I want to be both politically neutral and correct in making an assertion. In my lifetime (my dear mother named me after a general soon-to-become president named Eisenhower and a preacher named Moody) I do not recall a more contentious build-up to a new president and his administration than the one we witnessed this time around. On January 20, Donald John Trump took the oath for the office of President of the United States, and a new chapter in this nation’s history has begun. How shall we respond?
The Bible lists not a single caveat nor even one exception clause in its profound advocacy to pray for political leaders in power: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, 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. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1-4). Be reminded that when the apostle Paul wrote this call to prayer, Nero was the reigning monarch in the Roman Empire.
And please note this is not simply a call to intercede for our new president. It is also an appeal to give “thanksgiving” for our leaders. Clearly Paul commands no begrudging prayers, but rather fervent thanksgiving prayers. And given the political climate in the empire when Paul wrote this admonition, it is just as clear that he cannot be describing a “thank God my political views have won” sort of congratulatory prayer either.
Why would Paul issue such a clarion call to pray for our kings?
Why would Paul issue such a clarion call to pray for our kings? He is quick to list the reasons: (1) that we may live peaceful lives; (2) that we may live quiet lives; (3) that we may live in godliness and holiness; (4) because such praying is good and pleases God; so that (5) all people might be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Five compelling reasons why you and I should fervently pray for the new President.
Thus, it matters not how the political fortunes of this nation and the nations of the world may yet twist and turn. The imperative is unmistakably clear: Pray for your king. And so, in obedience to the Lord of Lords and King of kings (and, if you prefer, the President of presidents), let faith communities lift up our collective and private voices in intercession to Him who “deposes kings and raises up others . . . [who] knows what lies in darkness” (Daniel 2:21-22). Let us pray for our kings, for the sake of our Lord’s saving mission, for the sake of yet reaching the people of this nation and world with the glad tidings: “The King is coming.”