For the run-up to Election Day and in the season afterward, I am sharing this challenge with you all. (I created it, first and foremost, for my own congregation but I hope it might also prove fruitful to TF readers.) The challenge is self-explanatory. I offer some additional thoughts for each prayer below. May the Lord transform you as you and your communities dwell with Him in prayer.
- Pray that “Christ is Lord.” This is the simplest confession of the Christian faith. Yet, the word “Lord” carries special significance. In the Roman Empire, “lord” would have been used by anyone speaking to a person of higher social status. It would also have been, however, the title of the emperor. When Christians began calling Christ “the Lord,” they said in a decisive way that the emperor is not the Lord. A lord, yes, but not the Lord. Christians today must reaffirm as often as possible that Christ is the Lord. Our allegiance belongs solely to him. We may honor the emperor (cf. Rom 13:1-5, etc.) but we have only one Lord.
- Pray for your political “enemies.” Jesus taught us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. How often are you praying for the people you think pose the greatest threat to the country/world? You may not think of them as “enemies,” and that’s a good thing, but this is an encouragement to pray for those who think and believe differently than you.
A few ways to pray for politicians with whom you disagree:
1. Pray for their hearts. Pharaoh’s heart hardened against God (and was hardened by God, at a few points!). It is good to pray for their hearts to be softened to God’s love and wisdom.
2. Pray for their integrity. If governing authorities are servants of God (Rom. 13:1-5), then their work must be done as unto the Lord. Pray that the way they work and the work they do will be done such that God is pleased with them, and spares them His fury. (A simple prayer here might suffice: “Lord, may they fear you.”)
3. Humility is lacking in the political scene. Probably good to pray for that virtue to increase in governing centers the world over.
4. Pray for their families, their wellbeing, etc. Politicians are people, too. Their hearts break, their moods swing, their families struggle. Remember to pray for them as people, for their wellbeing.
- Pray for the Church. The church must resist at every turn attempts by worldly powers and principalities to coopt the church for their own purposes. This part of the prayer invites you to pray for the church’s faithfulness to Christ. Jesus didn’t teach us to pray for him and his kingdom to come “on earth as it is in America.” The church’s Kingdom is not of this world. Pray that we would learn to live as citizens of God’s Kingdom without confusing God’s Kingdom with the earthly kingdoms in which we dwell.
In other words, the church must not hand over its loyalty to any party or platform or politician, no matter how great the reward may seem. “What does it benefit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?”
- Pray for the government. Here is a space to pray for the workings of the government more generally, including interceding for the politicians who represent you. It also seems worthwhile to pray for unity or cooperation that is genuine and good-spirited.
I would also add: this is a time to pray for God to awaken governing authorities to the justice and peace which God desires. Here I will pray against war, the death penalty, the normalization of abortion, and systemic injustices insofar as the government sustain them. I will pray for just and peaceable economic, environmental, and social policies.
- Pray for others. Politics, like much in America, often become highly self-centered. What I mean is that we often determine our political positions and convictions based on what benefits me and what I like most. But the truth is, politics are for the “city,” the polis, not just the individual.
Take time to pray for your neighbors. Pray for their well-being, their flourishing. (See Jeremiah 28.) Pray especially for the people consistently singled out in Scripture as worthy of our compassion: the orphan, the widow, the prisoner, and the foreigner.
- Pray for yourself. We are all in need of sanctification. Confess your sins. (The seven deadly sins come in handy here: pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, and sloth.) Pay special attention to the sins you commit by mocking people who disagree with you, by holding hatred or anger against others, or by condemning others.
Pray for humility. You could be wrong in your views, after all. Pray for gentleness. In fact, just pray for all the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.
- Sing praise. God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good. Political strife feels heavy and arduous. The concerns we have for the place we call home are serious. But God is at all times worthy to be praised. So, sing, perhaps the Doxology or another fitting song.
Here’s a collect prayer that might round out your time of extemporaneous prayer: God our King, you exalted Christ to Your right hand as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Would your Holy Spirit take captive the imaginations of our world’s governing authorities, that they might work in keeping with Your will, so that the world may know Your justice and Your peace, and glorify Your name. All glory, and honor, and power are Yours! Through Christ who reigns together with You and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Blessings as you pray!