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Prayer for World Leaders in 2008

2008 is a big year for the United States: we will elect a new President and, in essence, a new leader of the free world. While half of us will be happy with our new President and the other half will be upset, I hope that we all remember to pray for the President and all the world’s leaders this year. This, afterall, is “good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior” (1 Timothy 2:3). But what, specifically, should we pray?

Paul’s admonition is simple enough: “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. As you make your requests, plead for God’s mercy upon them and give thanks. Pray this way for kings and all others who are in authority, so that we can live in peace and quietness, in godliness and dignity.” Paul is making a simple point:

Pray for each and every world leader and their leadership team. This is true whether we like the leader or not, whether the leader is Christian or not, and whether the leader is a Republican or a Democrat. First-century Christians had several Roman emperors and local leaders that promoted persecution against Christians, but Paul still exhorted them to pray for them.

But specifically, we must keep Paul’s admonition to pray for world leaders in the context of 1 Timothy. Paul’s primary purpose for writing this letter was so that Timothy would stop the false teachers (1 Timothy 1:3). It seems from 1 Timothy 1 that these false teachers had an incorrect view of salvation (including a misuse of the OT and exclusivism), which is one of the reasons Paul gives his own testimony in 1 Timothy 1:12-17. But how does Paul’s admonition to pray for world leaders fit this context?

To understand Paul correctly, we have to put this admonition (1 Timothy 2:1-3) in the context of 1 Timothy 2:4-7 and God’s desire that all people experience salvation. When these two concerns are combined, Paul’s intention becomes clear: pray for world leaders so that people can experience salvation. In other words, pray for world leaders who will permit the gospel of Jesus Christ to be proclaimed in their nations.

Gordon Fee summarizes this well:

“…these instructions [in 1 Timothy] are best understood as responses to the presence of wayward elders, who were disrupting the church by their errors and controversies…If that be so, then what might be the place of the first paragraph in the argument [of chapter 2]? The frequent answer is that the point in verse 2, that prayer be made for rulers so that the church may enjoy a peaceful existence…However, it seems much more likely that precisely the opposite is the case. The one clear concern that runs through the whole paragraph has to do with the gospel as for everyone (“all people,” vv. 1, 4-6, and 7)…The best explanation for this emphasis lies with the false teachers, who either through the esoteric, highly speculative nature of their teaching (1:4-6) or through its “Jewishness” (1:7) or ascetic character (4:3) are promoting and elitist or exclusivist mentality among their followers. The whole paragraph attacks that narrowness.”

N. T. Wright’s comments are along the same lines:

“And notice how Paul puts it. Pray for all those in authority – because this is acceptable to ‘God our savior’! There is only one savior, and it isn’t Caesar, or any other human being, no matter how powerful they are. However surprising it may seem to us, praying for those in authority, even if they are pagan rulers, will become part of God’s plan to spread the gospel to all the world. When rulers are doing their job, even if they don’t acknowledge God themselves, they create the peace and social stability which will allow God’s people to worship without being harassed, and to build up families and communities that follow the way of holiness…In particular, when the world is at peace, the gospel can spread more easily.”

So, if we want to please God in 2008, one of the things we must do is pray for each and every world leader that they would lead their nations in such a way that the gospel can go forth and many will experience salvation!

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  1. Trip
    January 6, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    It is time again for this prayer, and for continuing in prayer for this. Not only for the elected leaders, but also for those who are leading masses of people who may wish they had other options. And, for our bosses, project and church leaders, and the judges in this world. Humility, wisdom, perseverance, honesty, … the list goes on. We also need to pray for our own dose of humility and discernment of how God is using this all for His pure and perfect purposes.

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