From the First Letter to Timothy:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – 1 Timothy 2:1-2 (NRSV) – May 27, 2014)
There was a meme circulating the conservative blogosphere and email circuit several months ago in which folks of a certain political persuasion asserted that they were “praying” for President Obama by reciting a verse from Psalm 109: “Let his days be few, and let another take his office.” The psalm continues in the next verse: “Let his children be fatherless, and his wife become a widow.” And the petition get even worse after that. This is not what Paul is admonishing the faithful to do in his letter to the young bishop Timothy. In fact, it is clearly the very opposite.
What would our country and our society be like if everyone did offer “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings … for … all who are in high positions”? One of the things I counsel folks who come to me with issues of unresolved anger toward another is to pray for that other. Not specific intercessions just simply to offer that person’s name before God with the simple request, “In this person’s life, Lord, may your will be done.” The nearly universal experience of my counselees is that over the course of time (the length of time varies from person to person) their anger dissipates; the typical observation is that is impossible to stay angry at someone for whom you are praying.
The purpose of prayer is not to inform God of anything of which we believe God may be unaware, to give God our good advice, or to conform God’s will to ours. Rather, it is to relinquish our own selfish desires in acquiescence to the one “whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine,” as we remind ourselves as the end of the Daily Office (quoting Ephesians 3:20).
What would our society be like if everyone prayed for our leadership, even the leaders with whom we have political disagreements or personal dislikes? What would things be like if I prayed for that jackass in Congress, or that SOB in the state house? I cannot imagine, but Paul assures me that we would all “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.” Maybe we (that really means, I) should give it a try.
(The reflection above is a repeat of one written on this blog in May of 2012 when this lesson was last on the lectionary rotation.)
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.