Praying for the “Elect”, Not Just the Elections
National election day is tomorrow. Many Americans are watching the results with a sense that the key candidate from each of the political parties will be set in stone. Not only are we watching and voting, but many of us are praying.
I am always grateful for efforts to encourage more prayer among believers. Few can ignore the numerous efforts to induce Christians to pray for America in light of the coming elections. The Lord knows our nation needs prayer.
However, I have some concerns. It is not my intention to stir up controversy. I simply hope to challenge many of you who partner with us in our vision for “praying people, supporting praying pastors, who lead praying churches – for supernatural gospel impact.” (Please ponder and pray for the Lord’s blessing on that vision and its ramifications. It is always sad for me to see the billions of dollars that are spent on national elections but to see how few believers invest vital funds in the cause of national revival.)
A Subtle Message?
One burden I cannot seem to shake these days is the subtle assumption in some of the calls for accelerated prayer leading up to the elections. Here it is: that the outcome of the elections is the key to the needed change in our society.
Let me be swift to say that God has ordained civil government. “For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Romans 13:1). Government leaders are described as “God’s ministers” to punish civil evil and are to be honored (Romans 13:2-7). That is saying a lot, since Paul wrote these words while under the rule of a violent emperor and a wicked Roman government that would eventually execute him for his faith in Jesus Christ. Paul also says that all political leaders are worthy of our prayers (I will address this further in another section).
I believe every Christian should know the crucial issues and faithfully exercise the stewardship of citizenship by voting. However, we must remember that government is not the force for societal transformation. One good friend who is very involved in consulting candidates notes that politics do not set the culture, rather they reflect the culture. Transformation occurs in hearts, not through laws. The Gospel transforms hearts. The church is the agency of the Gospel. We are the salt and light of the world. No political party can fulfill this role.
Politics do not set the culture, rather they reflect the culture. Transformation occurs in hearts, not through laws. The Gospel transforms hearts. The church is the agency of the Gospel. We are the salt and light of the world. No political party can fulfill this role.
I am guessing that many Christians are enthusiastically praying for a specific, desired outcome in the presidential contests – presumably that their preferred candidate will win. Unfortunately, some may conclude that if we pray hard enough and skip enough meals that God is obligated to cause the right politicians to win. If the election does not turn out as expected, some may wonder if God answers prayer or if fasting really “works” to produce the answers we want.
The Vote or the Voters?
The greater concern in this election is not really the outcome of the vote, but the worldview of the voters. Candidates will come and go. Laws will be made and later reversed, only to be reversed again. In the long run, the moral and philosophical drift manifested in the elections is the deeper dilemma. Again, this is reflective of the condition of the human heart. Hearts inform minds, minds inform votes, and votes determine elections. Only the Gospel can change the heart and renew the mind according to the word of God. Christians, manifesting the life and proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ day after day and year after year, are the stewards of the power of the Gospel.
The Positive Side of a Negative Environment
Because Americans desire (and think they deserve) a comfortable life and the promise of a prosperous future, even Christians in our nation long for things to go “our way.” Of course I, too, would love to see a government that is pro-life, pro-family, and financially prosperous. Yet, I have to remember that the goal of our lives on this earth is the demonstration and declaration of the Gospel, not a better GDP or faith-friendly laws.
We would do well to remember that the Gospel has often flourished most powerfully under oppressive governments and in the face of extreme persecution. I am not wishing for this but I do long for the American church to be awakened from its spiritual slumber and revived with passion for Christ, expressing supernatural witness in His name. Whatever it takes for this to happen, hard as it may be, is the ultimate answer to our prayers for the advancement of the Gospel and for His glory.
We would do well to remember that the Gospel has often flourished most powerfully under oppressive governments and in the face of extreme persecution. I am not wishing for this but I do long for the American church to be awakened from its spiritual slumber and revived with passion for Christ, expressing supernatural witness in His name.
The Essential Focus for Our Prayers
Many of us want to comply with Paul’s admonition from 1 Timothy 2:1 & 2, “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….” Again, Paul had Nero in mind. This Roman tyrant made most of our political leaders look like angels. How did Paul pray for Nero? What should we expect from our prayers for political leaders? Read on.
Paul urged, “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. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Timothy 2: 2-6).
What changes as we pray? We do. How do we change? We become more quiet and peaceable in order to live a godly and reverent life. I do not believe a government, good or bad, is what produces a godly life. Only the transforming work of the Spirit can do this as we seek Him (2 Corinthians 3:18). Matthew 5:44–45 shows a similar nuance: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” We live as true Christ followers when we pray, and become more Christlike as we pray.
We live as true Christ followers when we pray, and become more Christlike as we pray.
Why did the Holy Spirit inspire Paul to command believers to pray for political leaders? Because this is good. Why is it good? Because God desires for men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Why? Because Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life for a world lost in darkness. Our witness and lifestyle are the avenue for this message in a dark and confused world.
A Look into the Mirror
Tolstoy said, “Everyone dreams of changing the world but no one dreams of changing himself.” The truth remains that the darkness exists and grows because of a failure of the light. We have to take a long look into our individual and collective mirror and focus our prayers on our own apathy, toleration of sin, and waning passion for Jesus Christ.
I hope we will all pray, as the Lord leads, preceding this consequential election. However, I long that we will fast and pray enduringly for the “elect.” We need to “hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” God’s people need a supernatural work of grace leading to deep repentance, extraordinary faith, holy living, and bold witness. America needs a spiritual awakening. Politicians and laws will come and go. Until we experience revival, our nation will drift, hearts will remain dark, and our ultimate calling in this life will be overshadowed by good, but lesser things.
We need to “hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” God’s people need a supernatural work of grace leading to deep repentance, extraordinary faith, holy living, and bold witness.
Copyright © 2020 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.