Sitting in the pew on a recent Sunday morning at church, we arrived at the part of the service in the Anglican tradition where we pray for the “whole state of Christ’s church and the world.” This rhythm remains the same every week as the congregation moves through concentric circles of influence in our lives. First, we pray for the universal church and then by name for governmental officials, leaders in our denomination, leaders in the local congregation, and people who are ill.
The style of prayer, designed as a call and response, engages the entire congregation. The leader cues up the prayer by reading it, adding the phrase, “in your mercy.” Then the congregation answers by saying, “Hear our prayers.”
O Lord our Governor, whose glory fills all the world: We commend this Nation to your merciful care, that we may be guided by your providence, and dwell secure in your peace. Grant to the President of this Nation, the Governor of this State, and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do your will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them continually mindful of their calling to serve this people in reverent obedience to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.
ACNA BCP 2019 p. 657 “For the President and All Civil Authority”
This prayer and many others were woven into the service as a fixed part of the liturgy for churches all over the country. On any given Sunday, congregations from sea to shining sea bombard the heavenly realms with petitions for leaders. People with wildly divergent political views bow their heads and join hands to pray together.
And yet, I was thinking, how can I pray for a president I disagree with or a governor who might not govern in the way I believe he or she should? How can I pray for an unbelieving government official to “know and do Your will,” God?
A look at Psalm 2 sheds some light on this struggle.
1 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, 3 "Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us." (Psalm 2: 1-3 ESV)
These words, penned many years ago and miles away from here, bring comfort because I hear about how the psalmist observed a similar situation to the one I find myself in. Then, the nations raged, the rulers took counsel against the Lord, and the people felt as if they were being held captive by all the chaos.
Same. Those words sum up 2022 rather well. However, the psalmist also observes the following.
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 "As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill." In 2022, is the Lord still on His heavenly throne? Yes, and He must laugh at some of our leaders sometimes. 7 I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." (Psalm 2: 4-9 ESV)
These words trumpet the promise of the Lord that the line of David will go on forever. King Jesus, David’s descendant, rules in the now and not yet. Every day on this planet, believers catch a glimpse of the Kingdom of God breaking out. However, the fullness of this promise has not been ultimately revealed yet.
In the meantime, God uses governmental leaders to fulfill His purposes. There are examples of this all through scripture. One comes to my mind from the book of Esther. A pagan leader, King Xerxes, helps save the Jewish people from total annihilation. “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” (Proverbs 21:1 ESV)
Psalm 2 closes with a warning.
10 Now, therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2:10-12 ESV)
In His kindness, God offers some solid advice to all leaders. “Kiss the Son.” Worship Jesus. The time to repent and seek Him is now because His wrath will be unleashed at the time of His return.
At the second coming, every knee will bow in adoration for the Son, also known as Jesus.
God also encourages believers to take refuge in Him in the meantime. The world will continue to rage and storm, but we know the ending. We can sleep amid the storm because we know who is at the helm of our ship.
What am I called to do?
How can we “burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us”? (Psalm 2:3 ESV)
Pray for our leaders. Use the words of the prayer above or pray using the psalms as a prompt. Pray using your own words or the prayers found in various prayer books. Pray for our leaders because they need it, and the practice brings freedom to each of us. The next time I find myself criticizing a leader, what if chose to pray? As I pray for particular leaders, I relinquish fear or apprehension about what might happen next. The bonds of anxiety fall away, and the cords of my complaining loosen their grip on my heart.