You can feel the earth quake with political unrest. Malicious words and outlandish lies are the dialect of our day. Societies are boiling over with anger and violence. Immorality is accepted and even celebrated. There is a constant fear of the latest virus or natural disaster that threatens to change the landscape. The constant news cycle, like a drug dealer, injects the latest form of distress into the ears of a society of anxiety addicts.
What can a disciple of Jesus do about this mess? Should we be consumed with despair? Should we retreat to islands of isolation? Should we fume and fight? No. We should not be surprised. The Bible constantly compares the nations to a raging sea, foaming and cresting with turbulence. The turmoil of our day is not unique, but our response should be.
The Bible does not call us to take up arms and raise our fists, but our Commander orders us to drop to our knees and raise up holy hands in prayer.
Please don’t be disheartened by the simplicity of this response. Prayer is no cop-out. It is not the passive reply of the timid. Prayer is the courageous act of heaven’s soldiers (Eph. 6:18). It is “of first importance” (1 Tim. 2:1). It raises our heads out of the mire to see that God is still actively on the throne (Isa. 6; Rev. 5). Nothing is hopeless. The shouts of angry and wicked people will not have the last word. So yes, the world is a mess, but you can pray.
1 Timothy 2:1-8 provides us with a model of how to pray in a messed up world.
First, our prayers must push beyond our national boarders or political ideas and reach out for the spiritual good of all people. Paul writes, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people;” because God “desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1,4). Our prayers should be as big as God’s desire to save.
This includes even praying for “kings and all those in authority” (1 Tim. 2:2). No matter how distant they are or how sinful they live, we can touch their lives through prayer.
The reason prayer is effective over such vast lands and powerful people is because God is in control! Paul begins his letter to Timothy praying to a God who is “the eternal King,” and he ends his letter praying to “the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 1:17, 6:15-16). Prayer is our declaration that God reigns. “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He will” (Prov. 21:1).
Daniel was distressed over the condition and survival of God’s people, so he turned to prayer. I’m sure the prayer of an old man seemed like nothing compared to the horse and chariot, spear and arrow. Except the God of heaven heard it, and that very day dispatched angels to turn the hearts of world leaders to save His people (Dan. 9-11; esp. 10:12-20). Daniel knew that God “changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings” (Dan. 2:21).
A fearful and complaining spirit characterizes those whose eyes are turned downward, but a hopeful courage is the possession of those who pray.
The purpose our prayers is that we might live in peace, as Paul put it, “pray…that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Tim. 2:2).
God created government for the peace and security of society. When it functions correctly disciples can fulfill their responsibilities without interference. That is why we pray for peace, not for our personal comfort or national pride, but that the cause of Christ might flourish (Acts 9:31).
This is accomplished by living “peaceful and quiet lives.” This relates to our submissive and supportive attitude toward governing authorities (Rom. 13:1-2; 1 Pet. 2:13-14). Praying for leaders drains away thoughts of hatred and rebellion, and allows us to see them as objects of God’s concern.
In addition, peaceful conditions allow us to more effectively model “godliness and holiness” (see 1 Thess. 4:11-12). Each day we live in peace is a perfect day to model the gospel of peace in a world of sin and conflict (1 Pet. 2:11-12).
There are places all over this world where Christians cannot live out their faith openly and the gospel is not welcomed, but prayer can change that.
Pray So People Will Be Saved
Ultimately, prayer has an evangelistic goal—“God desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3). We pray for leaders, that we might live in peace, so we can be free to live and share the gospel with the world.
The greatest problems in this world will not be solved by an election, a referendum, a war, more education, or a financial handout. The needs of our world are fundamentally spiritual. People need to know the truth so they can see through the deception of sin. People need peace with God which comes through Jesus, the “one Mediator between God and men,” “who gave himself as a ransom for all people” (1 Tim. 2:6).
It is time for our prayers to grow beyond our personal desires and physical comforts. Our world is in a mess. It is time to pray.
“Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14)
Throughout the New Testament prayer is a key element in sharing the gospel.
Jesus taught his disciples to pray for workers to share the gospel.
37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37–38)
2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. (Luke 10:2)
Throughout Acts it is astounding how often prayer precedes the sharing the gospel. There is an essential connection between the two we are not to miss!
- Acts 1:14,24 – In prayer before preaching the gospel on Pentecost
- Acts 2:42 – Devoted to prayer, then the church grew daily
- Acts 3:1 – Peter and John at the hour of prayer, then preaching
- Acts 4:23-31 – Prayer, then preaching with boldness
- Acts 6:4 – Devoted to prayer and the ministry of the word
- Acts 9:11 – Saul prayed, then called to preach
- Acts 10:9 – Peter prayed, then called to preach to Cornelius
- Acts 13:3 – Church prayed, sent off Paul and Barnabas to spread the gospel
- Acts 16:13,16 – Paul went down to the river to pray, and taught Lydia.
- Acts 16:25 – Paul and Silas prayed, then had opportunity to teach the Jailer
The Letters also identify a vital link between prayer and spreading the gospel.
- Prayer as a weapon for boldness
19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:19–20)
- Prayer for God to providentially open doors.
3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. (Colossians 4:3–4)
- Prayer for the spread of the gospel
1 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, (2 Thessalonians 3:1)
Each of these Scriptures link prayer and evangelism. They are prayers for the church to speak boldly and work in the harvest. Could this be a weak or missing link in our evangelism efforts?
You might also want to revisit this wonderful article from Kyle Pope: Overcoming Political Anxiety, which was published on Focus earlier this year.