Monday, June 29, 2009

... for kings and those in authority ...

Yesterday -- June 28, the Sunday closest to Canada Day -- was National Government Prayer Day in Canada. I'm not sure who actually declared that, but it's supported and promoted by the National House of Prayer in Ottawa.

To me, praying for our government and those in authority in general (and when I pray, I include our police, firefighters, ambulance paramedics and members of the armed forces -- all those who have stepped up to keep us in a peaceful society) is totally apolitical. I see some religious types call for us to pray for the Conservative Party to be elected so Stephen Harper can be prime minister, but I think there's something skewed about that. We may have our thoughts as to who we think should be in power, but those thoughts are temporal: we need to submit everything to God, and that begins with accepting that He does not have a political affiliation.

(I'm reminded of the story of the British Evangelist almost a century ago, who was getting heckled by a Communist during an open-air sermon. The Commie pointed at a homeless man and shouted, "Communism can put a new suit on that man!" ... and the Evangelist shot back, "Jesus Christ can put a new man in that suit!")

But I digress. The key Scripture in this is Paul's First Epistle to Timothy, where he writes, "I exhort, therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour ..." (I Tim. 2:1-3).

Now, back up a few verses -- I Tim 1:18 -- and look at the context: he's just finished talking about spiritual warfare and people who have "made faith (a) shipwreck". Calling for prayer for those in authority releases God's will over those people -- whether they are believers or not. Notice that Paul includes "intercessions" in the list. We'll come back to that.

I believe God puts whomever He will in power. He's done that ever since King Saul, and while we may not know exactly why God puts someone in power or authority, it's His call and if we look to Him, He'll show us what He's up to.

I believe God put George W. Bush into the presidency. Look at the bizarre way he won it in 2000 and the way the Democrats could not field a credible candidate for 2004. Look at the incomprehensible decision to pick Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate in 2008: the sudden flaw in the campaign that helped Barack Obama steamroller to victory.

The Lord told me Paul Martin could have remained prime minister if he hadn't taken the stand he took on same-sex marriage. His priest advised him not to support it; the whole Catholic church advised him not to support it; but Martin declared that the Word of God was out of step with the times and the bill went through. And what happened? The sponsorship scandal, which was none of Martin's doing, stuck to him like he was made of velcro. The Lord told me He could have miraculously kept Martin from wearing that scandal if he had not gone against His Word. Instead, our whole country was denied what could have been a really good prime minister.

God anoints leaders. What they do with that anointing is up to them. The level of pride that comes with attaining a position of authority often drowns out the still, small Voice. That's why Paul writes about "intercessions". As Christians, we have the power to intercede on behalf of others where they either don't have strength of faith or don't believe. Theoretically, the person in authority could be a Jew, Muslim, Hindu or expatriated Martian, and it wouldn't matter if people are interceding for him/her in prayer. They need God-given wisdom to do the job -- something Solomon knew but I don't think any US president since Truman or Canadian prime minister since Diefenbaker actually asked for. But our prayers and intercessions for those in authority can fill in that gap and actually help those leaders to see that they owe their position not to their good looks, dynamic speaking or progressive policies, but to God Himself.

One more thing: if we move forward a few more verses in I Tim. 2, we come to verse 8, which says, "I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting." The level of hate and nastiness in politics today is abominable, and for centuries, the essence of politics has been less about what's right, and more about who wins the argument. But Paul says that our prayers must be without wrath and doubting. James writes, "the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God" (James 1:5); doubt is the enemy of faith. So prayers for our government and "those in authority" all point away from the contentiousness of politics and directly towards God and His will.

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