I think we can all agree that the subject of politics can breed a ton of division no matter where you live in the world.  And when you mix in some cultural chaos spurred on by social injustice, and a global pandemic you’ve got yourself a crisis situation on various levels that effects literally everyone!

When things get out of control in our personal lives, as Christians, we know that one of the first things we should do is to pray.  But, how often do we take the time to apply that same principle to what is going on in the world around us.  How often do we pray for our leaders in government, and our nation as a whole?

You may be asking yourself:

  • Why should we pray for our country?
  • What should we pray for our nation?
  • How do I pray for our country’s leaders?

In this post, we’ll dive into Scripture to take a look at who our leaders are, God’s role in government leadership, our Christian responsibility when it comes to government leadership, what the bible says about praying for our leaders in government, and exactly how and what to pray for them.

Leaders

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Who Are Our Leaders?

From a biblical perspective, leaders are those who are in positions of authority over us.  Generally speaking, we all have several leaders that we submit to on a daily basis.

This includes government officials (international, national, and local) such as mayors, governors, police officers, court judges, members of Congress, and the President.

It also includes employers, supervisors, school principals, teachers, coaches, business directors, administrators, pastors, church elders, and the like.

Although, in this post we will be focusing specifically on those who are leaders in government, it is important to note that the principles we will discuss apply to all leaders.

God is Sovereign Over ALL Leaders and Nations

One of the most important things that often gets overlooked when it comes to leaders in government is the fact that God is sovereign over all leaders and nations – worldwide.  In order to pray for our leaders, it is vital that we first understand this truth.

The word sovereign means being the ultimate source of all power, authority, and everything that exists.  God in His sovereignty is in control of all things and rules over all things.

Here are several bible verses that teach us specifically about His sovereignty over authorities:

  • Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.  Romans 13:1 NLT
  • For God is the King over all the earth. Praise him with a psalm. God reigns above the nations, sitting on his holy throne. The rulers of the world have gathered together with the people of the God of Abraham.  For all the kings of the earth belong to God.  He is highly honored everywhere. Psalm 47:7-9 NLT
  • For dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations.  Psalm 22:28 NIV
  • The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  Colossians 1:15-17 NIV

Whether we like it or not, ALL those in authority have been placed there by God.  Yes, we can vote, and even pray for certain candidates to win.  But, even if election results surprise or upset us, it is important that we understand that ultimately God is sovereign over who will lead.

There is so much that God does behind the scenes of our lives that we can’t always fathom or understand.  God said it best about Himself to the prophet Isaiah:

But, one thing is for certain according to Scripture – God ALWAYS does things in accordance to His will, for His purposes, and for His glory:

  • From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.  Acts 17:26 NLT
  • The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord;  he guides it wherever he pleases.  Proverbs 21:1 NLT
  • The Lord frustrates the plans of the nations and thwarts all their schemes. But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken. Psalm 33:10-11 NLT
  • He builds up nations, and he destroys them. He expands nations, and he abandons them. He strips kings of understanding and leaves them wandering in a pathless wasteland. They grope in the darkness without a light. He makes them stagger like drunkards.  Job 12:23-25 NLT
  • He said, “Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he has all wisdom and power. He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings.  He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars.”  Daniel 2:20-21 NLT

A Historical Look At the Leadership God Placed Over His People

There are several examples from Scripture of God using both good and bad people in leadership to accomplish His purposes.  Let’s take a brief look at the governing authority and leadership that God placed over His people from a historical perspective.

Pharaoh and Joseph

Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers into Egypt.  Once in Egypt, God was with him, and gave him success in everything he did.  Later he was falsely accused by his master’s wife and thrown in prison.  In prison he still found favor and success.  After interpreting the dreams of the king of Egypt (Pharaoh) he was released and put in charge of Egypt!

Fast forward to years later when his brothers have to come to Egypt to seek food during a worldwide famine. Because God had placed Joseph in charge at that specific time, Joseph was able to take care of, bless and relocate them to Egypt.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.  “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.”  

Genesis 45:4-8 NIV

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. 

Genesis 50:19-21 NIV

Pharaoh and Moses

Many years after Joseph and his generation had passed away, a new Pharaoh arose in Egypt that didn’t know anything about Joseph, and didn’t care much for the Israelites  (Exodus 1:8-10).  At this time in history God calls Moses to be the one to lead the Israelites out of slavery from Egypt, fulfilling the promise he had made to Abraham several hundred years prior.

Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.” 

Genesis 15:13-14 NIV

Judges and Kings of Israel

After Moses dies as leader of the Israelites, the nation has a series of judges (both good and bad) lead over them.  This is followed by several kings (both good and bad) that lead over them.  

For centuries they go through several cycles of both good and bad leadership.  The good leaders followed God and ensured the people did the same.  While the bad leaders turned away from God, worshiped other idols, and promoted this among the nation as well.  Regardless of the leader, God dealt with His people accordingly.

Samuel told Saul (bad king) that God will be replacing him with a good king (David):

“You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”  

1 Samuel 13:13-14 NIV

King Hezekiah (good king):

Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not stop following him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him.  

2 Kings 18:5-7 NIV

Exile in Assyria and Babylon

During the period of kingship, for many years God sent his prophets to warn His people to turn from their sin and wicked ways.   When they refused, he pronounced that they would go into captivity to Assyria and Babylon.

Eventually due to the increasing sin of the nation as a whole, the prophecies were fulfilled. However, even while in exile, under non-Israelite leadership God was still in control.  See how he dealt with Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon:

Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”  Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.”  Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.  

Daniel 4:29-33 NIV

Yes, God brought outside leaders to take the nation of Israel captive because of their sin.  But, He also punished those who enslaved His people at His appointed time.

Post Exile Leadership Under Persia

After 70 years of captivity in Babylon, the kingdom of Persia came into power under the rule of king Cyrus.  Here we see the hand of God in preserving His people, and even restoring them under new leadership:

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing: “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:  “‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’”  

Ezra 1:1-4 NIV

Cyrus was a non-Israelite king, whose heart was moved by God to allow the Israelites to not only go back to their homeland of Judah, but to rebuild their temple for worship.  Note Cyrus’ contrasting attitude to that of King Nebuchadnezzar.  Cyrus acknowledged that God was the one who gave him his position of power.

The Roman Empire of the New Testament

Fast forward several hundred years to the New Testament where Israel is now under the rule of the Roman Empire.   Jesus is born and raised, and starts his earthly ministry at age 30, in which he teaches that He is the Christ and the only way to eternal life with God.

After much mockery and false testimony, he is arrested and brought to stand trial before several Roman officials.  Lastly, appearing before the governor, Pilate, it is put to a vote to release Barabbas (an actual guilty criminal), but to crucify Jesus.

Once again, we see here, how everything had to play out according to God’s will and plan.   Jesus Himself had told the disciples on several occasions that he would be crucified:

Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”  

Matthew 20:17-19 NIV

Did you see God’s sovereignty over leaders in the historical overview?  How he orchestrated both good and bad leaders for a purpose in His long term plan?  Keep in mind the promise he made to Abraham to make Him a father of many nations and to redeem mankind through his seed.  

Everything from Adam and Even, to Abraham, to Joseph, to Moses, to King David, to the captivity, to Persia taking over, to the Roman Empire, led to the birth, life, ministry, death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

And, God promised that one day Jesus would return to rule – which is the promise that you and I look forward to.  And, just like in the past, everything since Jesus’ time on earth, through today has been orchestrated in accordance with God’s sovereign plan for mankind.

In light of knowing and understanding all this, we can now look at our role as Christians in regard to the governing leaders that God has put in place over us today.

What Does the Bible Say About Praying for Our Leaders?

If I had to summarize what the Bible teaches on this subject it would be these two things:

  • We are to submit to all governing authorities
  • We are to pray for all governing authorities

We Are to Submit to All Governing Authorities

The word submit means to accept or yield to a superior force, or to the authority of another person.  The bible teaches that we are to submit to all governing authorities.  Submission is a heart posture that often requires an attitude adjustment on our part.

Let’s go back to the verses from Romans 13 that we looked at earlier in a broader context of the passage:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.  This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.  

Romans 13:1-7 NIV

Earlier we touched on the fact that all authorities have been established by God.  When we go further into the text we see several other keys points as well:

  • To rebel against an authority is to rebel against what God has established, which will result in judgment.
  • God has authority in place both for our good, and for the purpose of carrying out His wrath if necessary.
  • It is necessary to submit to avoid the possibility of punishment, and as a matter of conscience in obedience to God.
  • We are to give to authorities whatever is owed (including but not limited to: taxes, revenue, honor, and respect).

Do you notice what is NOT included in the passage?  There are no exceptions mentioned in regards to whether or not the governing authority is a “good” or “bad” leader.  It simply says we are to submit.

This passage from 1 Peter emphasizes this even more:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.  Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.  “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”  

1 Peter 2:13-25 NIV

The bible doesn’t tell us to submit only to leaders with whom we agree, or who we think are leading well.  But, we are called to submit to ALL our leaders regardless of our personal feelings toward them.  Although, this can sometimes be a tall order, it is what we have been commanded to do, as we follow the example of Christ.

Think about it, Jesus was God in the flesh.  If anyone had the right not to submit to an earthly governing leader it was Him!  However, as the passage above says, He endured the suffering that came along with submitting to governing authorities to leave us an example to follow.

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.

Titus 3:1-2 NIV

It is in light of this submission, that God also calls for us to pray for our governing authorities as well.

We Are to Pray for All Governing Authorities

The bible makes it clear that as Christians, we are called to pray for those in authority over us:

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.  

1 Timothy 2:1-4 NLT

We are called to intercede (intervene on behalf of another) for our leaders, and even give thanks for them!  Why does God want us to do this? 

Praying for our leaders can affect the conditions in which we live and have an impact on our families, our churches, our workplaces, our schools, our laws, our cities, and our countries.  When those in authority are obeying the will of God, it is easier to “live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and holiness”.   And, when evil men are in authority, our prayers for them are needed just as much.

In light of this, God calls us to give thanks for our leaders as well.  When we recognize the greatness of the tasks they are called to do, we should be grateful for their willingness to lead, and thankful for the benefits we reap as a result of their leadership. 

The passage also tells us that praying for our leaders is good and pleases God.  When we pray, we acknowledge that God is the ultimate authority, and are asking God to equip those He has placed over us to carry out His purposes.

Regardless of where we stand politically, or whether we see eye to eye with how they are leading, we must pray for our leaders.  In fact, when we don’t agree with our leaders, or what they stand for, we should ask God to help us pray for, honor, and respect them accordingly.

praying for leaders

How to Pray for Our Leaders in Government

So how do we pray for our leaders and nation?  What specifically should we pray for when we pray for them? Let’s take a look at four key things we can pray, and more scriptures about praying for our leaders.

Pray for God’s Will to Be Done

In light of what we have learned thus far from Scripture in regard to God being the ultimate authority, and the one who places all leaders in authority, it is only fitting that the Scripture tells us we should pray for God’s will to be done.

Remember, whether we deem our leaders to be “good” or “bad”, God places all of them in authority for His purpose.  So even when our government officials are blatantly passing laws, or taking actions that are in direct opposition to what the bible teaches, we are still to commit them to prayer, asking God to use them in accordance with His will.

In doing so, we essentially take part in advancing God’s kingdom on earth.

Pray for Our Leaders’ Wisdom and Guidance

If we are uncertain whether our leaders know Jesus or not, we should first and foremost pray for their salvation.  But, whether they are Christians or not, we should pray for them to have wisdom in making good decisions according to God’s leading. We should pray that they be wise and discerning, and surrounded by helpful advisers.

  • Now then, you kings, act wisely! Be warned, you rulers of the earth! Serve the Lord with reverent fear, and rejoice with trembling.  (Psalm 2:10-11 NLT)
  • When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily. But wise and knowledgeable leaders bring stability.  (Proverbs 28:2 NLT)
  • Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers.  (Proverbs 11:14 NLT)

During times of crisis, government leaders have to make difficult decisions for the good of the nation.  There will be many times where we as citizens are directly affected by those decisions, and the actions that our leaders take.  This makes it even more important for us to pray for God to have His way in the hearts of our leaders in a way that will benefit us all.

Pray for Our Leaders’ Strength and Protection

Having been a pastor’s wife for a ten-year period of my life, I know what it is like to be in a position of authority. Most people don’t realize how tiring leadership can be. And, because it is impossible to please everyone, some decisions that are made simply won’t sit well with some people, which can breed safety concerns from “disgruntled” and unhappy people.

Not to mention, the toll that it can take on the lives of the families’ of leaders, who often feel scrutinized. But, when we do recognize the greatness of the tasks of our leaders, it should prompt us to pray for their strength, safety, and protection regularly.

  • David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God. (1 Samuel 30:6 NIV)
  • Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. (2 Chronicles 29:12 NIV)
  • The king rejoices in your strength, Lord. How great is his joy in the victories you give! (Psalm 21:1 NIV)
  • But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. (2 Timothy 4:17 NIV)

Pray for Our Nation’s Peace and Prosperity

When the nation of Israel was taken into captivity to Babylon for seventy years, God gave them very specific instructions:

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Jeremiah 29:4-7 NIV

Keep in mind that Babylon was an enemy of Israel, and did not serve the same God.  Notice what God does NOT tell them to do while they are in captivity. 

He doesn’t tell them to rebel, try to escape, or to ignore authority.  In fact, he says the complete opposite – settle down, work and be productive, get married, and have kids!  He even tells them to seek the peace and prosperity of Babylon, and to pray for it, because if Babylon prospers, so will they!

Can you imagine being taken away from your home to another place, and being told by God that you are going to be there for the next 70 years, and to get settled in accordingly.

As captives, I’m sure like the Israelites. we wouldn’t have been happy with our leaders and may have even despised them.   However, as Christians, God has called us to continue living amid good or bad leadership.  Living in a way that pleases God, which means we should be seeking and praying for the peace and prosperity of our nation.  To pray that our nation would fall is not only unbiblical, but it also would affect us negatively as well.

We must constantly remember that because God is sovereign and puts leaders in place, that He ALWAYS has a purpose and a plan.  With the Israelites, they had sinned severely as a nation, and the Babylonian captivity was a part of God’s judgment against them.  However, God in His love and mercy, still provided for and even caused His people to prosper while in captivity.  And, then at His appointed time, He brought them out of captivity just as He promised them:

This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.  I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”  

Jeremiah 29:10-14 NIV

Pray for Our Leaders and Nation Regularly

We don’t have prophets speaking to us directly on God’s behalf today to tell us why certain presidents are elected, or why specific authorities are put in place, or why the global pandemic came, or how long it will last.  But, we do have the bible – the Word of God – and it teaches us plainly that God is sovereign over EVERYTHING.  And, in the midst of whatever goes on in our nation, we are called to submit to and pray for our governing authorities regularly.

Too often, we are so quick to get caught up in responding to things the way our non-Christian counterparts do.   Yes, our leaders can upset and frustrate us.  And, it’s never easy watching a leader go into a downward spiral that negatively effects everyone in one way or another.

But, the question is, what is our response if and when that happens?  Do we complain, get angry and bitter, create negative political posts on social media, or comment/like the negative posts of others? Think about it for a moment.  When was the last time you set aside time to genuinely pray for our governing authorities?

Yes, we can protest, speak our truth, and stand up for our rights. But, the one thing God calls ALL Christians to do regularly is to pray for our leaders in government. Let’s never forget how important and effective prayer is.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  

Ephesians 6:12 NIV

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

2 Corinthians 10:3-4 NIV

The devil is busy, from the highest ranking government officials, down to the newest born baby.  And you better believe that He knows how important and effective God’s Word and prayer is.  If he can get Christians to spend little to no time with God in the Word and in prayer, then he is succeeding more and more each day.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  

2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV

This is definitely an area of prayer where God has recently convicted me that I need to work on.  Will you commit to praying for our leaders and nation every day as well?  

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