“I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so 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, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
1 Tim. 2:1–4 (NAS)
Prayers for people who are in positions of authority have high priority in the heart of God. You could even say that 1 Timothy 2:1–4 is an apostolic admonition for prayer. Yes, the prayers that Christians pray for those in authority matter; they are essential to the advancement of the Kingdom. We cannot afford to leave them up to others. Prayer for leaders must become one of the features of our lives as intercessors. Many other Scriptures help us understand how to pray for people who are in positions of authority. Let’s look at a few of them:
“Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”
1 Pet. 2:17 (NKJV)
“Fear the Lord and the king, my son, and do not join with the rebellious, for those two will send sudden destruction upon them, and who knows what calamities they can bring?”
Prov. 24:21–22 (NIV)
“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan.”
Prov. 29:2, (nkjv)
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil.
Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
Rom. 13:1–7 (NASV)
Why Should We Pray?
Why should we pray for those who are in authority? I see two reasons in 1 Timothy 2:1–4: (1) “so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” and (2) so that God can bring those in authority—as well as those under their authority—to Himself. (He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.“) I once heard the late international Bible teacher, Derek Prince, expand on this. He said that it doesn’t matter what plans, systems, or programs you devise. If you bypass prayer, you will not have power to carry them out. He compared prayer-less intentions to a building that is wired for electricity–but if it’s not connected to a power source, nothing will work, even if the wires are in good order and the light fixtures are beautiful. Our power-source is prayer, and we are enjoined in the Bible to pray in particular for “kings and all in authority,” for good government and wise leadership. Why? So that: (1) we might have peace and order (2) for the propagation of the Gospel (3) because God desires all men to be saved.
Whom Should You Pray For?
Don’t limit your thinking to only governmental leaders when you talk about praying for people who are in authority. Of course, from a United States government perspective, you should pray for the sixteen individuals who make most of the key governmental decisions in the United States: our President, the nine justices of the Supreme Court, the two senators from your state, the U.S. congressperson from your district, the governor of your state, your state senator, your state representative, and also for others who work on those levels of government. Each of us has an obligation to pray for these men and women, by name, on a regular basis.
But you can apply these same principles to your prayers for spiritual leaders on all levels—from your local pastor and church staff members to regional leaders, national leaders, and anyone who oversees an aspect of spiritual life in the Church. And you can also pray for marketplace leaders, for the “elders” who “sit at the gates” of your city, for those who drive the commerce where you live.
In ancient Middle Eastern cities, this was literally the case. A city would have more than one gate, and they were connected by broad walls (which you could compare to the “walls of salvation). At least three offices would be represented or contained at the gateways of a city: Commercial, judicial, and prophetic. Actual real estate transactions were handled at the gateway; deeds were transferred, signatures were collected. Court cases and judicial hearings were held right in the gate and decisions would be announced right there. In addition, prophetic words, the word of the Lord, would be delivered to the priests in the gate (see Prov. 1:21; Jer. 17:19, 20; 26:10, 13). So there at the gate, a person would find commerce moving, the justice system operating, and spiritual dynamics taking place. When you pray for “those in authority,” you are selecting, by name if possible, people who oversee certain spheres and assignments. You have to keep in mind the fact that the spheres of authority are different from each other. If you’re praying that an election will be handled with integrity, you’ll be praying for the election officials as much as you will the candidates. But those prayers will have little to do with the policies in your local school system—which are decided by school officials. If you want to pray for your local schools, pray for the authorities over the school system.
Stick with the right “fields” and pray with the level of faith that God has granted to you (see Rom. 12:3) so that you can bring in a bigger harvest in prayer. Also, our participation in the voting process is an adjunct to our prayers in a very real way. Voting can be our “works” that are supposed to match our faith. The book of James tells us that faith without works is dead. (“Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead,” James 2:17, NKJV). Praying is vital, but it can’t stand alone.
What Should You Pray For?
We learn from many Scriptures that God exalts rulers and people in authority if they exercise their authority with righteousness. Proverbs expresses it best: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Prov. 14:34, NAS), and “If a king judges the poor with truth, his throne will be established forever” (Prov. 29:24, nas). So one of the first things we should pray for is that the authority figure we are praying for will become righteous and will express righteousness, wisdom, and justice in all that he or she does. I pray for those in authority (by name) that they will have God’s heart.
Often, I use Scripture passages as the basis for my prayers, something like this: “Lord, make the President’s heart like a channel of water in your hand. Turn it where you wish.” (Based on Proverbs 21:1.). “Lord, help [a local civil judge] judge the poor with truth and integrity and compassion.” (Based on Proverbs 29:14, Psalm 25:21, and 2 Corinthians 1:3–4.) “Father, make it possible for [name of political leader] to humble himself and turn to you and become righteous, for the sake of [the area of the leader’s oversight].” (Based on 2 Chronicles 7:14.) The following points will give you some basic understanding on what to pray.
Proverbs 28:2 (NIV): “When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers, but a man of understanding and knowledge maintains order.” See also Isaiah 11:1–3. (Pray for leaders to have knowledge and understanding, which is more than mere information; it includes a grasp of history and roles and cultures and God’s will.)
2 Kings 19:27–28 (NAS): “…Because of your raging against Me, /And because your arrogance has come up to My ears, /Therefore I will put My hook in your nose, /And My bridle in your lips, /And I will turn you back by the way which you came.” (Pray that God will deal with tyrants, for the sake of His people. Pray that He will hedge in such leaders with limits and boundaries.)
Micah 6:8 (NKJV): “He has shown you, O man, what is good; /And what does the Lord require of you /But to do justly, /To love mercy, /And to walk humbly with your God?” (Pray that leaders will govern honestly, humbly, and with mercy.)
Effective Prayers for Those in Authority
While we each have special prayer assignments, we are all called to pray for people who are in authority. (Review 1 Tim. 2:1–4.) It is God’s heart! It is God’s Word! It is God’s command! So why don’t we just stop and tune in to God’s heart, praying for leaders and issues that concern them?
Father, in accordance with Your word we pause and pray for kings and for those in authority. We bring before You the one who is the president of the United States at this time. We pray that You will raise up godly counsel around the president’s life and we pray that the voices of advisors that are based on an unbiblical framework will be silenced. We ask You to provide wisdom like that of Solomon, as well as purity, protection, and safety. We release the knowledge of God’s will with all spiritual wisdom and understanding. We also pray for our governors [name your state governor] and for our members of congress on the national and state levels.
We pray for those in authority in the judicial system, especially the nine Supreme Court justices of the United States. We bless them in the Name of the Lord of Hosts. We pray that all of those in authority would realize and recognize their personal inadequacy to fulfill their role and that You would release to them a revelation of dependency upon God. We pray that You would reverse the trends of socialism and humanism in this nation, all trends that deify man rather than God. Lord, as this nation and different nations go into critical times, we call forth those who are truly appointed by You. Let them rise to the top with favor, as cream rises to the top of the milk. Give them a voice that will be heard. Release favor to righteous men and women and to those who are humble, to those who are wise and have revelatory activity upon their lives—release them into positions of influence and impact and authority.
We pray for priorities to be released, revelation to come of the honor of being a public servant. We pray that there would be a reliance upon the word of God, the will of God, and the ways of God as the source of daily strength and wisdom and courage. We pray that there would be a restoration of dignity and honor, trustworthiness and righteousness in the land. We pray for our spiritual leaders. We pray for our pastors, our apostles, our prophets, our evangelists, our pastors, and our teachers. We pray blessings and protection over them. We pray for purity. We pray for the quality of life in their families. We bless those in authority this day and we declare that this is good and acceptable in the sight of God, our Savior who desires all men and women to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.
We Thank You in Yeshua’s Great Name. Amen.