview, we see politics not as secular leadership, but as spiritual leadership. Every politician in office, whether they acknowledge God or not, holds a significant office of spiritual leadership (Rom. 13:1-7). If you read Romans 13 correctly, you will see that political leadership is either a detriment to the grace of God or a conduit of it. Political officials are either agents of confusion for the gospel and morality, or they are advocates for it.
The Christians and politicians who try to stay neutral on religious issues and separate faith from state are on the most asinine of quests. Churches that refuse to acknowledge God and country dismember the gospel at one of its central values. We have a sovereign God who has a heart for the nations, who desires for them to be governed as He would govern them, and without them being governed as such there is a serious disruption to life and the tranquility of life the church pursues for all people. National leadership that leads people into unrighteouness is not neutral, it is an enemy of the cross of Christ. When the church fails to pray privately and publicly for its nation’s leaders it exhibits a failure to understand the meta-narrative of Scripture and the commission of Christ to spread the gospel to all the earth.
3) We need to pray purposefully for our President.
At this point, I must call attention to Paul’s use of the word “quiet.” Does the word quiet mean that posts like this, as well as other criticisms from Jesus followers are out of line? Does this mean we are to remain uncritical and uninvolved in the political process? Not at all.
The word quiet as it is used in I Tim. 2:2 means that the church is absent of bustle and commotion. I take this understanding of the word to refer more to the content of the church’s message rather than its decibel level. If Facebook is any judge of the church’s quietness we are at a fever pitch over things that make no difference. We are in commotion. Quiet in this sense does not mean that we say nothing, but it rather means we are concerned to say things that make a difference. Quiet means that when you do speak, it is significant.
Quiet means we are not just hollering and whining, we are offering solutions and exhibiting community. We demonstrate in the church what we want our nation to be. If the inner-workings of the church are any indication, we are sick as a community of faith which is why we appear to be nothing but hypocritical loudmouths, a nuisance rather than a blessing to a nation that is imploding.
We are in this mess not because we lack volume, but because we lack volume on things that really matter. We have been “quiet” on true Biblical convictions for far too long. Instead of proof texting one another from some article posted by the Gospel Coalition, why don’t we preach the gospel to our nation? Instead of squabbling over some minute point over sanctification that only 1% of us can even understand, why don’t we speak righteousness, judgment, and the holiness of God into the lostness of our nation? We are in commotion and we are way too quiet. Let us pray with a purpose for our President.
We need to pray that God would give our President wisdom that leads to righteous rule. We need to pray for advisors in his life who would not steer him toward commotion, but toward calculated quiet that is the fruit of one who observes law, constitutional process, and order. We need to pray for prophet politicians who can walk into the climate of national leadership and proclaim the Word of God. We need to pray for citizens of Christ’s Kingdom who are convicted about justice and can demonstrate the benefit of holiness to any people.
4) We pray for our president that he would make decisions that would bring people to a saving relationship with Christ.
Some may object to this point by saying that the President is not a pastor. While he may not be a pastor, his office is no less evangelistic. His decisions are based on a message and they do advocate a way of life. While in office, our President has done much to promote Islam, homosexuality, and to demean human life. His title may be President, but the man is no less of a preacher!
Paul tells Timothy that we have a God who desires for all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. We need to pray that our President would be born again. We should also pray that his actions would help, not hinder the spread of the gospel. The big picture for the believer is not just economy, national defense, or policy making, the big picture for the Christ follower is what does all of this have to do with the gospel?
Political decisions are ultimately gospel ones. They either isolate people from the message of the gospel, or they foster an environment in which people can be more easily reached. When we empower the Taliban, we inevitably disconnect massive groups of people from hearing the Word of God. How many people will go to Hell because the Taliban received 5 of its leaders back? A Christian worldview demands that we view the news through this lens.
Now that terrorists can blatantly see that our nation is cowardly, I fear what may happen to our missionaries everywhere. There has always been something dangerous about the gospel, but I think the climate fostered by this most recent action will make it even more so. Yet we cannot relent on our commands. We must proceed prayerfully and carefully. We need to pray that our President would not hinder the spread of the gospel.
5) We pray for our President out of precedent.
You may be a dyed in the wool Republican and you cannot stomach the thoughts of praying for a far left ideological Democrat. Yet, can you imagine praying for Nero or Domition? In the context Paul wrote 1 Timothy Christians were being sawn in two, used as torches for garden parties, being fed to vicious animals, and being boiled in oil. Yet Paul tells pastor Timothy to lead his church in worship to pray for “kings and all who are in high positions.” Not to only pray for themselves, but for their persecutors in office.
The difficulty of the day does not dilute the commands of God, rather it magnifies them. I am ashamed to say that as a pastor of a local church, I, like many in Christendom, have been disgusted by what I see happening in our nation, but I have not been on my knees as I should. National crisis should not drive us to a panel on Fox News, it should drive us to God. The habit of the Kingdom of Heaven is not to spiritually abandon national leaders, but to pray for them.
As aggravated and hurt as you and I may be by what we see happening in America, we stand in blatant disobedience to the commands of God if we neglect to pray for our President.