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Why (and How) to Pray for Our New Leaders

Today is Inauguration Day: the official end of Donald Trump’s presidency and the beginning of Joe Biden’s. To say that it’s a time of conflicting emotions in our country seems like an understatement. For some, hope and joy. For others, anxiety and fear. Many, somewhere in between, and then some. But whether your candidate won or not in this most recent election, at least two things are clear: 

  1. God has always known who would win. 
  2. As Christians, we have an obligation to pray for our new leaders.  

Why should we pray?

In Romans 13:1, Paul writes, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” 

We might be surprised a particular candidate won or lost, but God isn’t. In fact, he was the one who established them. Not some of them. All of them. Each and every leader in our country exists exclusively by God’s divine appointment. This isn’t to say all leaders are equal, or equally approved of by God. Rather, that all leaders have been equally appointed by him.

That’s an important distinction. And it reminds and encourages us to pray.  

Paul again stresses this point. In 1 Timothy 2:1-3 he writes, “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. This is good, and pleases God our Savior.” 

On the one hand, these verses are simple and straightforward. There’s no question. We are to pray for all people, including our leaders – all those in authority. Yes, even those we don’t like and didn’t vote for or believe are unjust! Praying for our leaders is good, and it pleases God. 

How do we pray?

It’s clear that prayer is good, but where do we start? How exactly or what kinds of things are we to pray?

Lots of things come to mind. 

Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”Pray that our leaders know and love Jesus.

James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Pray that our leaders would grow in wisdom and knowledge and understanding and that they would lead according to God’s purposes. 

Pray they desire honesty and live with integrity and loyalty (Psalm 26; Proverbs 11:3). 

Maybe the most succinct way we can pray for our leaders comes from an Old Testament prophet named Micah.  Although lesser known to us, Micah often spoke with great courage, and power, and deep insight into the social, religious, and political movements of his day. Toward the end of his book, he writes in Micah 6:8, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

To be sure, Micah is speaking primarily to our proper relationship with God, but his words also give us guidance on how we can pray. Pray that our leaders act justly, that they stand up for what is right and against what is wrong according to God. Pray they delight to show mercy, that they love kindness. And pray they lead with humility and faithfulness. 

Of course, Inauguration Day makes it easy to let politics take center stage. Christians are right to care about politics and to pray for our leaders. It’s good and pleasing to God. But remember, our ultimate citizenship lies not here, but in heaven, and our ultimate hope lies not in a president or administration, but in King Jesus who rules from his eternal throne.  

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