The Christian Duty to Pray for Rulers
By Zachary Rogers
Prayer for The President of the United States, and all in Civil Authority.
O LORD, our heavenly Father, the high and mighty Ruler of the universe, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth; Most heartily we beseech thee, with thy favour to behold and bless thy servant THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, and all others in authority; and so replenish them with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that they may always incline to thy will, and walk in thy way. Endue them plenteously with heavenly gifts; grant them in health and prosperity long to live; and finally, after this life, to attain everlasting joy and felicity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
—Book of Common Prayer, 1928
Christians have a duty to pray for their rulers. This Biblical injunction found in both the Old and New Testaments is both a command and an opportunity. Traditional liturgies such as the Book of Common Prayer recognize this. In a time when cries of “Not my president” are rampant, it is necessary to remember this Christian duty and opportunity.
The command to pray for rulers can be found in several New Testament passages. Timothy wrote in 1 Timothy 2:1-4:
“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. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
First, Paul exhorts Christians to pray for all men. Second, for rulers and those in positions of authority. Why should the Christian obey this command? In order that men, including Christians, who are subject to the government may enjoy a peaceable life. Finally, God desires all men to be saved and recognize the truths of Scripture.
1 Timothy 2:1-4 makes clear Christians should pray for their rulers. The question arises, “What should they pray specifically for their rulers and those in positions of power?”
First, to faithfully administer justice. The end of government is justice and this is secured when the government protects the natural rights of individuals. Romans 13:3-4 states, “ For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” Citizens who obey the law should have nothing to fear from the governing authorities. Those who break the law, however, would be right to fear a government that executes justice.
Second, that they will govern in the interests of those they lead. In Jeremiah 29:7 we read, “And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.” Traditionally, Americans have had a conception of the national good that benefits all citizens. Today, however, many have fallen prey to the concept of identity politics and group interests. Instead, Christians should be praying and acting for the national welfare of the United States.
Finally, that God will accomplish His will through them. In the Book of Common Prayer it is written, “O LORD our Governor, whose glory is in all the world; We commend this nation to thy merciful care, that being guided by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant to THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, and to all in Authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness; and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.”
It is important to remember that Christians serve a sovereign God who reigns in the affairs of men. Those in authority have a role to play — to serve the people in order that they may live in peace. The Christian should pray that despite the flaws of those in authority that His will be accomplished through them.