PRAYER AND INTERCESSION
Jesus Christ is the King of kings and Lord of Lords. He is the Ruler of earth's rulers and the Governor over earth's governments. Too often, in our daily life, encumbered with the world's cares, we tend to miss or forget this very important point, that Christ is in control of the world's governments. His authority over all earthly governments is made available in His name to the church - the assembly of His believing people. As Moses stretched forth his rod on God's behalf over Egypt, so the church by its prayers stretches forth Christ's authority over the nations and their rulers.
In 1Tim 2:1-4, Paul gives direction for the church's ministry of prayer.
"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for everyone -
For kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
This is good, and pleases God our Saviour,
Who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."
"First of all", Paul calls. In verse 1, we see that the first duty of Christians meeting is prayer. It is also their primary outreach. Also, Paul says that prayer is to be made "for everyone". This agrees with Isa 56:7 where God says "...mine house will be called a house of prayer for all nations." God is concerned with "all men", and He expects His people to share His concern.
After "everyone", the first specific topic for prayer is "kings and all those in authority". This indicates all who are responsible for governing the nation, i.e. the government. When praying for the government, what specific petition are we exhorted to make? Paul's answer is, "...that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." Does the kind of government we live under affect the way we live? Obviously it does. Therefore, if we desire a good way of life, logic and self-interest alike indicate that we should pray for our government.
Following in verse 3, "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour". The two aspects here are that prayer for our government is pleasing to the Lord, and that good government is the will of the Lord.
Moving on to verse 4, we find that Paul states the reason why good government is the will of God. God desires "all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." Through faith in Christ's atonement, salvation has been made available to all men. However, for men "to be saved", they must first "come to a knowledge of the truth" concerning Christ's atonement. This is possible only if they have the gospel preached to them. In connecting good government and the preaching of the gospel, we see that on the one hand, good government maintains law and order, keeps communications open, allows freedom of speech and assembly. In short, a good government, without becoming involved in religious controversy, provides a climate in which the gospel can be preached effectively. On the other hand, bad government allows the breakdown of law and order, permits poor communications, and imposes unjust and arbitrary restrictions. In all these ways, in varying degrees, bad government hinders the effective preaching of the gospel.
Our conclusions of 1Tim 2:1-4 therefore can be summarised as follows:
1) The first ministry and outreach of believers meeting together in regular fellowship is prayer.
2) The first specific topic for prayer is the government.
3) We are to pray for good government.
4) God desires all men to have the truth of the gospel preached to them.
5) Good government facilitates the preaching of the gospel, while bad government hinders it.
6) Therefore, good government is the will of God.
The last point has the most far reaching consequences for our prayers. In all effective praying the decisive issue is the knowledge of God's will. If we know that what we are praying for is according to God's will, then we have faith to claim it. But if we are not sure of God's will, our prayers are wavering and ineffective (James 1:6-7). From this, since good government is according to God's will, knowing this and then praying for good government, we have the assurance that good government is granted to us. Why, then, do the majority of Christians have no assurance of good government? There can only be two reasons: either they do not pray at all for good government; or they pray for good government, but without the knowledge that it is God's will. The point is, God has made it possible for Christians by their prayers to insure good government. Christians who fail to exercise this God-given authority are gravely delinquent - both toward God and toward their country.
Christians should not be complacent in their attitudes on praying for the nation. The majority of Singaporean Christians have a strange notion that just because we have a good government now meant that we would always have a good government. This laxity in concern for a good government has lulled many Christians into a false sense of security. History has shown otherwise in nations where the Christian community failed to intercede for the country, the Lebanon being an example in point. On the other hand, the other extreme is the so-called "liberation theology". The Bible nowhere tells us or gives us a warrant to rebel against the government, as all authorities are put in place by God. Because outright rebellion is not possible, a number of Christians have resorted to criticizing the government. Criticism, however, is a sign of disrespect and in a way, rebellion of the heart. The irony is that those who continually criticize their rulers are, in effect, criticizing themselves, since such Christians have, in addition to the normal political machinery, have also available to them the God-given power of prayer by which to bring about the changes which they believe desirable, either in the personal or in the policy of the government.
The truth is that Christians are not held responsible to criticize their government, but they are held responsible to pray for it. So long as they fail to pray, Christians have no right to criticize. In fact most of our political leaders and administrators are more faithful in the discharge of their secular duties than Christians are in the discharge of their spiritual duties. Furthermore, if Christians would seriously begin to intercede, they would soon find less to criticize. The root of the problem with most Christians is not lack of will, but lack of knowledge. Since good government is God's will, this should provide both the faith and the incentive that Christians need to pray effectively for their government.
So, after all this, how do we begin to pray and intercede?
In 2Chr 7:14 we see:
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." God's requirements are fourfold: that His people humble themselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways. Upon these conditions, God promises to hear the prayers of His people and to heal their land. Three keys to effective praying for our government are intercession, persistence and fasting.
What is intercession? It is praying into existence God's will, the burden which He has placed in your heart, rather than the reverse, which is coming to Him with a "shopping list" prayer. God reveals to us through His Word and the Holy Spirit the purposes which He is working out, not that we may be passive spectators on the sidelines of history, but that we may personally identify ourselves with His purposes, and thus become actively involved in their fulfillment. Revelation demands involvement.
Next, persistence. In Gen 32:22-31, Jacob wrestled with God, and would not let Him go until He had blessed him. Likewise we should embrace God in prayer, and continue praying until there is a "breakthrough". Also, in Isa 62:6-7, we are told not to rest, and to give God no rest until His will is done.
Finally, fasting. In Matt 6:1-8, Christ gives instructions to His disciples concerning three related duties: in giving, praying and fasting. In these verses, Christ says: "When you give ....When you pray ....When you fast" In no case does Christ say, if, but always when. Christ expects all His disciples to regularly practice all three duties. What does fasting result in? Fasting intensifies prayer (Acts 13:1-3), brings deliverance and victory (2Chr 20:1-30), and precipitates God's latter rain (Joel ch. 1-2)
In conclusion, Christians should pray, fast and intercede for their nation and government. True intercession is far more than pleading with God to do something He is unwilling to do. It is rather His project of getting us to the place where we understand His will and can speak it into reality. This requires intimacy with God in order to know His will. Since good government is the will of God, let us then respond to His call and rise up as one to begin to corporately pray and fast for our nation and government.
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© Nicholas Tay 1992