September 21, 2010

Praying for Our Leaders

                1 Timothy 2: 1-2  instructs us to pray for our leaders.  “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.”  At times I have wished that Baptists followed the example of the Anglican/Episcopal churches who make praying for ecclesial and civic leaders a regular part of worship.  “We beseech thee also to rule the hearts of those who bear the authority of government in this and every land [especially________], that they may be led to wise decisions and right actions for the welfare and peace of the world.”  As a part of the prayers of the people, it reminds the church that it does not live apart from culture, but smack dab in the middle of it.  Yet its spiritual responsibility supersedes its political activism.  I am not urging passive acceptance of all political machinations, but awareness of the church’s unique responsibility.

                James Davison Hunter has written an intriguing new book, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World.  His erudite and controversial argument is that political initiatives on the part of the church—whether from the right or the left—are doomed to failure, for the power to change culture is not located in the orb of Christianity.  Rather, he argues, Christians must imbed themselves as “faithful presence” in every area of life—and the higher in cultural status the better.  I am wrestling with his schematic, for it is provocative and cuts against the grain of how many of us think about Christian humility and ways social change can occur.

                What is not debatable, in my judgment, is the mandate we have to intercede for our leaders. I think it is fair to say that most of us spend a great deal more time complaining about these officials than praying for them.  Many feel that prayer is somehow not real action; but I would differ.  Prayer is that centering process that gives us perspective to learn to see the world as God sees it.  This is urgent, deeply Christian work that can leaven the loaf of social construction in powerful ways.

                                Molly T. Marshall

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