The Bible gives us a clear instruction to pray for those in authority over us and gives us good reasons to do so. It seems that is a relevant matter at the present time and firstly we need to listen to Paul’s words to Timothy.
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good and pleases God our Saviour, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people.. (1 Ti 2:1–6).
In this passage Paul grounds our praying for those in authority in the reconciling ministry of Christ, we are to pray that we may be able to live godly lives so that others would come to know the Saviour. We cannot say that we need to concentrate on the spiritual matters in our prayers when we have such a clear exhortation from the Apostle Paul. for those of us living in countries where we have a democratic vote, we need to pray for wisdom when we vote. It also seems to me that from this exhortation we should be praying more in our worship services for those in authority over us. We need to pray for anyone who is in authority over us whether we like them or not, I doubt if the believers in the early church really appreciated the oppressive power of the Roman authorities but they still prayed for them.
When we pray for the nation it is very difficult to know how to pray after all we see so much sin and rampant ungodliness all around us, we can be tempted to give up in despair or on the other hand to pray self-righteous prayers. How are we to get the right balance, I think that Daniel has a lot to teach us in this regard he was a man of the utmost integrity and of a known godly character. Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9 is very instructive in this regard. I want to look at what lead to the prayer and then to look at some sections of the prayer itself.
In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom—2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes (Da 9:1–3).
Daniel was motivated in his praying because he was reading the scriptures, he was not just praying out of frustration or anxiety but in a way that the Scriptures inspired him to. Notice that he does not just assume that because Jeremiah had prophesied that the exile would last seventy years that he did not have to do anything, in fact it was just the opposite he prayed for those promises to be kept But he was also aware of the continued sinful state of the nation. Now I want to turn to some elements in the prayer in some detail.
4 I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed: “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land (Da 9:4–6).
The prayer starts with a heart of worship and an acknowledgement the greatness of God for Daniel, God is great and awesome, we have lost something of that awe in today’s church but it permeates the whole Bible. It is because Daniel realises how great God is that he can also appeal to the fact of God’s covenant of love. As we said earlier Daniel was a godly man but as he prays for the nation he identifies with it. This is so different from the way many of us would be tempted to pray, we need to be on the guard against spiritual pride and here Daniel is a good example of humility. Notice how he constantly use the word “we” not them or some fault finding category. If we are to pray effectively for our nation we need to have a similar attitude to Daniel’s. Daniel constantly says we have done this or that or we have not listened to God’s word.
7 “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, LORD, because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you (Da 9:7–11).
Daniel continues to acknowledge that the nation has sinned against God and that God’s judgements are just. But he also knows and relies upon the fact that the Lord is merciful and forgiving, this motivates him to continue confessing the nation’s sins and the fact that the nation has not obeyed the Lord. But at the same time he does not tone down the gravity of his people’s sinfulness. Daniel acknowledges the fact that Israel has rebelled against the LORD and he does not tone down their actions but in the light of them still seeks mercy. in the following verses he continues to confess the nations sins and admits that God’s judgement are just. He sees that the curses of the law have been releassed because God has not been worshiped and obeyed. He lists all of these things before he makes his final plea where once again Daniel looks at the character and promises of God. One of the things that is striking about this prayer is how much Daniel has immersed himself in the Word of God.
15 “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.
17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” (Da 9:15–19).
In this section we see how Daniel uses the history of God’s redemptive purposes towards Israel to guide his praying. This links in for us to the fact that we are called to pray for those in authoority over us based on God’s salvation in Christ Jesus. Daniel does not ask God to act for the nation’s sake but rather for God’s own sake, Daniel wants to see God glorified. Notice how many times he says “your” in this part of his prayer. Daniel is concerned for his people but he realises that the only way something good can be achieved for them is through the saving work of the Lord and in that saving work the Lord must get himself the glory.
I hope this blog post will cause us to pray more for our nation but to do so with heart that is in tune with God’s plan of salvation, then our prayers will be humble like Daniel’s but also like him knowing the character of God we will ask for great blessings.