Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
Nearly thirty-five years ago, as a relatively new believer, I was getting ready to leave a Sunday morning church service when I noticed a newcomer sitting in the pew in front of me, a few seats down. As we all made our way toward the center aisle to exit the building, my eyes caught his so I smiled and introduced myself. We exchanged brief pleasantries, and then, as I turned to move on, I wished him well and promised to pray for him and his family during the week. I had no sooner climbed into my car, however, than I felt convicted of not having taken the time to pray for him on the spot. The feeling that I needed to offer to do so would not go away, though I argued with myself that he had probably already left. Still, I decided to go back into the building to check.
Sure enough, though the sanctuary was otherwise empty by then, the young man sat alone in a pew, his head in his hands, and I realized my sense of urgency had been God’s call to prayer. I went to him and told him I believed the Lord wanted me to pray with him, and he began to weep.
“I live just down the street a few houses from this church,” he said. “My wife left me a few days ago and took the kids, and I’ve been so depressed. This morning I decided to give life one more chance by coming here to this church. I told myself that if God would send someone to pray with me, I wouldn’t kill myself when I got home. I’m so glad He sent you.”
And I’m so glad I obeyed! How often do we say we will pray for someone and then forget our promise? And how important is it to obey God’s specific call to prayer? Sometimes that call to prayer comes as a nudge from the Holy Spirit, as it did for me that day more than three decades ago, but other times it comes through a command in the Scriptures. First Timothy 2:1-2 is explicit in its call to all believers to pray “first of all” for those in authority, whether political or church leaders. Are we heeding that command? Do we regularly pray for our pastors, our congres sm en, our President, regardless of how we may feel about them personally?
I’ve been a part of the presidential prayer team since its inception in 2001, meaning that I daily prayed for President George W. Bush, those who worked with him, and their families. It also means that I now pray daily for President Barack Obama, those who work with him, and their families. As a believer I have no choice. If I fail to pray for those in authority simply because I don’t happen to agree with them, then I am being disobedient to God. And yet I have heard Christians complain about George Bush and his policies, as well as Barack Obama and his. We seem to be quite accomplished as complainers, but not so faithful as intercessors. In addition to being disobedient, that makes us poor witnesses to those who don’t yet know the One who issued the commandment to pray.
I for one have been guilty many times of promising to pray but not following through. As a result, I find myself becoming critical of others. Whether a young man contemplating suicide or individuals in positions of authority with nearly unfathomable responsibilities on their shoulders, people need us to be obedient and to intercede for them. Let’s commit together to use our words “first of all,” as the scripture instructs, to pray for and bless people, rather than criticize them. If we do, God will be faithful to fulfill His purpose.
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