The Government Shutdown: A Forgotten Response

It seems that everyone is frustrated about the recent government shutdown. We the people wonder why our leaders can’t seem to work together. And our leaders seem to be focused on blaming the other side for the mess. As I write this, there is not even a glimmer of hope on the horizon that an agreement can be reached.

So how are Christ followers to respond to this? Some of us prefer to ignore the discussion entirely, choosing a silent cynicism. Others choose to read the political editorials and watch the various pundits on television, which only increase our blood pressure.  We feel a growing anger.

But there is another response—one that I’m guessing most of us who are Christ followers have not embraced. Paul writes of this response in I Timothy 2:1 “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for everyone, for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases our God and Savior.”

This is no trivial or flippant thing. Paul is urging us to do this—to earnestly pray for our leaders, interceding on their behalf, praying for God to intervene. He tells us that this is good and is pleasing to God, and also that it results in blessing to us in terms of our being able to live peacefully and to live godly lives in our country.

So why don’t we do this? Here are a few hunches: One, I’m not sure we believe that prayer would make any difference on something of such a grand scale. This is a faith issue, isn’t it? Do we really believe that the God who spoke creation into being, the God who sent Jesus to reconcile the world to Himself and to each other, the God who calmed the sea…. is able to do this? If we did believe prayer would make a dfference, we would do it.

A second hunch I have regarding why we often don’t apply Paul’s command is this: We are often so caught up in the polarizing dialog of politics and are not wanting the other side to “win”. We don’t want THEIR agenda furthered—but Paul doesn’t give us any out on this one. He urges us to pray for our leaders….not just the ones we like. I find it interesting that when George Bush was President I regularly received emails urging Christians to pray for him. I have yet to receive any email urging the same for President Obama. Again God doesn’t command us to have selective praying for our leaders, depending on their political party, etc.

 So how might we pray for our leaders in the midst of this shutdown? Here are a few ideas:

             1. Pray for wisdom—that God would give wisdom to them to find ways to move forward.

            2. Pray for humility—that they would have the humility to stop blaming each other and instead to explore ways to compromise. Pray that they might have the humility to initiate these dialogs rather than waiting for the other side.

            3. Pray for reconciliation and dialog to occur—that they would choose face to face dialog rather than throwing stones at each other via speeches.

 So how about we spend some time praying about these things this next week and see what happens?

  13Comments

  1. Scott   •  

    Good post, Alan!

  2. stewartcd66   •  

    Thank you for the reminder that we need to pray for our leaders…and for each other, no matter what our political leanings may be. As I remind my friends and family (all of whom have different political opinions), “When we leave this life, the only thing we will take with us is the LOVE, not politics! So let’s spend more time on the love!” Blessings to you, Alan, and thanks again.

  3. Erin Miyoshi   •  

    Thank you Pastor Alan! After watching TV and hearing the uproar – I really needed this!

  4. Sam   •  

    Seems like we should be actively working to apply those three ideas to our own lives and relationships, instead of expecting politicians to apply them. Why should they when we don’t seem to lead by example?

    • alankraft   •  

      I guess because Paul tells us to. He urges us to do this. I don’t see any option out on this one. Paul doesn’t say, “When you get your act together, then pray for leaders.” The command is clear.

      • Sam   •  

        That is true, but Jesus also says in Matthew 3: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” I’m not against praying for our politicians, only praying for them from the perspective of an uneven playing field. The blunders they make in the public arena are the same blunders we tend to make in our personal lives. It’s far too easy to look down our noses at them without recognizing we are just as bad at resolving conflicts or being able to engage in meaningful dialogue or being humble as they are. Personally, I want to pray for them from a serving position, rather than from a position of having it all together. That command from Jesus is clear.

  5. Matthew Hebbert   •  

    I found the perfect prayer in Psalm 109, specifically verse 6: “May his days be few; may another take his office!”

    Har har har.

    Seriously though, do you think there is room for imprecatory prayer (essentially a curse, for those unfamiliar with the term) in modern Christianity? Both Paul and Jesus instructed Christians to pray for their leaders and enemies, but they also both quoted various imprecatory prayers found in the Psalms. David and other Psalmists penned several rather scathing imprecatory prayers.

    When praying for wisdom, humility, reconciliation, and dialogue, isn’t also OK to pray for evil plans to be thwarted and wicked rulers to be removed from power if they continue using their power to perpetrate and promote evil?

    I tend to think it can all go together, but I’m no theologian, and I’m always open to being wrong. What do you think?

    • alankraft   •  

      Hey Matthew

      Where did Jesus or Paul urge imprecatory prayers? I’m not aware of any place where Jesus or Paul used these kinds of prayers for government leaders. Jesus strongest denunciations were against the Pharisees–the moral leaders who looked down on everyone else. Sometimes I fear that many Christians’ angry responses to government leaders are a reflection of Phariseeism, rather than godliness.

      I would also be cautious in applying David’s prayers to our situation today. To compare his enemies to our political leaders is inappropriate, in my opinion. It’s one thing to disagree with decisions certain political leaders are making. It’s another thing for us to accuse these leaders of being “wicked” and “evil”.

      It’s funny how in politics, both sides like to accuse the other of being wicked and evil. We all have blindspots, and don’t see nearly as clearly as we think.

  6. Michael Eriksson   •  

    But is prayer relevant in a situation like the current? The players are motivated by decisions and priorities that may or may not be unwise, but remain in the realm of free will. If God were to interfere in the matter, it would involve altering these respective wills in a manner that is not compatible with _free_ will. (Barring more direct interventions with no documented modern precedence.)

    • alankraft   •  

      I don’t see how this situation is any different than other prayers we may offer to God, asking His kingdom to come in situations where we long to see change. Should we not pray for a friend who is losing a battle with addiction? Their free will has led them down a path of destruction. In prayer, we are asking God to intervene. Our freedom to choose gets us in messes all the time–messes that God is certainly able to respond to as we pray.

      • Absolutely, Alan…..I offer prayers daily for my son who chose atheism….and thanks again for the information about St. Augustine’s mother who did the same with him! My son’s “free will” has sent him down the wrong path, and of course I will continue praying!!!

  7. Lynn   •  

    I lived overseas awhile, volunteering, am always praying for our leaders, world leaders, and certainly now for our state congress(es) and nation’s congress. I feel alone. Even my Christian friends don’t want to discuss it or fiercely pray about it. Do you have a group that regularly prays for our government? I would like to join.

    • alankraft   •  

      I don’t…but I think it would be a great idea!

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