Day 06 Devotional & Discussion – March 11, 2014

1 Timothy 2:1-4

When was the last time you prayed for those in government positions of power?  For judges and our courts?  As Primary Election Day approaches, pray for those who are leaders and judges.  Pray that those who have power will use that power to create policies and administer justice that will lead to peace (shalom) and dignity.

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3 comments

  1. My notes tell me that Nero was in power when Paul wrote these words. Geesh. I almost want to confront Paul about that. Nero was a massive idiot. But this is very, very instructive for me. When we have deep feelings of loathing for our leaders, and God knows we often do have those feelings, we need to pray for them. Imagine how North Korean Christians would feel about this passage. It’s almost a one-to-one correlation with the situation into which Paul wrote Timothy.

    “Peaceable and quiet lives” does not seem to jive with the vitriol I see on evangelical’s Facebook pages about political leaders. In my context it is mostly conservative Republicans railing against liberal Democrats. So I make it a point to pray for our president by name on an almost weekly basis in our worship services. I have a feeling that the conservatives in the congregation hear me say that and assume that I mean “Lord, intervene and bring Obama to Christ so he can turn this country around.” That’s not what I mean. Although, if Obama is not a Christian (I am aware of his claims to the contrary), I would certainly want him to become a disciple of Jesus. But I pray for him to have wisdom, to seek wisdom from the Lord. I also pray for other state and local leaders.

    As I read verse 1-2, I wonder if what Paul is suggesting is actually somewhat subversive. “Pray for leaders so that we can live in peace.” In other words “Pray for that maniac Nero to stop his persecution.”

    I also wonder about the connection between 1-2 and 3-4. In what sense does “pray for leaders” in vs 2 relate to God’s desire that all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth in verse 4? Maybe I need to emphasize verse 1 over verse 2. Perhaps Paul’s central command is found in verse 1, and verse 2 is just a subpoint. What I mean is, could he be saying “Pray for everyone (yes, even that crazy man in power and all leaders), because God wants everyone to be saved.” If so, the main emphasis of this passage would be that Paul wants to Timothy to lead his church in becoming committed pray-ers so that people would become followers of Christ. Praying for leaders, then, would not be the main idea of the section. If so, that doesn’t lessen the importance of praying for leaders. To me, knowing the Nero was in view here actually heightens the importance of those words. Paul seems to be very intentional about clarifying what would likely have been a question on the minds of the readers as they hear him say “pray for everyone”. I can hear a reader thinking “Surely not the emperor, right?” It is a question that runs through our minds as we think about corrupt plutocrats. We would rather cry for impeachment, hope they lose the vote, and talk viciously about them online…and in Sunday School. And here is Paul, talking about a guy who burned Christians at the stake to light his garden at night saying “pray for him”. Wow.

    1. I really appreciate your thoughts, Joel. Your final comments made me realize that Paul is probably echoing Jesus’ statements about loving our enemies, and blessing those that curse us and praying for those who abuse us (Luke 6:27-28). It is Jesus showing us the example by praying, “Father, forgive them” as the Romans are driving nails into his hands. It is Martin Luther King Jr. praying for Bull Conner. The act of prayer is not some passive thing. The act of prayer on behalf of our enemy is a bold act of love that refuses to feed the fire of hatred and violence.

      I also need to pray for leaders because they have power to shape civic life through executive orders, political action, etc. My prayer for President Obama is that he will use the power of his pen to chip away at injustice and thereby bring about peace through justice. For instance, the President can stop funding for the implementation of the “War on Drugs” that has destroyed entire communities of color. I believe his heart is in the right place when he says we must intervene on behalf of young men of color. I pray that his heart will move his pen to ensure that young men will no longer be swept into the correctional system through overly aggressive policing in minority communities. I pray that he will stop deportations of the undocumented until Congress acts to reform our family-destroying immigration policies. As the Bible reminds us, “the heart of the King is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” (Prov. 21:1). And we pray, “Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Amen.

  2. In reading both of your comments, I wonder if praying for leaders also readjusts our perspective on who holds ultimate power. I’m not suggesting prayer is void of a valid plea or goal and is just meant for us; I do believe God hears our prayers and acts on our behalf. But when I think, for instance, of Christians praying for a Nero or some other corrupt or cruel politician it seems to me such a prayer would also remind us that God has ultimate authority. I’ll admit, this might not be the most comforting thought when one is on the receiving end of injustice. But I think such a prayer – in addition to freeing us from the powerful urge to hate those who are unjust – helps to free us from the possibly debilitating fear of being mistreated at the hands of those in positions of power here on earth. This would go hand-in-hand with the teaching of Christ in Luke 12:4 – “My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.” A prayer that releases us from hate and fear would truly prepare our hearts to be filled with Love, even for those in positions of power.

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