The Christian Citizen Part 3: A Duty to Pray for Government Leaders

I Peter 2:13,14; I Timothy 2:1,2
       Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
       I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

ANDREW FULLER (1754-1815): There is scarcely any thing in the New Testament inculcated with more solemnity than that individuals, and especially Christians, should be obedient, peaceable, and loyal subjects; nor is there any sin much more awfully censured than the contrary conduct. It requires not only that we keep within the compass of the laws―but that we honour and intercede with God for those who administer them.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): The kings of the earth at that time were all heathens, and enemies to the Christian religion, so, generally, were those who were in a subordinate authority to them, yet the apostle commands that prayers should be made in the Christian congregations for them. They were to pray for their life and health so far forth as might be for God’s glory, and for God’s guidance of them in the administration of their government, and in their success in their lawful counsels and undertakings.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): They must pray for them, because it is for the public good that there should be civil government, and proper persons entrusted with the administration of it.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): That is the reason why believers, in whatever country they live, must not only obey the laws and government of magistrates, but likewise in their prayers supplicate God for their salvation.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): The sense is, that since the hearts of kings are in the hands of the Lord, and He can turn them as He pleases, prayer should be made to Him for them, that He would either convert them, and bring them to the knowledge of the truth they now persecuted; or at least so dispose their hearts and minds, that they might stop the persecution, and so saints might live peaceably under them, enjoy their religious liberty, and be encouraged in their moral [behaviour].

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): Tertullian, in his Apology, is more particular.

TERTULLIAN (160-240): We pray for all the emperors, that God may grant them long life, a secure government, a prosperous family, vigorous troops, a faithful senate, an obedient people; that the whole world may be in peace; and that God may grant, both to Caesar and to every man, the accomplishment of their just desires.

MATTHEW HENRY: Thus the primitive Christians, according to the temper of their holy religion, prayed for the powers that were, though they were persecuting powers.

ADAM CLARKE: We thus pray for the government that the public peace may be preserved. Good rulers have power to do much good; we pray that their authority may be ever preserved and well directed. Bad rulers have power to do much evil; we pray that they may be prevented from thus using their power. So that, whether the rulers be good or bad, prayer for them is the positive duty of all Christians; and the answer to their prayers, in either ease, will be the means of their being enabled to lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): Even the lowest country magistrates frequently do much good or much harm.

JOHN CALVIN: There is in Jeremiah another command in which the Lord thus orders His people—“Seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace,” Jeremiah 29:7. Here the Israelites, plundered of all their property, torn from their homes, driven into exile, thrown into miserable bondage, are ordered to pray for the prosperity of the victor, not as we are elsewhere ordered to pray for our persecutors, but that his kingdom may be preserved in safety and tranquillity, that they too may live prosperously under him.

MATTHEW HENRY: In praying for our governors, we take the most likely course to lead a peaceful and quiet life.

H. A. IRONSIDE (1876-1951): When we come together in a public service, we usually pray for those who are in authority. But are we as much concerned about remembering them before God when we kneel alone in His presence? I am quite sure of this: if we prayed more for those at the head of the country and in other positions of responsibility, we would feel less ready to criticize them. We would be more disposed to recognize the heavy burdens resting upon them and to understand how easy it is to make mistakes in times of crises. Our rulers need divine wisdom that they might govern well in subjection to Him who is earth’s rightful King. As we pray earnestly for them, we are furthering our own best interests. Because as the affairs of nations are ordered according to the will of God, His people find living conditions more comfortable and more enjoyable. So we are told to pray “for all that are in authority.”

JOHN CALVIN: The universal doctrine is this, that we should desire the continuance and peaceful condition of those governments which have been appointed by God.

BAPTIST CONFESSION OF FAITH, 1689: God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, has ordained civil magistrates to be under Him, over the people, for His own glory and the public good…Because civil magistrates are established by God for the purposes previously defined, we ought to be subject to all their lawful commands as part of our obedience to God, not only to avoid punishment, but for conscience sake. We ought also to make supplications and prayers for rulers and all that are in authority, that under them we may live a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty.

H. A. IRONSIDE: This is a responsibility that rests upon us as believers today.

MATTHEW HENRY: Let us mind our duty, and then we may expect to be taken under the protection both of God and the government.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): To stand in breach, by prayer, that, if it may be, wrath may yet be averted, and our national mercies prolonged. This, I think, is the true patriotism; the best, if not the only way, in which persons in private life may serve their country.
Editor’s Note: The public comments of modern American preacher-politicians and other professing “Christians,” whatever may be their political stripe, suggest that this post ought to be read on a daily basis. And who among us has not failed to carry out this Christian civic duty in our own personal private prayer?


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