Paul says that praying for the government should be of the highest priority. It should be “first of all.” Prayer is one of the most important things in the Christian life and can accomplish more than political action. As J.B. Buffington wisely observed, “The answer is not in the White House but in God’s house.” Through the power of prayer, Bible-believing churches can have an influence far beyond their numbers. This is why we need to establish the habit of daily private intercessory prayer. Paul spoke of “my prayers” (Rom. 1:9). This is also why we should pray corporately. It is a very sad and telling fact that many churches no longer have a serious weekly prayer meeting, and those that do find that it is scantily attended.
The passage gives two reasons why God’s people need to pray for their governments.
First, we need to pray so that we might lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty (1 Tim. 2:2).
Observe that we are not to pray for peace so that we can pursue our own selfish aims. We are to pray for peace so that we might be rich toward God’s business rather than toward our own. Too often God’s people turn aside from godliness during times of peace and prosperity; they seek their own will and pleasure ahead of God’s. Look at America and Canada. Most churches are fat and worldly and lukewarm about God’s work; they are entertaining and mollifying the saints rather than challenging them to put Christ first. Look at the older saints. The tendency is to settle down, to seek security and comfort, while being half-hearted about obeying God and fulfilling the Great Commission.
Observe that we are to live in “all godliness.” Too often the churches that are living in times of peace and prosperity are characterized by worldliness rather than purity. Observe, too, that we are to live “honestly.” This is in contrast to every form of dishonesty, to stealing, crooked business practices, borrowing and not repaying, slacking off on the job, and such.
Second, we need to pray so that the gospel might be preached to all men (1 Tim. 2:3-6).
The Lord Jesus commanded that the gospel be preached to every person (Mark 16:15), and in 1 Timothy 2 we see why, because God wants all men to be saved. This work of world evangelism is called the “great commission,” because it is so emphasized in the New Testament (Mat. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:46-48; John 20:21; Acts 1:8). This work is carried out more effectively in conditions of peace. Some say that what North American churches need is persecution, and there is some truth to that, but at the same time persecution hinders the free preaching of the gospel. Consider China. The governmental persecution there against the public preaching of the gospel and the free gathering of non-registered churches and the totalitarian control of the media, including the internet, means that a large percentage of the people haven’t heard the gospel. The same is true for Muslim nations such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. Consider the example of Nepal. Prior to the 1990s, it was illegal to preach the gospel in Nepal and as a result the number of churches was very small and the vast majority of the people knew nothing of the gospel. In the early 1990s there was a change in the constitution and governmental persecution ceased. Since then, the number of churches has increased dramatically and multitudes have heard the gospel that otherwise would not have under the previous conditions.
God would not have exhorted us to pray for kings and those in authority if He did not intend to answer those prayers. Through the power of prayer we have the privilege of making a dramatic difference in this present world.
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