Praying in Two Kingdoms

Text: 1 Timothy 2:1-6

Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Smart pastors don’t talk about politics. Especially not on Sunday morning from the church pulpit. Smart pastors don’t do that, it is not a good idea. When I told my grandfather that I was going to go to seminary and become a pastor he told me that there were three things in people’s lives that you don’t mess around with: their money (he was an accountant), their faith, and their politics. Don’t mess with that stuff and combining two of those things together makes things complicated really fast. Smart pastors don’t talk politics. I guess I’m not a very smart pastor, because I’m going to talk politics a little bit this morning, but only kind of.

This morning in our epistle reading Paul says this in his letter to Timothy: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,  for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Paul urges Timothy, who is a young pastor, to make sure that prayers are said for all people. He uses four different words to describe these prayers (supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings), but they are all different parts of the same thing. Pray for all people, Paul is saying.

But Paul does not just leave this encouragement to prayer wide open and non-specific. He does want us to pray for everyone, but he also wants us to pray specifically for kings and all those who are in high positions. “Pray for all people,” Paul is saying, “even for kings and leaders and the rulers of this world.” So really it’s Paul bringing politics into all of this not me. So don’t blame me.

Prayer is a tricky thing and so is knowing what to pray for, sometimes. When we pray there are somethings that are easy to pray for. If we are going through some kind of difficult time it is easy to pray about that. It is also pretty easy to pray a prayer of thanksgiving thanking God for what He has done for us. When someone is sick it is easy to pray for them too. But there are some things that we might never think to pray about on our own. Kings and other rulers might be a good example of that. How often do we think about how much our Queen, Prime Minister, Premier and other leaders need our prayers? But that is exactly who Paul is saying that we should be praying for. When we get together as the people of God here at church we should be praying for these kinds of people. But why?

First of all, leaders, rulers, and governments are gifts from God. It may not always seem like it and we may not always like them or the decisions that they make, but “kings and everyone who is in a high position” is a gift given to us by God for our own wellbeing.

Each time we pray the Lord’s Prayer we say these words: “Give us this day our daily bread.” Our daily bread consists of everything that is necessary to support us in our lives in this world. Daily bread includes food, clothing, shelter, family, friends, neighbours, doctors, nurses, and all kinds of other things that support and maintain our lives. When I teach this part of the Lord’s Prayer to kids in confirmation classes I show them a bunch of pictures and ask them if each item in the picture qualifies as daily bread. One of the pictures I usually include is of the parliament buildings in Ottawa. Is this daily bread? Some say yes and some say no. Government, politics, rulers, and kings are daily bread. Through them God provides for our needs in this life. Through them we have peace, security, freedom, justice, and many other basic necessities of life. Rulers, kings, and governments at every level are gifts to us from God.

So we should pray for our government and our leaders and thank God for them. They are daily bread to us. So often though we do the exact opposite of giving thanks. We grumble and complain about policies, we get frustrated and angry about wasted money or high taxes, and we slander and say terrible things about these people who are leaders over us when things don’t go our way. But even if our leaders are terrible Paul urges us to pray for them. When Paul wrote his letter to Timothy, Nero was the Roman emperor. Nero was a nasty guy. He killed Christians like crazy and blamed a massive fire in that happened in the city of Rome on the Christians so that everyone would hate them. And yet, Paul urges Christians then to pray for their kings and leaders, even Emperor Nero. They are gifts from God to us.

Paul gives us another reason to pray for our leaders. He says we should pray for them so that “we may lead a quiet and peaceable life” because “this is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour who desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” Paul’s point here is that we should pray for our leaders so that we as Christians can lead quiet and peaceful lives as Christians and, as we live those quiet and peaceful lives, the Word of God might be proclaimed through us. As we live as the people of God in this world with our lives formed and shaped by the Word of God and the cross of Jesus Christ the world is brought into contact with Jesus. When we as Christians live our regular everyday lives and love our neighbour as ourselves the world sees the love of God which is so deep that it sent Christ into this world that whoever believes in Him might have eternal life. We pray for our leaders, Paul says, because they are the reason we can live quietly and peacefully in this world and through our lives proclaim Jesus to the world around us. And this is pleasing to God because God desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.

The underlying point to everything that Paul is saying in these couple of verses that he wrote to Timothy is that we ought to consider how we as Christians function in the world we live in. We may not think about it this way all the time, but it is like we are living in two different kingdoms at the same time all of the time. As Christians we are children of God and live in the Kingdom of God already right now. But at the same time we are Canadians and citizens of this world. So how does or citizenship in God’s Kingdom impact our citizenship in our country and our nation?

The key is understanding that we are citizens through our baptism into Christ of a Kingdom that will endure forever but we also live in a kingdom that is passing away. In his letter to the Ephesians Paul encouraged the people saying, “Look carefully how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” In the old King James Version it says “Redeem the days because they are evil.” As Christians this is what we do, we redeem these evil days and make the best use of the time that we have in this world serving the kingdom of God. We are to make the best use of the time that we have here because the kingdom of this world is evil and dying, it is corrupted by sin, but we know of another Kingdom, the Kingdom of God, and we live in the Kingdom already and it will never pass away. When we think this way our lives in the world take on a new meaning. All of a sudden it is not simply us living for ourselves and enjoying what time we have, we become the people of God, His witnesses and messengers, in a dying and evil world.

We can be the praying people of God in this world. We pray for this world, all the people in it, and even the leaders of it. We pray that the Word of God would go out to every corner of this world so that every person who walks on this earth from the world leaders right down to the lowliest peasant may know the saving power of Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection on our behalf that saves from sin and death.

Often times people think that if our government was just different or is there were better people in the powerful positions that the world would be a better place. But we as Christians know better. The world is the way it is because it is sinful and so are we. The only solution to our sin and the sin of the whole world is Jesus. Psalm 146 sums this up nicely:

Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord!

 

As Christians we know that our one hope is in the one and only God and the one and only mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all. Christ Jesus, our Saviour and our God, has given us hope beyond this sinful world and into eternity. He has made us the people of God in this dying and sinful world. We ought to pray for this sinful world that we still live in even as we look forward to the Kingdom of Christ which will never end. Amen.

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