When God says we should be praying for leaders, does He mean the good ones? Or all leaders, good and bad? What will be the solution to our leadership crisis?
Our readers live in countries around the world, and governments are changing all the time. I admit I don’t know which country you live in, or all the strengths and weaknesses of all the leaders around the world.
But still I strongly believe you should pray for the leaders of your nation. And the local leaders in your area. And the leaders of other nations as well.
I don’t mean just the good leaders, but all leaders. Why?
Praying for government leaders
Here’s how the apostle Paul explained it:
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
We should pray for all people! When we pray for government leaders, who often have some influence over how hard or easy our lives are, we can ask for God to cause the leaders to allow us to live a peaceful life.
So many live under unfair, oppressive and corrupt governments. Their wish is for the government to just leave them alone.
You can see this sentiment in a scene from the musical Fiddler on the Roof. The rabbi was asked if there was a blessing for the czar. He replied, “May God bless and keep the czar … far away from us.”
It may be even more important to pray for leaders when they are not so good—and when their actions can impact your life and the mission of the Church to preach the gospel to the world.Many living under oppressive regimes can relate, though I am not advocating the sarcasm. Paul said our prayers should reflect God’s view of all people. We must remember that each person is a potential child of God!
“For 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” (verses 3-4).
Good and bad leaders
Of course, it’s easier to pray for leaders when they do good things and promote justice. As Solomon wrote: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan” (Proverbs 29:2).
But it may be even more important to pray for leaders when they are not so good—and when their actions can impact your life and the mission of the Church to preach the gospel to the world.
Jesus did say His Kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). In some ways, since Adam and Eve rejected Him in the Garden of Eden, He has taken a hands-off approach. He has allowed humanity to keep eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. All these personal choices about what we consider right and wrong have added up to the evil society we have today.
(All this raises the question: Why does God allow bad government and other evils? Our free booklet Why Does God Allow Evil and Suffering? explores this important question from the Bible.)
But God has not gone far off. He is not disinterested. He is still completely in charge.
God rules in the affairs of men
God tells us that He is ultimately in charge, even though He has allowed the mix of good and evil we have now. He even allows evil leaders—for a time.
God allowed cruel King Nebuchadnezzar to gain great power, but at one point He corrected him by allowing him to live like an animal for seven years, “until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses” (Daniel 4:32).
In this context, Daniel even noted that God gives leadership over the kingdom of men “to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men” (verse 17).
When Paul wrote to the Romans, the evil Emperor Nero was in charge! Yet Paul wrote:
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same” (Romans 13:1-3).
We are to respect the position of authority, even if the leader filling it is not respectable or honorable. We must not be like those Jude warned about:
“Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries” (Jude 1:8).
But, even though God allows evil, corrupt and incompetent leaders now, He won’t allow them to rule much longer. There is good news on the horizon, and we need to pray for that too.
“Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”
With all the problems facing our world that are beyond human ability to solve, we most of all need to be praying for the return of the most important Leader, Jesus Christ.
He promised to return to save humanity from self-destruction (Matthew 24:22). He told us to pray, “Your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10) because God’s government is the only government that can truly bring justice, peace and prosperity (Micah 4:1-4).
Isaiah prophesied, “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7).
No wonder Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God is called the gospel—the good news! And no wonder, when Jesus said, “Surely I am coming quickly,” the apostle John replied, “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).
Learn more about the good news of God’s perfect government in our free booklet The Mystery of the Kingdom.