PRAYING FOR THOSE IN AUTHORITY
Updated: Aug 9, 2020
Bible admonishes believers to pray for those in authority. We must know why we have to pray for them, what to pray for and how God looks at such a prayer. Apostle Paul discusses these in detail in his epistle to Timothy (I Timothy 2: 1-8).
[All scriptural references are from King James Version].
1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; (I Timothy 2:1,2)
I exhort therefore, that, first of all,..., be made for all men;
Paul here exhorts Timothy to pray for all men. The word exhort means to urge. Thus, we could say that Paul is exhorting or urging Timothy to pray for all men.
Timothy was actually overseeing the work of God in Ephesus as per the instructions of Paul (I Timothy 1: 3). There were several things which he had to look after in the church activities. But then he is exhorting him to do this first of all those. As believers, we need to give first preference to pray for all men than other things. Now who are these all men for whom prayers have to be made?
For kings, and for all that are in authority;
We are to pray for kings and for all that are in authority. In those days, kings were the supreme authorities. Next to the kings, governors of provinces were in positions of authority (I Peter 2: 13-14). There were also magistrates in each city (Acts 16: 20) and others as well who held positions of authority.
In our days, those in authority would vary from country to country. Generally, they would include the president or the prime minister or both, ministers or law makers, governors, chief ministers, city mayors, judges and others we can add in this list of those holding the positions of authority.
We must understand that praying for them is not indulging in politics. Some people do not pray thinking that it is entering into politics. This however is not true.
supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
We further notice that instead of saying just to pray, he mentions four different things to be made for all men. Though all of them come under the category of prayer, there is a difference between each of them.
Some argue that since all of them mean prayer and hence distinguishing them is not that important. If that were true, Paul would not have used different terms to mean the same thing.
Not just here, Paul differentiates them elsewhere also in his epistles in connection with prayer.
Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
Like Paul, Luke the author of Acts also differentiates them.
These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication,…
Thus, we can see that supplication, prayer, intercession and thanksgiving have to be different and hence we ought to know what each of them mean to pray effectively.
Prayer is an act of worship or communing with God.
Supplication on the other hand means earnest or sincere or humble petition; it also means asking submissively. It is used normally in seeking help from others. Here Paul uses it with respect to petitioning God. Thus, a humble or sincere petition in prayer could be termed supplication. Some of the English translations call it petition, request and entreaty which all imply the same meaning as discussed above.
For whom can we make supplication? First of all, supplication can be made for ourselves (Philippians 4: 6); also for all the saints or believers (Ephesians 6: 18); and here Paul exhorts supplication to be made for all men who are unbelievers.
The word intercession means peacemaking between two or pleading for another.
Giving of thanks or thanksgiving means acknowledgement of divine goodness and mercy. We need to give thanks to God while praying for ourselves (Philippians 4: 6). Also, apostle Paul mentions that he always gave thanks to God while praying for the saints. Here he is urging to give thanks while praying for all men.
Thus, we can see that Paul wants all of them, namely supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for all men.
Finally, we must understand that though Paul here is urging Timothy to do so, he in essence wants the whole church to pray. How do we know this? Towards the end of this discussion, he says, “I will therefore that men pray everywhere,..” (I Timothy 2: 8). We know then that he wants the entire church as well as individually to pray for all men. Churches need to pay attention to Paul’s exhortation and pray.
2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. (I Timothy 2:2)
that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
Paul here gives the reason why he is exhorting believers to pray for those in authority. When he says we, he refers to all the believers. We are to pray for them that we the believers may lead or live a quiet and peaceable life.
The word quiet refers to be at rest, calm and free from disturbance. Thus, it refers to mental tranquility, whereas, peaceable refers to freedom from conflict, dissent or war. When an uproar or uprising arises among people, then it brings turmoil and confusion. This is the reason he is saying that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life.
In addition, he says that we may lead the life in all godliness and honesty. Notice we are not to live in a worldly manner but in all godliness.
There is also another reason which he gives why we have to pray for them.
3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
(I Timothy 2:3)
When he says ‘for this is,’ he is referring to praying for those in authority. He says this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour. The word acceptable also means pleasing. God is pleased with such prayer and also it is good in his sight.
We may be inclined to think if God would listen to such prayers. When we look at the history we know that all those men in authority were all unbelievers. Many of them were even against the spread of the gospel. Even today, it is the same. But then he says God is pleased with such prayers. Our prayers to God would change them.
Instead of being critical of the political leaders, if we as a church begin to pray for them, God would change their hearts. This is because the decisions which these people take would affect us as a society as well as believers. When we pray God would direct them in the right way.
4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
(I Timothy 2: 4)
God will have or wishes to have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. When we look at the world, we see that many are unsaved. That does not mean that God is not willing them to be saved. Instead he wants all men to be saved.
To be saved from what? Man as such is a lost being due to sin and is destined for eternal destruction. He needs to be saved or delivered from sin and its consequences. One might ask then, if God wants all men to be saved, why is he not saving them.
God has already provided salvation to all men through his Son Lord Jesus Christ. This salvation comes to men when they come to know the knowledge of the truth.
Ephesians 1: 13
In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation:
We see here that these Ephesians were saved after they heard the word of truth and believed. In the gospel, called the word of truth, there is salvation for all men. It is by coming unto this knowledge and believing that one gets saved.
Finally, let us not be hearers of the word only but be doers of it by praying for those in authority.
I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
(I Timothy 2: 8)