1 Timothy 2:1-2 reads, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (NIV).
I did a quick review of how other Bible translations rendered this verse and found that they were almost always in agreement. With the exception of a few word placements and commas, each Bible translation kept the word ‘kings’ and ‘authority’. The exception being the ESV which used “high positions” instead of “authority.”
I don’t know about you, but I never grew up having a king as a ruler in my neighborhood, but I had lots of authorities in my life. From my parents to school teachers, and even bus drivers, there were always people in my life that had a say in what I did and a form of control in how I did it.
Growing up, I didn’t want any person telling me what to do and I pushed against or acted passively (yet aggressively) toward authority. My personality type wasn’t the kind to overturn tables or loudly rebel. I found other, more subtle ways to rebel against my authorities and get the control away from them and back to me. Or at least I thought I did.
Paul was writing to Timothy about authority and how he and Timothy’s church was to respond to authority. In the next chapter, chapter 3, Paul would then give Timothy instructions on how internal church authority was to be handled.
I am convinced that Paul put a “first of all” at this point in his letter to Timothy in chapter 2 to emphasize that whatever came after this “first of all” would be secondary and if you wanted to get it right (church authority), you had to do this thing first (pray for all authority)! Once you did the first thing, then go on and do everything else, but always check back to the first to make sure you are walking in a way that is pleasing to God.
Here are the 4 things that we need to do FIRST when we think about those in authority over us (and the basic definitions1):
Make Supplications — the action of asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly
Offer Prayers — a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship.
Be Intercessors — the action of intervening on behalf of another.
Give Thanksgivings — the expression of gratitude, especially to God.
God wants us to pray for our leaders with these four actions and attitudes.
In America, our ‘kings and authorities’ are those who hold elected offices or those who are placed in office by those elected offices. They reflect the will of the people (or most people). They can be Christians or non-Christians. The thing that makes them the object of our thoughts is that they have some control over how we live our daily lives.
Paul is writing this to Timothy during a time when those in authority were not godly and were not Christians. They were in fact hostile toward Christianity and had an increasing hatred toward Christians.
God isn’t saying for us to only pray for those who were godly or Christian, but to pray for those who were ungodly and even pray for some who were evil.
Why pray for those in authority who are ungodly and even for those who are evil?
The answer is in verse 2, so “…that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
When we pray for those in high positions over us — using supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings — our perspective and how we live with ourselves and with God changes.
When Paul uses the words, “peaceful and quiet life,” I think we can sometimes think what he really means is, “peaceful and a non-partying life.” That a quiet life means that we meekly lower our heads when people see us and no one really knows what or who we are.
That isn’t what he’s conveying here, he is not addressing the external ‘quiet-life’, but the internal ‘quiet-life’ that we lead — he’s addressing our heart.
Let me be clear, our God: The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit are the Highest Authority there is — ever. If any other authority exists, it exists through His direct action or inaction (Romans 13:1).
That is why He has commanded us to pray for our leaders, because He has the power over them and we have an audience before Him (Hebrews 4:16).
The centurion in Matthew 8:9 understood how authority worked when he said to Jesus, “For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it” (NIV).
The Bible is saying the same thing about God Almighty. If we believe that God is the final authority, then we should be going to Him with everything we need, including bringing those before Him who have some control over how we live our lives.
Imagine how different your heart would be if…
…you brought before God, our President of the United States,
…you asked God for mercy over his life and family,
…you pleaded with God for a heart change, maybe even to the point of tears,
…you put yourself between the President and God, like Jesus and say, God have mercy,
…you brought thanksgiving for the President and his life, thanking God for the good and thanking God for working out the bad to His glory.
What kind of thoughts would you have for our President if you did those things?
I know, it’s tough, it’s hard and there are lots of things wrong and many sides to the issues, but, here is why God repeatedly gives us instructions on how to behave with our leaders — they are undeserving and we are undeserving.
While we were sinners, Christ died for us to show love toward an unworthy creation (Romans 5:8).
For myself, I wasn’t even born yet when Jesus died for my sin and yet made supplications for me, he made prayers for me, he still intercedes for me and offered up thanksgiving for a life that had not yet been born. (John 17:20; Hebrews 7:25; Romans 6:23)
It’s what we need to do First!
I know for sure that my heart has been changed as I pray for those in authority over me (and not just politicians, but police officers, medical personnel, pastors, and even my enemies). When I plead with God to lead them down His path and fight against my own desires to get what I believe is “right” even though I don’t deserve what is “right.” Accepting God’s gift and asking Him to be that same gift to them.
This is what God has chosen to make known to us — the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27) You are the mystery! You love those who hate you, you do good to those who despise you because you hold the riches of His glory in your mortal bodies — you are the house that holds God’s Holy Spirit.
We do for others what Christ has done for us: “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.” (Romans 5:6 NLT) We keep a godly mindset, just like Jesus (Philippians 2:4-11 ESV)
God commands us to offer up supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving for our President, his Cabinet, our Federal legislative officials, our State Governors and it’s legislative officials, local mayors, council people, judges, and district attorneys. And pastors, elders, deacons, lay people, parents, police, mentors and disciplers (those who disciple).
We acknowledge that God has the Highest Control over everything and everyone. In return for our prayers, we get to live a life full of peace, having a life quiet in evil-deeds, but loud in God-deeds.
I hope that in all this you did not think, “I shouldn’t vote, but only pray.” That isn’t the purpose of this article. Voting has its benefits and you should look into and vote on those things that matter to you the most.
This is about the “First” thing you should do as a Christian, there are still more second and third and fourth and fifth things to do. Those things may include, voting, going to town hall meetings, serving on election day, going to your PTA and local school board meetings.
If you want to pray for your local and government leaders, you can search for them online or use the following links to get more info on your federal and state leaders. If you can, when you bring them before God, pray for them by their individual names. Saying their name will remind you that they matter to God, just like you matter to God.
Here is a resources to finding your US Federal, State and Local Government elected officials visit: here