“I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1-4, NASB).
Prayers for people who are in positions of authority have high priority in the heart of God. We see this in Scripture, such as the one quoted above. You could even say that 1 Timothy 2:1-4 is an apostolic admonition for prayer. When South African pastor and prolific author Andrew Murray read this passage, he wrote in response, in Day 17 of his book Helps to Intercession:
“What a faith in the power of prayer! A few feeble and despised Christians are to influence the mighty Roman emperors, and help in securing peace and quietness. Let us believe that prayer is a power that is taken up by God in His rule of the world. Let us pray for our country and its rulers; for all the rulers of the world; for rulers in cities or districts in which we are interested. When God’s people unite in this, they may count upon their prayers effecting in the unseen world more than they know. Let faith hold this fast.”
Murray laid hold of the fact that earthly authority cannot be exercised within the will of God without the steady application of prayer on the part of the people of God.
Jack W. Hayford, respected founding pastor of The Church on the Way in Van Nuys, California, comments in his book Prayer Is Invading the Impossible: “You and I can help decide [whether] … blessing or cursing … happen on earth. We will determine whether God’s goodness is released toward specific situations or whether the power of sin and satan is permitted to prevail. Prayer is the determining factor.”
Yes, the prayers that Christians pray for those in authority matter; they are essential to the advancement of the kingdom. We cannot afford to leave them up to others. Prayer for leaders must become one of the features of our lives as intercessors.
Many other Scriptures help us understand how to pray for people who are in positions of authority. Let’s look at a few of them:
- “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17, NKJV)
- “Fear the Lord and the king, my son, and do not join with the rebellious, for those two will send sudden destruction upon them, and who knows what calamities they can bring?” (Prov. 24:21-22, NIV)
- “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan” (Prov. 29:2, NKJV).
- “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil.
- “Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.
- “Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor” (Rom. 13:1-7, NASB)
Why Should We Pray for Those Who Are in Authority?
I see two reasons in 1 Timothy 2:1-4: (1) “so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity,” and (2) so that God can bring those in authority—as well as those under their authority—to Himself (He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”).
I once heard the late international Bible teacher Derek Prince expand on this. He said that it doesn’t matter what plans, systems or programs you devise. If you bypass prayer, you will not have power to carry them out. He compared prayerless intentions to a building that is wired for electricity, but if it’s not connected to a power source nothing will work—even if the wires are in good order and the light fixtures are beautiful.
Our power source is prayer, and we are enjoined in the Bible to pray in particular for “kings and all who are in authority,” for good government and wise leadership. Why? So that we might have peace and order; for the propagation of the gospel; and because God desires all men to be saved.
Another reason we should pray for those who are in authority is simply to be obedient to the will of God. It’s clear that He wants us to pray for those in authority. He also wants us to obey them as far as it is possible to do so. If you “do good,” as Romans 13:1-7 says, you will have no need to be fearful of the authorities.