Whether monarchist or royalist, left or right, we all have a responsibility to pray for those in power, says Tim Farron. The King’s Speech is a good opportunity to do so, and a reminder of who holds the ultimate power
Today, King Charles II gave his first King’s Speech as an anointed monarch at the state opening of parliament, having given the Queen’s Speech on his mother’s behalf last year. Which means that this is the first King’s Speech since 1951.
This is a crucial moment in the political calendar, when the government states its top priorities and kick-starts a new programme of legislation. Ceremonially however, it is a moment of constitutional theatre that, for most onlookers, is frankly bizarre.
Pomp and ceremony
The King arrives at parliament with much pomp and proceeds to the throne in the House of Lords. Then, in one of the most striking moments, the royal official, Black Rod, is sent to summon MPs from the Commons. Black Rod has the door slammed in their face before knocking three times and leading MPs out to hear the king. This ritual harks back to the English civil war, and is an enduring symbol of parliament’s independence from the monarch.
We owe it to those in positions of political, earthly authority to contend for them in prayer
The strangeness continues with the King reading a speech that is completely written by the government, delivered as neutrally as possible to avoid hinting at any support or disagreement. So begins the process of the parliamentary year.
The Prime Minister and his government set out to ‘sell’ the content of the speech and the opposition and backbench MPs seek to scrutinise and challenge it. New legislation will be set in motion that, over the coming twelve months, is meant to be debated in full in both houses of parliament. Given the government’s still sizeable majority, many of those bills are likely to become law during this period.
A call to prayer
The King’s Speech, or as it is officially known, the Speech From the Throne, traditionally ends with the following declaraion: “My Lords and members of the House of Commons, I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels.” Ceremony and bizarre ritual aside, this important moment reminds us to earnestly pray for our nation, our government, our parliament, our democracy, our monarch and our leaders.
For regular listeners of ‘A Mucky Business’ the reminder to pray for our government and leaders may be getting predictable by now – but 1 Timothy 2:1-2 still applies. We are encouraged - even commanded - to pray for our rulers, whether we agree with them, like them - or not!
Many will see the pomp and ceremony, or hear a snippet of the PM’s defence, or of the attacks from opposition MPs, and react in a number of ways. The temptation might be to moan at the pointless rituals and change the channel. It might be to throw our hands up in despair at the petty backbiting and switch off altogether. But is our first reaction ever to pray?
No matter how much we might disagree with this government, or how strongly some might oppose the monarchy, Ephesians 6:12 tells us: “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Contending in prayer
We owe it to those in positions of political, earthly authority to contend for them in prayer. Those of us in political parties may well be battling them at the ballot box but, ultimately, it’s not human authorities we’re contesting when we pray for wise government, righteous legislation and justice for the poor and oppressed.
We should struggle in prayer. When was the last time you prayed ambitiously for something huge? When was the last time you prayed for one specific MP or bill? Why not bring a local newspaper or a list of your local councillors to your church’s next prayer meeting and pray through it?
No matter how much we disagree with this government, our struggle is not against flesh and blood
And, if like Black Rod, you’ve ever felt the door to engaging with politics has been slammed in your face - or you and your community have been left out of the room when key political discussions are happening - perhaps now is the time to pray for those doors to be opened.
Instead of feeling powerless or disillusioned, why not engage and be part of the change? Democracy only works when everyone is involved, and we especially need those who will bring Jesus’ compassion and wisdom into roles at all levels of governance - local, national and international.
When King Charles prepares to enter the House of Lords, he sits in the Robing Room, opposite a mural by William Dyce called ‘The vision of Sir Galahad and his Company’. It shows Jesus Christ sat on the throne. As Jesus says in Matthew 28:18: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” So, in this moment of great pomp and political importance, let’s go to him who is seated on the ultimate throne.