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. – 1 Timothy 2:1-4 ESV
Who do you pray for? Better yet, who do you NOT pray for? The answer to that second question will reveal a lot about our prayer life, but also about our faith in God. We know that Jesus told us to pray for our enemies. Most of us have a hard enough time with that one. Then Paul comes along and tells us that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people. Then, just so we don’t misunderstand him, he gives us a few examples: kings and all who are in high places. When Paul says “all people” he is not saying every single individual. But he is referring to all types of people – saved and unsaved, good and bad, rich and poor, undeserving and deserving, even politicians. Why did Paul bring up kings and those who are in places of authority over us? He provides the answer. “That we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” There is a direct benefit to praying for those who rule and reign over us. God has placed them there. Paul had a unique, but very godly, perspective about governmental authorities. “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” (Romans 13:4 NLT). Peter shared his views. “For the Lord’s sake, respect all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right” (1 Peter 2:13-14 NLT). Our prayers for those in authority over us should be based on an understanding that God has instituted civil government. They are there to help maintain order and punish wrong-doers. But that does not mean that all governments are good and that all politicians do what is right. We know there are corrupt administrations all over the world. But that is why we should pray. They ultimately answer to God, so we should appeal to him that they would rule rightly and justly. So that we can live godly lives in peace and tranquility. For those of us living in the United States, we do enjoy a remarkable degree of civic peace and the ability to practice our faith without censor or persecution. That is not the case in many places around the world. So we should pray that God will keep our government and its leaders morally right and ethically pure. We should pray for their salvation, not just their replacement. We should ask God to use them to accomplish His will.
But their is an interesting aspect to Paul’s admonition that we might easily miss. We are to pray so that we might live peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way. In other words, our prayers for all men are not so that we can enjoy the kind of lives we want to live, but the kind of lives God has called us to live. The goal of our prayers is that we might have an atmosphere in which we can practice godliness in peace and tranquility, free from persecution and the danger of physical harm as a result of our faith. We all know that there are plenty of places around the world where Christians are being forced to live out their faith in the midst of great danger and the potential for severe persecution at the hands of the civil authorities. They do not enjoy peace and tranquility. For them, living godly and dignified lives can lead to physical harm, financial loss and even death.
So we are to pray. We are to pray for all men. That includes prayer for our neighbors, coworkers, bosses, governmental leaders, school board, police force, firemen, teachers – the list is endless. But we tend to be highly selective in our prayer lives. We pray for those we know best and like the most. We neglect the unlovely, undeserving, and unfamiliar. We practice a form of prayer prejudice, conveniently reserving our petitions for those whom we deem worthy of our time and attention. But Paul would have us realize that to pray for all men is something that is pleasing to God. Why? Because God desires that all men come to a saving knowledge of His Son. This would seem to indicate that our prayers for all men should include a desire that they come to faith in Christ. Which is only logical when you consider that the answer to every problem facing mankind is a right relationship with God made possible only through acceptance of Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. If we want righteous and just leadership in this country, we need to pray that those in authority come to faith in Christ. If we want to see our nation morally revived, it will only happen if men and women come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior and experience the life-transforming power made possible through His indwelling Holy Spirit. The answer to the world’s problems is not better government, but godly government, and that will only take place when we have godly people serving in places of authority.
So we need to pray. For all men. Not just some. We need to pray for their salvation. We need to ask God to sovereignly move in the lives of those who rule over us. So that we might enjoy an atmosphere of civic peace and tranquility, and so that we might be able to live godly lives without fear of persecution. Our goal is not to be our own personal ease and comfort, but the spread of the gospel. We should pray for an atmosphere in which the gospel can be preached unapologetically and unhindered. At this point, we still enjoy a certain amount of freedom here in the United States. But that could change in a heartbeat. We are already seeing increased animosity toward Christianity at the highest levels. And it could get worse. So we must pray. For all men. All the time. Without prejudice.