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)
How should a Christian vote? It seems to me that, with very few exceptions, there are Christians backing each and every political party and asking others to do so along side them. There are Christians who align themselves with an issue or issues instead of a party. They believe that these issues are important to their Faith and therefore more important then their allegiance to a certain politician or political group. The problem here is that Christians seem to differ greatly in their opinions about which issues should be seen as paramount and also on what the stand on these issues should be. To top it all off there are Christians who believe that we shouldn’t get involved in politics at all. In short, Christians are all over the place regarding politics and how we should vote and in many cases are even opposing one another.
Please allow me to humbly throw my hat into the proverbial ring. However, instead of siding with any party or issue I would like to take a look at what God’s Word says about our vote. There are no scriptures that deal directly with government as we know it, democracy, voting etc. but there are teachings about our response to and responsibilities towards governments that can be applied to our vote today.
Let’s take a look at one of the primary New Testament portions of scripture that deals with church and government, 1 Timothy 2:1 – 4.
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)
I don’t know about you but for years every time I read these verses or heard them preached the words “that we might live peaceful and quiet lives” always bothered me. Didn’t Jesus tell us that we are not to put the things of this life first but to put God’s Kingdom first? Didn’t he tell us that one of the first things we are to pray about is for his Kingdom and also that his will would be done on Earth? Isn’t it true that pretty much all of the New Testament writers and Jesus himself have called us to be witnesses for the Gospel and to endure persecution for doing so? Didn’t Paul, who wrote the above words to Timothy (and us) teach that we are to FIGHT the good fight, run the race to win the heavenly prize, to boldly share our Faith and also to expect persecution?
Perhaps I was misunderstanding the intent of Paul’s words to Timothy because the Bible does not contradict itself. The problem was that I wasn’t trying to understand Paul’s words in their context.
Please allow me to take the liberty of adding some commentary to Paul’s word’s so that I can get right to my point. Here’s what I now believe Paul to be saying in these verses, my words in parenthesis:
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone (all people everywhere)–(Also) for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness (So that we can get on with growing in Christ, sharing the Gospel with everyone, and expanding God’s Kingdom everywhere, as unimpeded by Kings and governments as possible.) This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (And praying for authorities will help us accomplish this.)
When Paul penned these words the church was being persecuted everywhere. Nero was governing Rome and not too long after these words were written Nero put Paul to death. Paul was letting Timothy and the Church, then and now, know that we should pray for the gospel to be spread to everyone everywhere and that we should pray for the governments everywhere because doing so can help us get the job done. The Christians of that day easily understood Paul’s words because they were attempting to follow the Gospel’s mandates and they were being persecuted and stalled at every turn.
Our focus is to be on the spreading of the Gospel not a quiet and peaceful life. We need the governments to not oppose us and perhaps even cooperate with us so that we can use the resulting peace and quiet to get on with our calling.
So how does this relate to politics, democracies and our votes as Christians today? Well in my estimation understanding Paul’s intent in these verses makes it simple. We are to stick with our Kingdom first purpose and pray for governments to not hinder us and perhaps even help us. Since in a democracy we have a say or a vote, our vote should mirror our purpose and prayer. Simply put we should vote for the person, party government etc who (after prayer and consideration) we believe is most likely to not hinder but to promote our God given purpose, to grow as Christians, to spread the Gospel and to expand God’s Kingdom.
Any vote for any other purpose by a Christian, say for the economy, more tax breaks, more money in our pockets is a misguided vote for a peaceful and quiet life for the sake of personal comfort.
It’s recorded six times in the Gospels that Jesus said that those who deny their lives for the sake of the Gospel will find their lives, but that those who put their lives first will lose them. Let your vote count, vote for those who will be more likely to support God’s agenda for this planet.
I appreciate and welcome your comments.
For help with teaching your children about their Faith, check out The Singing Bible.
(RICK OSBORNE / Christian Author, Speaker & Dad)
The attached video is of Richard Dawkins, an avowed atheist speaking about why he thinks children should not be indoctrinated in religion. I would love to read your comments on the videos and blogs. Part two will be attached to my next blog.
Recently, there has been a rash of books written by atheists vilifying religion and blaming it for the woes of this world. One best-selling book generated a wave of controversy because it suggested that efforts be made to eradicate religion. The author also takes aim at parents who teach their children religion, calling it a form of child abuse.
Here’s the logic (as far as I can see it); there is no God, humankind invented God and created religion. Religion is destructive in that it polarizes people and therefore causes wars and all sorts of atrocities. The reason religion continues to thrive is that religious parents indoctrinate their children. Therefore, stop allowing the indoctrination of children and the world will become atheistic and wonderfully peaceful.
One of the criticisms leveled at bloggers, in the earlier days of weblogs, was that it seemed that bloggers blogged a lot about blogging.
I must admit that I’ve read many blogs about blogging but I think this is completely understandable. Carpenters love their tools and artists love their brushes. When people in the same discipline gather together, they tend to talk as much or more about their tools and techniques as they do about their latest project.
Blogging is relatively new and those embracing it are excited about learning from each other and getting better at it.
So to support my fellow bloggers and show my enthusiasm for this new and wonderful craft, this is my one blog about blogging.
What role did God intend for the Christian home and family to play in his salvation plan, the Gospel? (Part 3)
So how exactly can God use our Christian families (Christian parents and Christian children) to impact the world and bring God’s blessing to the nations?
I believe he wants us to raise a generation of Christian kids that will do major damage to the gates of hell. Let me explain.
If Israel could become great and powerful by teaching their children to walk with God and keep the Old Covenant how much more can the Body of Christ grow and powerfully impact the nations, according to God’s promise, if we were to teach our children to walk in the power and grace of the New Covenant.
Can you imagine if instead of losing our kids to the world we kept them all in the church. I’m not talking about just having more bodies to warm the pews. I’m talking about a generation that grows up learning God’s Word, walking in relationship with God and growing in his grace. A generation that is excited about being used by God and about taking ground for the Kingdom of God. Like the generation of Israelites that took the Promised Land only each one of these would be under the New Covenant and filled with God’s Spirit.
What role did God intend for the Christian home and family to play in his salvation plan, the Gospel? (Part 2)
In part one we talked about how God wants to have salvation and his blessing come to our families. In part two I would like to talk about God’s calling on Christian families and how God wants to work through them.
Let’s go back and take a closer look at the verses about why God called Abraham.
Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” (Genesis 18:18, 19)
Let’s look at all three parts of what the Lord said here. First he outlines his promise, Abraham is to become a great and powerful nation and (also) all the nations on the earth are to be blessed through him.
What role did God intend for the Christian home and family to play in his salvation plan, the Gospel? (Part 1)
When my mother gave her life to Christ and started attending church every Sunday she had a husband, (my step dad) six children (ranging from toddler to adult) and a large extended family. She was understandably worried about how her new Faith would be viewed and if everyone would embrace it as well or reject it and her. She even started taking the youngest of my siblings to Sunday School on her own.
One evening not too long after her decision to live her life for Christ, no matter what the cost, she attended a Gospel dinner with a special Christian speaker. That speaker prayed for her and while he was praying, even though he did not know her or her situation, he said, “Don’t worry, today salvation has come to your house.”
Before I make some suggestions, let me briefly blog about why getting the right Bible for your children in this age group is so incredibly important.
Once we are Christians, the foundation for building our relationship with God is regular time in the Bible and in prayer. Yet how many of us as adults, struggle with this?
My daughter was seventeen when she told me that her and several Christian friends were talking about their time with God and most of them said that they had a real struggle with it. My daughter went on to say that she had not realized that people struggled with this.
If our children are guided through the process of developing a relationship with God progressively, from sitting on our knee right up to doing it on their own, they establish a habit and a relationship that is easy to maintain and difficult to walk away from.
I probably get asked this question and ones like it more often than any other question.
When I first started developing Bibles for children it was in response to the frustration I experienced over the years when trying to find Bibles that I could use with my own children.
At first the publishers I went to with my ideas responded by telling me the market was already glutted with Bible Storybooks.
They were shocked to hear me tell them that unfortunately many of them are useless when it comes to teaching children the Bible.
Let me pass on to you what we should be looking for in a Bible for our kids and why.
I think the first thing we need to ask is what is God’s purpose for the Bible. In a nutshell, the Bible reveals God’s story and plan for humankind, it focuses on God’s salvation plan and brings us to Jesus and it teaches us how to live as Christians.
What can I do when I’m struggling to believe that God is really working in me, in my family and in my home?
This is a really important question. Remember, we receive God’s grace in every area by faith. Paul said over and over again in his writings that the just must live by faith. God working in us and growing us does not just automatically happen. Our active part is to trust God’s promise and use that same faith to get up and get moving in the right direction.
Jesus often chided his disciples for their lack of faith. I believe that was because he knew that it was going to be key in the operation of the New Covenant. However struggling with our faith is something that we all do. Fortunately the Bible gives us some simple keys to help us win the struggle and grow in our faith.
Here is what always helps me when I am struggling to trust that God is truly working inside me, my family and/or my kids and making a difference. Or for that matter, when I’m struggling to trust God for any of the wonderful things we have talked about in this foundation category.