Praying For Them In Authority.
“I never hear our dominee pray for our government^, some person is likely to say now and then. Or one might come directly to the minister and say to him, “Paul tells us to pray for them that are in authority, but I never hear you pray that”.
The minister could perhaps retaliate and say: Do you ever do it?
But that’s neither here nor there. The fact is that Paul inetc., not only says that we ought to pray for kings etc., but emphasizes it by putting it in the class of the “first of all” things.
An Important Matter.
How important this matter is can be judged from the fact that many people in the Netherlands were imprisoned or sought because they prayed for the Queen and the Dutch Government. The conscientious continued such praying in spite of the threats that filled the ecclesiastical air. Certainly it was a matter of deep conviction on their part. No doubt, these prayers were sometimes motivated by political and economical considerations and were sometimes more national than spiritual, but I like to believe that the pious prayed thus because they considered the Cause of God to be at stake.
But kings (and queens) and governments are in every part of the world. If it holds for the church in Holland, it must hold also for us in this country, since the church is one. If they were to pray for them that are in authority, we are to do it too, since we all have the same Word of God.
What Does It Mean?
Perhaps by means of a couple of key sentences we can arrive at what we think Paul is telling us in this passage:
Paul is instructing Timothy, who in turn is to admonish his congregation, how they are to behave themselves in the house of God. Then he has something for the deacons, the bishops, servants, masters, but also for women and for men. Women ought to learn in silence. MEN….I WANT YOU TO PRAY.
Hence MEN are to pray. The acceptable prayer is to “pray for all men” because the plainly revealed will of God is that He would have all men to be saved. Hence there is foundation for such a prayer, it roots in the will of God. God would have all men to be saved. Not only from among the Jews but from all over God will gather into Christ His Church. Christ Himself had said that He had other sheep, not of this (Jewish) fold, them also He will gather, they shall hear His voice and follow Him.
Include in your prayers for all men also kings and those in high places. They are MEN (not angels or animals) and they belong to the class called MEN. Paul could have singled out bakers and shoemakers, but for good reasons he singles out persons who are in authority. Hence, they are to be prayed for on the basis of the fact that they are men.
The prayer on their behalf is that they may come to know God (there is but ONE God says Paul) and come to know the ONE WAY unto God, namely Jesus Christ. The. prayer does not concern itself about things of government or state but about their coming to know God and Christ.
Since God gathers His Church out of all ranks and stations of men (consider Chuza, Herod’s steward and them of Caesar’s household, Cornelius etc.) the Church in all countries must pray for the authorities in all countries. Especially valid at that time since the great program of salvation was just beginning to unfold and God was gathering His people sometimes from the most unexpected corners. God can gather His Church without your prayers, indeed, but God wants to gather the Church by means of the Church. Therefore: PRAY.
Why For Kings?
But you are all this while saying to yourself: “Yes, but why must we pray especially for kings etc.?
Some people would answer: because God wants us to respect them in their high office, and they need our prayers, seeing how great responsibility they carry and how much wisdom they need to govern the nation well.
But there is nothing of this in the text nor in the context. Paul speaks about this in Rom. 13.
Someone else might say: the reason we must pray for the authorities is: if God’s blessing is upon our government we can lead a prosperous, quiet and peaceable life etc.
This could easily be a very carnal and selfish prayer. Surely there’s nothing of this to be derived from the text.
Why then does Paul single out kings and those in authority?
The Church and believers in general must not forget that kings etc., belong to the class of MEN. Christians at that time and later must sometimes have been almost forced to the conclusion that kings and authorities belonged to the class: devils or demons. . . . seeing how violently and relentlessly they often persecuted the church. For instance: before the year 300 A.D. had arrived there were no less than seven major persecutions.
Let me mention just a few authorities under whom the church received violent treatment: Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, Severus, Maximinus, Decius, Valerian, Diocletian. We could add other names to this list but this will suffice. It was as difficult to conceive of these authorities as men as it was difficult for the oppressed people to conceive of Hitler as a MAN. Sooner the Christians would think of these as devils, demons or whatever.
Paul insists we think of these authorities as MEN.
Now Jesus taught us to pray: bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.
There was no class of men, as a whole, who revealed themselves as blasphemers and injurious, quite as much as these governors. They were in a position also to bring great influence against the Church, and history tells us that they did.
Don’t curse them. . . .don’t contrive revenge. If you live that way, how would you be quiet and peaceable in godliness and honesty? The Church is not a clique or a sect, nor a group fighting some private warfare against some national enemies.
Paul would say (): I myself was once like these governors. I was a blasphemer, a persecutor and injurious. I was an enemy. But the Word of God transformed me.
If the Gospel Power can transform me, it can transform those who are what I used to be.
Pray then that God may call forth friends out of enemies, make living out of the dead and a church out of the darkness of sin.
Until the innumerable host is gathered in, pray for the progress of the Gospel, pray unto the ingathering. God does not FIND friends, He MAKES them; He does not FIND believers He MAKES them; He does not FIND living ones, He MAKES them. And He makes them out of ALL MEN. For the praise of the glory of His grace.
Then we ought to engage in this holy work of prayer. The Gospel has covered the greater part of the world, indeed (but there are still who may hear it) but even then reformational work remains necessary until the great reformer glorifies His Church.
Thus we shall pray for the progress of the Gospel and if we pray we shall put forth effort to bring it to all men. If He Who said: go ye out into all the world, should come back today could we say: Lord, we have been into all the world and were busy with it when we saw Thee coming upon the clouds?
In view of this we shall not forget to pray for the progress and spread of the truth by means of the effort of our two recently ordained missionary brethren: W. Hofman and E. Knott. They, too, will be confronted with those who are in authority (also in churches where hierarchy reins) and be confronted with such as do what kings and authorities used to do. . . . resist the work of the Gospel. And may we lead a quiet and peaceable life.