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 principle s 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.
Another angle from which you can approach your prayers is to consider the selection process. Not all of people in authority are selected by a vote. Many are appointed, or they grow into their role gradually. For most of them, it is a career or a job. You can pray, based on Deuteronomy 1:13–15, that the wisest and best people will be selected for each job:
“Choose wise and discerning and experienced men from your tribes, and I will appoint them as your heads.”
You [the people] answered me [Moses] and said, “The thing which you have said to do is good.” So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and appointed them heads over you, leaders of thousands and of hundreds, of fifties and of tens, and officers for your tribes. (Deut. 1:13–15, nas)
Very early in colonial America, in 1638, a pastor named Thomas Hooker, preached a sermon in Hartford, Connecticut based on this passage, and his sermon inspired the creation of the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, the first written constitution in Western history, which created a government from which the government of the United States can trace its lineal descent. In his sermon, Hooker “forcefully asserted that the choice of public magistrates belongs to the people, that the privilege of election belongs to the people, and that those who have the power to appoint officers of government have the right to limit the power they hold.” [endnote: Bruce P. Stark, “Thomas Hooker,” on the Web site Connecticut’s Heritage Gateway, at www.cheritagegateway.org. Quoted in Shaping History Through Prayer and Fasting, by Derek Prince.] Thomas Hooker’s sermon concluded with the words, “As God hath spared our lives, and given us them in liberty, so to seek the guidance of God, and to choose in God and for God.” [endnote: Alden T. Vaughan, The Puritan Tradition in America, 1620–1730 (Lebanon, N.H.:University Press of New England, 1997), 84. Quoted in Prince.]
In general biblical principles had a strong influence on those who established the United States of America. Later, Daniel Webster (1782–1852) wrote: “If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering…but if we neglect its instructions and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all of our glory in profound obscurity.” [endnote: Quoted in Prince and many other sources.] In other words, when you pray for people in authority who are selected by others, you may decide to pray first for those who are doing the voting or selecting. Pray that they—including yourself—will abide by biblical principles, will have discernment and wisdom and integrity, and will be blessed by God in the execution of the tasks that lead up to the selection of new leaders. Pray using biblical terms and principles, combining the always-renewing power of the Word with the fact that much of our governmental system was established by godly people according to biblical principles.
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.)
Dr. Charles Stanley, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, along with several other leaders, has suggested ten ways to pray for the men and women who occupy the highest offices in the United States:
- Pray that they would realize their personal sinfulness and their daily need for cleansing of their sin by Jesus Christ.
- Pray that they would recognize their personal inadequacy to fulfill their tasks and they would depend upon God for knowledge, wisdom, and the courage to do what is right.
- Pray that they would reject all counsel that violates spiritual principles, trusting God to prove them right.
- Pray that they would resist those who would pressure them to violate their conscience.
- Pray that they would reverse the trends of socialism and humanism in this nation, both of which deify man rather than God.
- Pray that they would be ready to sacrifice their personal ambitions and political careers for the sake of this nation, if yielding them would be in the best interest of their country.
- Pray that they would rely upon prayer and the Word of God as the source of their daily strength, wisdom, and courage.
- Pray that they would restore dignity, honor, trustworthiness and righteousness to the office they hold.
- Pray that they would remember to be good examples in their conduct to the fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters of this nation.
- Pray that they would be reminded daily that they are accountable to Almighty God for the decisions they make.
How else can we pray? Dick Eastman, the president of Every Home for Christ, suggests using three key Scriptures:
- 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.)
Wow! That was a lot! Actually, that was an excerpt form my book Prayer Storm on the chapter Praying For Those in Authority. So let’s Pray for People of Influence this week across the globe. Let’s infiltrate the Kingdom of God into every sphere of society! Let’s take these points and turn them into prayer targets!
Praying for a Kingdom Invasion!
James W. Goll