By Sigrid Hanson
All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
As the President and First Lady test positive for a virus we dread and arm ourselves against, many stop everything to pray for them. The Bible talks about praying for leaders. An example that comes to mind is the day Moses goes up on a hill to watch Israel’s battle with the Amalekites, Joshua his protégé and servant in command. Israel’s leader prays for the one in charge of the forces as he fights. When Moses’ arms are raised in prayer, Joshua prevails. When the arms become too weary to lift, Joshua and Israel fall back. Aaron and Hur are there to help the effort, holding up Moses ‘ arms when he tires and the day is won.
Were raised arms some sort superstitious rite—certainly not! Would God have ignored the military set-backs of Israel on a day of battle because Moses got tired? Keeping in mind that biblical stories about God’s people are for our benefit (1 Cor 10: 11), my guess is that this record is meant to suggest something important about praying for leaders. This account holds an interesting variation on the theme: A leader is praying for another leader, and two others (slightly lower in the chain of command but above the leader being prayed for) are also involved in the prayer. The point is this: If leaders see the rightness of praying for others in authority over God’s people, we certainly should, as well. So, in October 2020, we are called, reading this story, not to neglect prayer for the First Couple or leave that up to praying members of Congress and the Senate, to like-minded Supreme Court justices, to individuals on the White House staff, or to Trump family members. We are to pray for the President. The scriptural directive speaks to everyone. Donald J. Trump is the President of the United States. Citizens, whether supporters or detractors, are enjoined on biblical authority to pray for him.
Ezra 5-6 is another story mentioning prayer for leaders. The scene is post-exile Judah. The captives have now returned to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple and face local hostility, complaints about the restoration work they have undertaken. Their enemies have written letters appealing to King Darius to stop the work. The king checks his archives and finds another letter, a royal epistle from King Cyrus before him, commanding that the Jews be given whatever they need for the restoration effort “that they may offer pleasing sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the life of the king and his sons” (Ezra 6:10). Cyrus didn’t worship Israel’s God, but this pagan king desired and felt it appropriate to ask for prayer.
New Testament examples? Several come to mind. Peter is in prison. King Herod plans to bring him next day to trial. An angel comes, miraculously opens bonds and prison doors, freeing Peter. Peter perceives that this was no vision, that his deliverer was God’s angel sent to bring him out. He “rescued me,” Peter says, “from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” Now he goes “to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying” (Acts 12: 11-12).
Paul tells his protégé Timothy: “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all, for kings and all who are in authority so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2: 1-4). Paul restates the gospel, the truth just mentioned, and ends: “Therefore I want everyone in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands” (I Tim 2: 8). Does he recall Moses’ lifted hands and his prayer for Joshua? Maybe. Paul himself requests that prayer be offered for him (Rom 15: 30; Eph 6: 19; Col 4:4; I Thess 5: 25; 2 Thess 3: 1).
On June 28, 1787, as our first leaders drafted the famous US Constitution, Benjamin Franklin addressed the Continental Congress advising prayer: “I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God governs in the affairs of men . . .. I therefore beg leave to move — that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held every morning before we proceed to business” (https://powerhournation.com/benjamin-franklins-prayer-speech). It is right that we pray for our leaders–whatever the century, whatever the situation or threat.