The clearest description on how to pray for civil rulers is found in 1 Timothy 2:1–4.
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For 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.
The Apostle Paul doesn’t condition such prayer on those being prayed for on them being followers of Jesus. They must be prayed for by virtue of their influence on the lives of others. The aim of prayer for leaders is that they would execute the duties of their office in such a way that the people they govern would be able to live in peace, unhindered from walking with God.
It seems reasonable, therefore, that the primary thing we ought to pray for is the conversion of those rulers to faith in Christ. Since the Gospel is The Answer on which all other answers rest, growing in the grace and truth of Christ is a prerequisite to the wisdom required to live as we are designed to. A ruler’s decisions are shaped by his/her worldview. So being born again with a mind renewed by God’s Word and Ways is of premier importance.
Let us pray for our civil leaders at every level to come to faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Even if they don’t, let us pray the advice they seek and the influences they trust align with a Biblical worldview and that they have the courage to make decisions based on conviction and principle rather than mere political expediency.
Then there are corrupt rulers. Either they came into office with bent motives, or power later corrupted them. They wield power to benefit themselves and their friends rather than the public good. Though authorized by God to promote justice (Romans 13), they instead pervert justice.
Psalm 82 is an eloquent denunciation of corrupt judges. Charged with adjudicating justice, they used their office for personal advancement. God rebukes them for it, warning them that just as they have sat in judgment, so they will stand before Him for judgment.
Psalm 69 provides insight into how we might pray regarding corrupt rulers.
The author is David. He’s distressed, over-whelmed by trouble in the form of dangerous enemies eager to take him down. In verse 4 he says, “Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head; They are mighty who would destroy me, being my enemies wrongfully.”
Later in the Psalm, the words move to a clear picture of the sufferings of Jesus in His passion. As they do, in verses 22 through 28, David prays against his enemies, and by extension, those who opposed Christ.
Let their table become a snare before them, and their well-being a trap. Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see; And make their loins shake continually. Pour out Your indignation upon them, and let Your wrathful anger take hold of them. Let their dwelling place be desolate; Let no one live in their tents…. Add iniquity to their iniquity, and let them not come into Your righteousness. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.
David may be going overboard here. It looks like he asks God to seal the door on the wicked so that they cannot repent and be restored. If that is the case, David errs because we know God is not willing any perish. He wants all to repent and be saved. But – Those who won’t repent deserve and are doomed to judgment.
We ought to pray for corrupt rulers to be convicted of sin and repent. That is the highest good and aligns with God’s will. At the same time, we know not all people will be saved. While we cannot foresee who will and won’t repent and believe, God can, and does. After praying first for corrupt rulers to repent and be saved, we can pray that if they are not going to, that their corruption be exposed and brought to an end and that in his/her place, a good and just official would fill that place.
Lance is the founding and lead pastor of Calvary Chapel Oxnard where he has served since 1982. Lance & David Guzik co-pastored the church for six years before David planted a church in a nearby community.
Lance & his wife Lynn were married in 1980 and have three adult children and five grandchildren. Lance loves teaching the Bible, History, and Leadership. He holds Masters-of-Arts in Biblical Studies and Ministry.
Lance serves as a chaplain for both the Oxnard and Port Hueneme Police Departments and enjoys backpacking, wood-working, working out, gardening, home improvement projects, reading, and graphic design.
The popular Communio Sanctorum: History of the Christian Church podcast can be found in both audio and video at the Into His Image website along with a growing inventory of Lances teaching.