Praying for Obama
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, 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 men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1 – 4, NIV)
Some may not be familiar with the actual verses above, but we’ve all been introduced to the idea that every Christian’s prayer list should include the need for praying for our leaders. We even teach our children to pray for us, their teachers, our church leaders, and our political leaders around election time. On special political occasions, such as during an inauguration, we include these prayers in our family prayer times.
Nothing new, however, here’s my challenge. Does the Bible tell us how we should pray or what we should pray and/or teach our children to pray? The standard prayer seems to be one of asking God to guide our leaders and give them wisdom to make the right decisions. Is that what Paul meant when he wrote the verse? Is there more to it? I taught the standard leader wisdom prayers to my own children. However, somewhere down inside I always thought that there must be more to it then that and it turns out that there is.
The point of this blog is to help you understand Biblically what to pray, and how to pray for our leaders so that you can not only do it, but also teach your children to do it. Whether you voted for President Barak Obama or not, we are all called to pray for him and as you’ll see from reading this post, with good reason. At the end of the blog, I’ve included a sample prayer for the new president that you and your family can use as a guide. (Whether you live in the USA or not, Barak Obama’s decisions will probably effect you. So pray for him and also the leaders of your country.)
Let’s start with a basic rule for Bible study; Studying the Bible is like investing in real estate. The most important three things are location, location and location (context, context and context). For clarity of understanding, we must read each passage in its context which includes the intent of the author. In order to discover intent, we must know something about the person writing. One way that we do that is to familiarize ourselves with everything else that author wrote in the Bible. Another way is to know something about when and where the author lived and who he or she was.
Of course the most basic rule (the first ‘location’) is to read each verse in the context of its surrounding verses so lets do that first. In this case, Paul sums up why he tells us to pray for everyone everywhere and to pray for leaders in verse four; …for he (God) wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. (NLT)
In other words, the reason God wants us to pray for everyone everywhere, is so they’ll be saved. He also wants us to pray for our leaders so that we have the peace and quiet we need to go about doing what he’s called us to do, which is to grow his Kingdom and spread the gospel without opposition from (and perhaps even with support from) our leaders and government. Again, so everyone can be saved.
Ever notice that in the Lord’s prayer, Jesus did not pray for leaders? Jesus wasn’t giving us a prayer to pray, he was teaching us how to pray. When we pray for our leaders, our prayers must follow our Lord’s example or template, so our prayer would fall under “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We pray that our leaders work in agreement and not opposition to His Kingdom and His will.
Moving on to the second ‘location’ or context consideration, Paul wrote these verses when Nero was ruling Rome right around the time he started persecuting the church and doing everything he could to capture and kill Christians. Church history has it that not long after Paul wrote these verses, Nero falsely blamed the Christians and specifically Paul for burning Rome and had Paul put to death. Paul had a dream, he envisioned a time when the government would stop standing in God’s way and Paul called the church to pray to that end.
Let’s look at the verses in Timothy in the New Living Translation; I urge you, first of all to pray for all people. As you make your requests, plead for God’s mercy upon them and give thanks. Pray this way for kings and all others who are in authority..
When I read these verses in the New Living Translation, something jumped out at me. Something that requires the next level of ‘location’ or context to understand.
Before Paul’s conversion, he was a Pharisee and he had been thoroughly trained in the law under a well known teacher, Gamaliel. (Acts 22:3, Philippians 3:5) In other words, he knew God’s Word and most everything he wrote in the New Testament was built on what he knew from the Old.
So was Paul thinking of any Old Testament passages and/or stories when he wrote these verses?” The words that jumped out at me were, “…plead for God’s mercy on them…”.
Take a look at these verses from Daniel’s very well known prayer for Israel found in Daniel chapter nine.
So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed: “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame–the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. O Lord, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; (Daniel 9:4 – 9)
Daniel pleaded with God, Paul asks us to do the same. Daniel prayed for all Israelites everywhere, Paul placed the prayer in a New Testament context and instructed us to pray for everyone, everywhere. Daniel included Israel’s Kings and leaders, Paul tells us to pray for our leaders. Daniel prayed for God’s mercy, Paul said that we should plead for God’s mercy.
It was natural for Paul to think of the time of the Babylonian captivity because although the Israelite’s were at home in Israel when he wrote these verses, they were being occupied and ruled by a foreign king. The main thing that Paul changes is that he puts it all into a New Testament context. It’s no longer about the Israelites and their leaders, but about all people everywhere and the leaders of all nations.
I believe that Daniel’s powerful prayer was what Paul was jumping off of, but in order to discover more about what Paul was asking us to pray and why, we need to look a little further into what happened with the Babylonian and Persian kings when God’s people prayed. Remember, in the new context that Paul put Daniel’s prayer into, the leaders who need our prayer are no longer only Israel’s leaders, but the leaders of the nations as they were in Daniel’s time.
During the time of the exile, Daniel prayed and God moved on the heart of King Cyrus to agree to let the Israelites go home and rebuild the temple (Ezra 1). The King even paid for the materials. (Ezra 6:1 – 5) Then when the project was being opposed, King Darius (the same king who was involved in Daniel’s lion den experience) ordered those in opposition to not only stop interfering, but also that all expenses were to be paid for by the royal treasury.
Years later when Nehemiah heard that the walls of Jerusalem were still not rebuilt, he prayed and asked God to grant him favor with King Artaxerxes. He got it. The king gave him permission to go and rebuild the walls. He also sent a small army with Nehemiah and agreed to supply the lumber for the project. (Nehemiah 1, 2)
Again, when the Jewish people faced complete destruction, God used Esther and her Uncle Mordecai with the fasting prayers of his people to turn the King’s heart and God’s people were rescued.
One comment by one of these kings paints a wonderful picture of what God does for leaders who cooperate with his plans. When Darius (lions den king) wrote a letter instructing everyone to support and not oppose the rebuilding of the temple, he wrote “…so that they may offer sacrifices pleasing to the God of heaven and pray for the well-being of the king (himself) and his sons.” (Ezra 6:10) He knew Daniel and he knew that if he and his sons were to be blessed as kings, they needed to support the God of heaven’s agenda.
Paul knew that in the New Testament era we’re also building a temple and a spiritual Jerusalem, the Body of Christ, and our mandate is to love and reach everyone everywhere. For that to happen, we need to pray that our leaders understand what King Darius understood.
Praying that President Obama has the wisdom to make the country and economy run well is fine, but it’s not what Paul was talking about. God wants us to come before his throne, focused on heaven with his Kingdom firmly placed as our number one priority and pray that God would have mercy on us and on President Obama, and cause him to make decisions in cooperation with God’s plans, not man’s.
Paul tells us to pray for mercy, because none of us deserve his grace, favor, salvation and/or an understanding of the truth. We receive it when we humble ourselves because he loves us. When we pray for God’s mercy on President Obama, it isn’t a reflection on the man, his Faith or his character. Paul didn’t say to pray for God’s mercy for only wicked Kings or leaders, he said to pray that way for all of them. It’s by his mercy that he intervines and moves in a leader’s life in a way that can change the course of history.
Also, you may think the world of who President Obama is as a leader and a man, or you might not think much of him at all, but whether he is or isn’t great isn’t what matters. The biggest changes for God’s people and his plans came when his people prayed, sought his mercy, and trusted him for the outcome.
Below is a prayer that you and your family can use as a guide in your prayers for President Obama. The prayer is inspired by all that I believe Paul was referencing and thinking about when he wrote his instructions about praying for our leaders. May God have mercy on President Obama.
A Prayer For Obama
(Taken from Paul’s words and inspired by the prayers and stories of Daniel, Nehemiah and Esther)
Father in heaven, we pray that your kingdom is strengthened and grows. That your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven. We thank you for your great love and wonderful plans for us all.
We ask that you would have mercy on the people of this country and around the world that don’t know you, that you would forgive them, cause them to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
We pray also for our leaders and specifically today for President Barak Obama. Thank you for every wonderful thing that Barak Obama becoming president represents in the US. Please pour out your loving mercy on him and his family. Forgive them for any trespasses against you, draw them closer to yourself and help them to understand and walk in the full knowledge of the truth.
Please Father, have mercy on President Obama as a leader and cause him, for the sake of the US and the world, to cooperate with your agenda in everything he does as president. Let your Church and your Kingdom flourish under his leadership and help many to come to know you because of the mercy you pour out on his presidency.
Help us, your children, to live quiet and peaceful lives in all godliness and holiness under President Obama so that we can do your will freely in your vineyard; spreading your Word, reaching the unreached and demonstrating your love. Have mercy on us and forgive us for our slackness in this area. Help us to be more mindful of you and your eternal plans than we are on our needs for today.
Please send wise people from among your children, like you sent Daniel, Nehemiah, Mordecai and Esther, to help President Obama and counsel him in the things that you’d have him do. Guide and direct him and give the Church, your people, and your agenda, favor in his eyes.
Father, as President Obama obeys you and cooperates with your plans, bless him, his family and his presidency. If he sins against you in anyway, we plead for your mercy, forgive him and cause him to turn and support your Word and your work
We ask this sincerely in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. We thank you for all that you’ve done for us and for hearing our prayers. You are a great God and a wonderful merciful Father and we love you!
Pray sincerely and trust confidently. God hears and moves on the prayers he asks us to ask.
For help with teaching your children about their Faith, check out Teaching Your Child How to Pray.
(RICK OSBORNE / Christian Author, Speaker & Dad)