Praying for those in authority should not be seen as a last resort but an urgent imperative – especially in times of change. But how best to pray? The book of Micah offers Christians a guide, says Tim Farron
Come September we will have a new Prime Minister. The summer will be full of debate from the Conservative party leadership election. Very few of us have a vote, but these weeks are significant for us all, as they will set a new direction for government.
So, how we can pray for the leadership of our country over the long summer weeks? Firstly, let’s pray that our current leaders continue to take their role seriously, that those electing our next prime minister will choose wisely, and for good government from the new leadership.
Praying for good government
In Romans 13:1, Paul reminds us that the authorities that exist ”have been established by God”. And in 1 Timothy 2:2, he explicitly tells us to pray “for kings and all those in authority”.
In a democracy, there are quite a lot people in authority - so this can seem a massive task. In the UK, the prime minister is considered first among equals; we don’t have a presidential system of government, yet the holder of that role has huge power. They are our country’s ultimate leader.
We cannot solve all the world’s problems, but prayer is our opportunity to go directly to the creator of the universe
The Bible is full of instructions and advice on good leadership, and Micah 6:8 stands out as a template for prayer: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Justice, mercy and humilty
Let’s look at each part of this command in turn. Firstly, to “act justly”:
Let’s be blunt, our politicians are often tempted to make decisions that benefit the powerful or the vocal, to act in ways that bring them personal advantage, and to pursue ideological purity at a cost to people’s welfare.
In my opinion, we are seeing much of the latter, as the Conservative leadership candidates look to woo those within their own party with similar ideological views to their own.
So let us pray for integrity in government and for our leaders to act justly for the whole population, not just those they think might vote for them.
Secondly, to “love mercy”:
Let’s ask that our leaders remember they are serving real people, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet. Pray for our new prime minister to consider the worth of every person, and to be given wisdom to discern truth from untruth; to understand the issues and to weigh them up fairly with a heart of compassion.
God’s view of good leadership is at odds to that of the world
Let’s also remember that our politicians are real people, not simply the caricatures that might appear through a media lens. So we need to show mercy when we think about them. They are making themselves vulnerable, so let us pray for their strength and resilience, for graciousness under fire and the confidence not to base their own sense of worth on their media coverage or colleagues’ words.
Finally, to “walk humbly”:
Let’s pray that power does not inflate the egos of those in the spotlight. Pray they would be able to admit fallibility and see issues and people as God sees them - in which case, no person’s troubles will be trivial to them. Pray for them to keep in mind their passion for meeting people’s needs through politics, while remembering that no system is greater than those it serves.
I had the privilege of delivering the sermon at St Paul’s church in Grange Over Sands, in my constituency this Sunday. The awesome responsibility of preaching from God’s word is (rightly) far more daunting than any speech I’ve given in the House of Commons! I spoke on the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18. The last sentence feels especially relevant: “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (v14). God’s view of good leadership is at odds to that of the world.
No last resort
We might be tempted to say: “All we can do is pray”, as if prayer is some low grade, last resort. Let’s remember who we are praying to! We cannot solve all the world’s problems, but prayer is our opportunity to go directly to the creator of the universe, the one who holds all things in his hands; who breathed into existence every one of those exotic, unimaginably vast and distant objects of beauty glimpsed by the new James Webb telescope… and yet who is intimately concerned about every aspect of our lives. Hebrews 4:16 tells us that we can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence” and Philippians 4:6 exhorts us to “present our requests to God” in every situation.
So please pray for our leaders and our government during the next few weeks, and for those members of the Conservative party who will choose between the final two candidates.