“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” —I Timothy 2:1-2
As Paul wrote to the young man Timothy a letter of encouragement, he knew the fears of being on a mission in a hostile culture. The prospect of persecution loomed large. The spiritual solution to this threat was first and foremost prayer. Specifically, Paul called upon Timothy to pray for “kings and all those in authority”. He emphasized the importance of this by urging him to turn to prayer “first of all.”
I write this in the wake of a violent tragedy in the United States. In Orlando, Florida, 49 people were slain in a senseless act of horrific violence when a young man, Omar Mateen, entered a night club and opened fire with an assault rifle. Shock and horror has rippled across the internet and people’s lives because of this violent act. Memes about gun control, terrorism, hatred, violence, and videos of political leader’s reactions abound on Facebook. People want to understand what happened and find a way to fix it. We want this so that people can live “peaceful and quite lives” to use the words of Paul.
Our natural and inadequate response
Our human nature is to grab for the three P’s: programs, policies, or procedures. The three P’s give us a sense of doing something about the problem. The unfortunate limitation of these three P’s is that for the most part they are an effort at controlling outward behavior, but do not necessarily translate into any inward change of people. That doesn’t mean that they are without value. We need both outer and inner transformation for us to live peaceably with one another.
Paul seems to understand this need for both changes. He urges Timothy to pray for leaders so that it might effect both an external and an internal change. The external change is “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives…”. However, Paul doesn’t stop there. He goes on to include the internal transformation that is needed “in all godliness and holiness.”
I have to confess, I don’t full understand how prayer for our leaders eventually produces inner and outer changes of our lives collectively. I can see how praying for our leaders could result in them following the Holy Spirit’s guidance as they establish the three P’s in ways that are wise and prudent. Perhaps, our intercessions can even help them make decisions and establish the three P’s in such a way that they do help us live more godly and holy lives. Despite the limitation of my understanding, I trust that Paul understood the power of prayer in ways that I don’t yet fully grasp. So, for us to overcome violence and obtain peace I believe we must…
What We Must Do
Pray for our leaders
Pray for God to anoint our leaders with the Holy Spirit to guide them and grant them wisdom. Pray that they would understand and know the depth and breadth of Christ redeeming love, so that they act from a place of humility and compassion. Pray that our leaders strive for unity, that they act with integrity, and that they themselves continually model godliness and holiness. Pray that they uphold the truth with courage, dignity, and respect. Pray that they would have the heart and mind of Christ, so that they may be servant leaders to their communities. Ask God to physically and spiritually protect them from harm. Pray that they would flee from corruption. Pray that God would surround them with godly men and women to perpetually support them that they do not grow weary of the good that they do nor find themselves led astray.
Pray for peace in the fullest biblical sense
The biblical concept of peace is so much more than just an absence of conflict. In the Old Testament the word “shalom” is translated as peace. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance describes it as “completeness, soundness, welfare, peace.” Shalom can be used equally to speak about a truce between warring nations or the internal peace of someone who feels completely secure. We need to pray for the fullness of shalom to prevail upon our communities
Pray that in our communities no one lacks for the basics of life: food, clothing, and adequate shelter. Pray that because we do not lack, we do not fear, and that because we do not fear, we do not act defensively, but helpfully. Pray for the strengthening of our communities, so that no is alone. Pray for both the inner and outer welfare of our neighbors.
Pray for inner conversion
Godliness and holiness are not states we achieve by our own accord. We are sinful. God is holy and righteous. Pray that both as individuals and communities we would turn away from our sinful nature and turn toward God in Christ. Confess your sins both little and large, seen and unseen, intentional and unintentional. When you see evil at work in your church, neighborhood, or nation, intercede fervently that God would open our eyes collectively so that we might confess our transgression and change our ways together.
To be holy is to not simply be doing the right things. Something holy is something set apart. Specifically, to be holy is to be set apart for a godly purpose. Pray not that we just have quiet and peaceable lives, but we live lives that fulfill God’s purposes. Pray each day we that honor and glorify God by being a blessing with the blessings we have been given. Pray that we honor and glorify God by setting aside time to draw together and corporately worship God. Pray that we honor and glorify God by living for God’s will not ours. Pray that we might each know Jesus, so that we can live into the truth he spoke to his disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Lastly, before we leap to establishing the three P’s of programs, policies, and procedures, let us joyful embrace the three P’s of Praying for leaders, Praying for peace, Praying for conversion.
A small favor that just might change the world
Rather than sharing a meme, a political article, or youtube video today, would you please share this post on your favorite social media. Perhaps, together with the Apostle Paul we can encourage one another to pray “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” Wouldn’t that be a beautiful thing?