Revisiting the Christian and State Relationship.

Archive for the ‘prayer’ Category

How to pray for government

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.

Prayer of a Christian anarchist

The prayer of a Christian anarchist is much like the prayer of the mainstream Christian. But not exactly the same.

FOR MYSELF. I always start by praying for myself, because my own spiritual need is the number one point at issue. I am hungry and thirsty for Christ, but I am also adept at sinning. I know that Jesus came to save me from my sin (Matthew 1:21), and that part of my role in the divine purpose is to bring glory to God. Seventh-day Adventist Ellen G. White writes, “Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend” (Steps to Christ, p. 93). This I endeavor to do. God is my friend and He wants to visit with me.

FOR REPENTANCE. Instead of praising Him with my lips (the kind of “praise” which He hears in abundance from those who do not do what He says), I want to praise Him with my heart. My first plea is that He will create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit in me (Psalm 51:10). This is a plea for the gift of repentance; I need this gift from Him; I need to turn ever more to Him. Unless I seek with desire such turning it will never happen. Give me the desire, O God, to be the most authentic follower of Jesus today that I can be. Why? Because God’s kingdom is on display in me. Others will be impressed (or unimpressed!) by the claims of Christ, very largely based on my daily sermon—the life I live in interaction with them.

FOR MY FAMILY. In my prayer, I pray next for my spouse and children. And yet, my primary expectation is that, while I am “arming” God to justly intervene positively for them in their lives, really this part of my prayer is a plea for God to transform me so that I am a godly spouse and parent to them respectively.

FOR MY CHURCH MEMBERS. Since I am a pastor, the next portion of my prayer is for my parishioners. The shepherd knows his sheep, and the pastor knows his parishioners. For some of them, the only person on planet earth who prays for them today, may be their pastor. I pray for them.

FOR THOSE IN AUTHORITY. I also pray for “kings and all those in authority” (1 Timothy 2:2). Today, this mostly means praying for presidents and legislators of republican democracies (which as Hans-Hermann Hoppe so carefully sets forth in Democracy—The God That Failed (in my opinion, one of those very few “MUST READ” books), means that we are praying for the leaders of a civilization pointedly in decline). My prayer is not that they will excel in violence, usurpation, exploitation, slippery politics, military conquest, and empire, but for their personal conversion and salvation. I also pray that while they are perceived as being “in authority” they will take a minimum of steps that would lead to wars, to economic disaster, or to the repression of believers.

Because the anarcho-capitalist vision is the way things are naturally set up to run in God’s creation, I pray for the realization of a just society and the advancement of these principles that will prepare us for our eventual life on earth after this age has closed and the next begun. That is, I want to live by principles of holiness and peace with all men (Hebrews 12:14). My Bible says not only in Tanakh but in New Testament that you reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7). This is Austrian economics in one short phrase, after all.

I do not know if we will get there during this age, but I think with Ellul that “the anarchist fight, the struggle for an anarchist society, is essential” and that “the more the power of the state and of bureaucracy grows, the more the affirmation of anarchy is necessary as the sole and last defense of the individual, that is, of humanity” (Jacques Ellul, Anarchy and Christianity, pp. 19, 23).

This is not a prayer for revolution, which replaces one repression with another. “Anarchy” in the sense of “Christian anarchy” does not mean chaos, but simply the refusal to seek power over others, and the insistence on obeying God rather than men (Acts 5:29). Those who should be the most consistent in praying for those in authority should be us—we who recognize the state as an enormous engine of exploitation and destruction. And yet, all of this is overruled by the asking that God’s will be done. If His will is to throw down the state altogether, then go for it. Jesus is Lord.

FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO SHARE CHRIST. The Christian seeks opportunities to share Jesus with others. If we seek them, if we, through concrete acts, actually make a dent in our local community, God will open the way and grant us opportunities to interest others in His things. If He is in it, He will help us to be efficient, facilitating our work for those whom He has already prepared in some measure to receive our life and teaching.

My daily prayer is not invariant; it is not a rote, always mind-numbingly the same. But the above is the general pattern. Possibly the reader will also find it useful. After all, taken all together, it is little more than an expression of the prayerful desire, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth” (Luke 11:2).

Tag Cloud