Saturday, September 21, 2019

Let Us Pray for Our Leaders

1 Timothy 2:1-7 Regarding prayer, the Bible says:  “You do not have because you do not ask—you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly.”  And in these few words James addresses the two main problems that we have in our prayer lives:  we simply don’t pray as we should and that when we do pray, we pray with the wrong motives. 
How many things have we done without simply because we neglected to ask God for what we need?  How many things have we asked for that do not glorify God or serve our neighbor but only enrich ourselves?
As the next national election season begins, I hope that we would repent of both of those prayer problems.  That we would repent… 
First of all by asking God for what we need:  fair, peaceful elections in which God’s wise, providential will is done.  Second of all, by asking God for those things that our nation needs from this election with no thought of personal gain for ourselves-- or as an exercise of power over others--but that those people would be elected who would best serve our neighbor and glorify the God of nations by their wise rule.  Paul says:
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,
            The Bible is very clear that our governmental leaders are God’s ministers for our good.  Whether they realize it or not—whether they live up to their high calling or not—even whether they are Christians or not—they are still God’s ministers for our good and we are called upon by God to respect their office and honor them and pray for them.  That is very, very important for us to remember during this next presidential election.
Over the last several elections our nation has been almost evenly divided in its choice of a president.  People on both sides of the political spectrum have strong views on who is best able to lead our nation and about half the nation will be disappointed and perhaps even outraged at the outcome of the next election. 
But what will we Christians do?  We will pray for our new president whoever they are.  Why?  Because we voted for them? No!  We will pray for them and continue to pray for them for the next four years because we are commanded by God to do so and we are comforted by the fact that God promises to hear our prayers for on account of Christ.
 The Bible says that we are to offer up prayers for all people—but especially for those who are in authority over us in the nation. 
If you listen to the prayers on Sunday and join your heart to them you’ve been doing that every week. We pray for our nation and its leaders every Lord’s Day—no matter who they are and no matter what party they are affiliated with-- and we will continue to do so in the years to come. 
We ask God to bless them and guide them and enlighten their minds with his wisdom.  Our prayers are even more necessary for those whose positions on truly important matters such as the sanctity of life and marriage have strayed from far God’s will revealed in nature and Scripture.
The Bible calls upon Christians to pray for their leaders whoever they are and just think what that meant for Paul and Timothy and the Christians of the apostolic church!
The men who ruled Rome were pagans.  Several of them had already persecuted the church and put to death those who believed in Christ.  And yet God the Holy Spirit wanted the church to pray for the leaders of Rome and trust in God’s gracious rule. 
Imagine what could happen in our nation if, beginning on election day, no matter who was elected, we Christians would devote ourselves first of all-- not to the next election—but to praying earnestly for the new president whoever they are.  That is what God wants us to do. 
And why does he call upon us to pray even for those leaders who may not acknowledge him or follow his ways like the leaders of ancient Rome?  Paul says it is so:
that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 
            In 1979 Jerry Falwell founded the moral majority—a political action committee made up of conservative evangelical Christians.  In 1980 they were largely responsible for delivering ¾ of the evangelical Christian vote for Ronald Reagan which put him over the top in the election. 
From that moment on, conservative Christians became a voting block for the Republican Party and their spiritual leaders became king-makers who walked the halls of our nation’s capitol and deal-makers who hammered out legislation.
That is a very different picture than what we have here in the words of Scripture where God the Holy Spirit calls upon us to pray for our leaders so that we Christians can live peaceful quiet, godly, and dignified lives. 
How do we reconcile these two pictures of political activism on the one hand and quiet peaceful lives on the other--or can we? 
For the Christians of Paul’s day—their main goal as citizens of Rome was to lead such upright, peaceful lives so that the leaders of Rome would at the very least leave them alone to practice their faith and stop putting them to death—and at best see them as valued members of the Empire.
For the Christians who are assembled here today, our experience as citizens of the U.S. is very different indeed. 
We live under a representative form of government and we have every right—and indeed a responsibility--as citizens-- to vote for those who uphold traditional Christian moral values.  We have every right and a responsibility to petition our government for those things that support and facilitate the exercise of our faith.  We have every right and a responsibility to work and vote for change when our country has lost it way on such basic issues of the sanctity of life and marriage.
But as Christians we also know that whether our favorite political candidate wins or not—whether future legislation on marriage and sexuality and life issues supports our views or not—whether our nation ever repents of its national sins or not—so long as we are simply permitted to live as Christians in this nation, we can thank Almighty God for his providence that brought us to this time and place. 
Because at the end of the day, what we really want and need from our government is to be left alone in peace so that we can be about the work the Father has given us to do while we live on this earth which is making disciples of all nations.  Paul writes:
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.  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all,
            In his letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son.”  That fullness of time included the conquests of Alexander the Great and the Hellenization of the world.  It included the rise of Jewish nationalism and the rise and fall of the Maccabees.  And it included the Roman Empire and a code of laws and the Pax Romana and a system of roads and commerce and an Imperial census and rulers named Pontius Pilate and Caesar Augustus. 
There were political losers and political winners.  Some nations rose in worldly importance while others fell.  And yet through it all the God of history perfectly ordered the affairs of men and nations for his own saving purpose—that his Son would be born at just the right time for the salvation of the world.
Each election season, we have a temptation to almost live and die based on what happens and who is elected.  We have the mistaken idea that each of our elections are the most important election in the history of our country and that the future of America rests upon what we do in the next election.  But I’ve got big new for you:  it doesn’t. 
All of us ought to vote with a conscience informed by God’s Word and all of us need to pray that those who are elected will lead our country in the ways that are just and right and pleasing to God.  But no matter what happens in the next election, our future as individuals and as a nation rests safe and secure in God’s hands. 
And he orders our life and he rules the nations for his glory and our good out of love for each person—a love that he has shown in the death of his Son Jesus Christ who offered up his life on the cross as a ransom for our sin and guaranteed by his resurrection as eternal future of blessing and peace for each us infinitely greater than any good bestowed by this country.
And so then, as Christian people, we pray for our nation and here leaders not so that we can be on the winning side, we pray for our nation and her leaders not so that we can benefit personally—but we pray for our nation and her leaders so that no matter who is elected, we can continue our mission of making Jesus Christ known to the world. 
It is in him alone—not in President Trump or the Democratic candidate—but in Jesus-- that our hope—and our nation’s hope-- for the future is found.  Amen.

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