Since my birth these United States have been led by 12 different Presidents! – Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald J. Trump. Looking over that list I see some heroes and some … well, not so great men. But, each was my President.
At noon today, these United States will have a new President when Joseph Biden, Jr. is sworn into office. Some will celebrate, optimistic about days to come. Some will mourn, knowing that policies will change. Christian, whatever your political leaning, ours is a shared responsibility – to pray for those who govern. Will you?
Our prayers are informed by two Scriptural truths.
First is this. Government is God’s plan!
When we pray for those who govern we join Him in His work. In a passage that can be hard for us to accept we learn that God’s hand works in human government. “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience. Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do.” (Romans 13:1-6, NLT)
The Lord gives us freedom in this nation to choose our leaders but He is the ultimate source of authority. We honor Him when we choose wisely and when we actively seek Him on behalf of those who hold office- be it our local council or our President. So, we pray!
Second, Christians are directed explicitly to pray for leaders.
Paul, inspired by the Spirit, tells us to “Pray for all people. As you make your requests, plead for God’s mercy upon them, and give thanks. Pray this way for kings and all others who are in authority, so that we can live in peace and quietness, in godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior.” (1 Timothy 2, NLT) I’m sure you note that he does not say just to pray for those you think are good, or those with whom you agree. Imagine the struggle of those first Christians to pray for an Emperor who claimed to be divine and who persecuted them. Makes any struggle we may have pale by comparison, doesn’t it?
As a new government takes office in Washington, we can add our part in helping to make this a just and free society by faithfully praying. I urge you to write the name of our President, your congressperson and Senator, your governor, and local representatives on your prayer list and do what God asks on with bended knees.
Remember that we are citizen of two realms.
Heaven’s God and Christ claims our first allegiance.
And, we are loyal citizens of our nation.
Negotiating the road between those two claims requires wisdom, humility, and the guidance of the Spirit.
The word from the Word is from Matthew’s Gospel, a moment when Jesus reminds us of our dual responsibilities.
“Teacher, we know how honest you are. You teach about the way of God regardless of the consequences. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to the Roman government or not?” But Jesus knew their evil motives. “You hypocrites!” he said. “Whom are you trying to fool with your trick questions? Here, show me the Roman coin used for the tax.” When they handed him the coin, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied.
“Well, then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to him. But everything that belongs to God must be given to God.” His reply amazed them, and they went away.” (Matthew 22:16-22, NLT)
Father in Heaven, increase my faith so that I will live in obedience to Your call!
I lift America’s leaders, particularly our new President, Joseph Biden, before You.
Grace him with virtues of Wisdom, Justice, Courage, Humility, Faith, Hope, and Love
as he takes us the weighty responsibility of national leadership.
Work deeply in his heart and mind and draw him to a new understanding of Who You are.
Spirit of God, call us, your people, to find our unique place in this world.
Help us to be Bright Lights of Hope, Fearlessly committed to living the Truth,
Selflessly giving ourselves to Serve – God and others,
People who Pray for Your kingdom to come,
Your will to be done, on earth as it is in Heaven!
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.