Revisiting the Christian and State Relationship.

There is a passage in the Bible that urges us to pray for government. Only it does not urge us to pray for government. See here at 1 Timothy 2:1-4 ESV:

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.

Some have taken this as an endorsement of government, but it is not. It is speaking about those who stand in positions of perceived authority. In the same book, Paul states that God

Is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15 ESV).

If God is the only sovereign, then all other sovereigns are pretenders, persons perceived as offering legitimate rulership. There is no call implicit or explicit in 1 Timothy for the Christian to grant a kingdom, nation, or state any authority over them. If God is the only sovereign, then others are merely the foremost among gang leaders, agents of their own purposes using coercion and force to accomplish their own will. For the Christian, these are not our kings or presidents or rulers.

In any case, the text does not say to pray for the government. Look again. The church has enough challenges without having to deal with the mayhem and disorder caused by government, with its wars, adventures, expropriation of property, and so forth. The Christian to intercede in prayer concerning those who rule (actually, illegitimately). This means every kind of leader. The topic of prayer is not that they will excel even more in their use of coercive force and in their removal of property from its owners; rather, the prayer directly concerns the well-being of the Christian church. We will be least hindered if we are able to live our lives in peace and quiet.

How can one live a quiet life, “godly and dignified in every way”? When those who think they have some authority leave us alone. Our main business is to draw close to God, to persist in our own personal journey of character growth, and to live life which in concrete ways helps others and draws them to God and His kingdom. The disruptions imposed upon people in the form of wars and other schemes, supposedly to benefit us (Luke 22:25) are distractions we can well do without. The thanksgiving we can offer is for God’s watch care and His protection of us from governments, and for the peace that He does give that would otherwise uncoil itself as trouble in our lives from those who have their best interest in view and not ours.


Comments on: "How to pray for government" (1)

  1. Very true. This must be seen in the context of 1 Tim 1:9 “We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers…” and Matt 5:45 “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” And Romans 13:1-7 must be interpreted to be reiterating Romans 12:9-21 “Bless those who persecute you…Live in harmony with one another…Do not repay anyone evil for evil…If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone…Do not take revenge…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”, and 13:8-10 “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law…”Do not murder,” “Do not steal,”…Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

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