Recently I contacted a longtime friend and brother in the Lord who is currently a chaplain in the U.S. military. At the end of our conversation, I inquired about specific things I could be praying about. The first thing he said was, “Pray for the military leadership, that God would move their hearts like rivers of water to ensure that, as Chaplains, we may continue to minister the Gospel.” My brother fears that the end of evangelical military chaplains draws near.
In fact, Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary wrote several days ago about about the increasing pressures that military chaplains face as homosexuality becomes normalized within society. Tom Carpenter, a PCUSA elder and co-chair of the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy, believes that Southern Baptist chaplains have no choice but to resign from their stations if they are not able to follow in accordance with the homosexual-friendly policies of the U.S. military. His reason? Because military chaplains “have a duty not only to God, but also country” and also because “they are not salaried by the NAMB but by the American taxpayer.”
The sobering part of this story is this: Carpenter believes that if a chaplain views homosexuality as a sin, then he cannot serve his country. And this is one reason why Christians should pray, because I think as Mohler rightly points out, this mentality will seek to spread outside the military, especially since the broader context of government leadership is moving ever closer to classifying anti-homosexual speech as a hate crime.
But there is still hope, if the children of God in this country will pray for their leaders to do what is right and good. Christians should model the example given in Paul’s 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. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4 ESV)
The primary reason we are to pray for our leaders is this: That we as followers of Christ might follow our Savior in peacefulness and quietness, living godly and dignified lives. We are to pray on behalf of all people, both for the righteous and the unrighteous, including those who are in high positions. This is pleasing to God. There are several reasons for this:
First, praying for our leaders acknowledges trust in God as the ultimate Ruler of our country. Praying in such a way acknowledges that God, not men, sets up rulers of nations, both righteous and wicked. God is in control. God is sovereign. He rules over all the nations in His own perfect timing. Praying for our leaders confesses trust in God, rather than men. This pleases God greatly.
Second, praying for our leaders is an opportunity to love our enemies, even corrupt leaders who may not fear God. Remember that the Lord Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) Notice how Jesus put together both the practices of loving and praying for our enemies? This is important. In Romans 12, Paul elaborates further on loving one’s enemies,
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19-21 ESV)
Praying for our leaders is difficult at times, especially when they make foolish or selfish decisions. But it is important to realize that at the heart of grumbling about our leaders is often the sin of vengeance in the heart. When we set our hearts to love our enemies, we learn to trust and hope in God, but when we resist acknowledging God’s control, we can become selfish, bitter, or cynical. Lamenting over the deeds of the wicked is a righteous act, but it is only righteous if that lamentation causes us to cry out to God for help. We would do well to learn from David who hopefully prayed, “But you, O LORD, laugh at them; you hold all the nations in derision. O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress.” (Psalm 59:8-9 ESV)
Third, praying for our enemies actually results in change! Remember the words that God spoke to Moses,
Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings…
(Exodus 3:7 ESV)
And also the words of David,
The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.
(Psalm 9:9-10 ESV)
The prayers of God’s people are divinely intertwined with His sovereign will. Time and time again God acts in response to the cries of His people. Remember the words of Paul that God is pleased by our prayers to Him for salvation from those who oppress us. The Lord wants us to come to Him. He wants us to hope in Him. He wants us to wait on Him. This is worship to Him. That is why He redeemed us in Christ, so that we should live for Him and not ourselves! (2 Corinthians 5:15)
Remember the words of James,
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. (James 5:16-18 ESV)
Be encouraged. Follow God. Pray!