The messages at church are sometimes consoling, confirming, inspiring, challenging, or convicting. And sometimes a message can be a slap upside the head, something that I’ve needed to hear.
At my church, King Of Kings, Pastor Mark Zehnder delivered a great message on September 11, 2011. It was not focused, as I had half-expected it to be, on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorists attacks on Washington and New York. That event was mentioned, but the major focus of the sermon time was on the importance of prayer. Specifically, prayer for our leaders. It recalled to me this comment on the Scott Ross Show over 30 years ago:
Here is the text of what Ross said here:
First of all, Paul the apostle says, I urge that entreaties (requests) and prayers and petitions (that’s asking) and thanksgiving – thanksgiving! – be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority (no matter what you think of his politics) in order 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. That’s 1st Timothy 1, I’m sorry, 1st Timothy 2, one through three.
Right now, we need to be praying for the president of the United States; for the vice-president; for the cabinet; for the Supreme Court; for Congress. Lord Jesus, we pray for our leadership, and we pray, Lord, that you raise up godly men and women, that this country would be turned from its ways. Lord we turn to You, we look to You to deliver this nation. In Jesus’ name, thank you Lord, Amen.
Consider the context of the time when he spoke those words. We had just come out of the Watergate scandal, President Ford was in the White House, and we were facing the 1976 elections. Ross, using this scripture from 1st Timothy, points out that all of our leaders are in need of our prayers, even if you disagree with part of all of what he stands for. Pastor Zehnder, when discussing this verse, pointed out the context in which Paul originally wrote those words, during days in the Roman Empire when Christians were being actively persecuted and imprisoned for their beliefs. And yet, despite these evil actions, Paul here urges his readers to pray for those in authority.
Pastor Zehnder reminded me of this important truth, and brought it up to the present. Whether I am a fan or or a critic of President Obama and his policies, this scripture urges me to pray for him, for his wife and family. The same applies to leaders of my local community, or church council, or club board, etc. And he pointed out that this command applies not only to leaders, but can be extrapolated to other people in my life. Pastor Zehnder found an excellent commentary about the 1st Timothy 2:1-3 passage, and read from it. This is from The Expositor’s Bible, and the volume The Pastoral Epistles, edited by W. Robertson Nicoll, M.A., printed in 1900. From “Elements of Christian Worship“, pages 91-92, consider these words:
Only in the attitude of mind which makes us pray and give thanks for our fellowmen is the tranquillity of a godly life possible. The enemies of Christian peace and quietness are anxiety and strife. Are we anxious about the well-being of those near and dear to us, or of those whose interests are bound up with our own? Let us pray for them. Have we grave misgivings respecting the course which events are taking in Church, or in State, or in any of the smaller societies to which we belong? Let us offer supplications and intercessions on behalf of all concerned in them. Prayer offered in faith to the throne of grace will calm our anxiety, because it will assure us that all is in God’s hand, and that in His own good time He will bring good out of the evil.
Are we at strife with our neighbors, and is this a constant source of disturbance? Let us pray for them. Fervent and frequent prayers for those who are hostile to us will certainly secure this much – that we ourselves become more wary about giving provocation; and this will go a long way towards bringing the attainment of our desire for the entire cessation of the strife.
Is there anyone to whom we have taken a strong aversion, whose very presence is a trial to us, whose every gesture and every tone irritates us, and the sight of whose handwriting makes us shiver, because of its disturbing associations? Let us pray for him. Sooner or later, dislike must give way to prayer. It is impossible to go on taking a real interest in the welfare of another, and at the same time to go on detesting him. And if our prayers for his welfare are genuine, a real interest in it there must be.
Is there anyone of whom we are jealous? Of whose popularity, so dangerous to our own, we are envious? Whose success – quite underserved success, as it seems to us – disgusts and frightens us? Whose mishaps and failures, nay, even whose faults and misdeeds , give us pleasure and satisfaction? Let us thank God for the favour which he bestows upon this man. Let us praise our heavenly Father for having in His wisdom and His justice given to another of His children what He denies to us; and let us pray Him to keep this other from abusing His gifts.
In the words of this commentator, I see one of the most important basics of prayer itself that I find myself forgetting from time to time. It points out that prayer intends, even expects, that I pray for others, whether they deserve God’s help or not. And the result of that pray may be that the other person changes, and it may be that it results in a change in me. The important thing is that I need to pray.