“What are we going to do about the president?” asked my minister friend.
His question took me by surprise. And though many years – and presidential administrations – have passed since its asking, my response would be the same today.
“Our responsibility is to pray for the president,” I replied, basing my answer on Paul’s call for patriotic praying. In his words we’re to pray for all who are in authority that we may live quiet and peaceable lives (1Timothy 2:2).
If my answer seems too simple, consider what it demands.
Prayer demands faith.
We’re to pray for leaders and expect the best from them.
During this crisis of confidence, our prayers should embrace all government leaders and ought to be heartfelt cries for both protection from terrorism and a national spiritual turnaround.
Is there any hope of such an awakening in our time?
Doubters don’t think so but the Biblical account of an unwilling missionary’s ministry in Iraq may offer hope for today.
When Jonah was sent to Iraq to warn one of its largest cities, Nineveh, of coming judgment there seemed little hope for success in his mission. Still, shortly after the reluctant prophet’s arrival in this sin city the unthinkable happened: the king became so convicted of his evil life that he repented and urged others to do the same. This surprising sudden royal response to plain preaching may have seemed a bit fishy to Jonah but soon the entire city followed the king’s example, sparing it from destruction.
Prayer also demands forgiveness.
“And when you stand praying, forgive” said our Lord (Mark 11:25). But forgiving political opponents can be difficult to do.
Jonah was upset over the forgiveness granted to the immoral king and his subjects. This seems to have been one of the reasons he hadn’t wanted to urge them to face up to their sins; fearing they would be forgiven and the city spared. He preferred judgment to grace. Now their repentance had robbed him of the joy of witnessing their destruction. “I knew you were a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness,” he complained.
Can you identify with this pouting prophet?
Do you know someone you don’t want to forgive?
Power to forgive comes from being forgiven and both our own forgiveness and the ability to forgive are the results of God’s love. Forgiving another person may enable you to pray more effectively for your family, your church, your country, even your president and other national leaders.
Prayer also demands self-examination.
A promise given to King Solomon and his people about confessing their sins and seeking forgiveness offers a solution to our present moral and spiritual needs.
“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 will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Roger Campbell is an author, broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.