I have a confession to make. Some time ago I got tired of praying for our government, so I stopped.
Yes, I felt guilty about it. Yes, I knew I was breaking the Bible rule about praying first for kings and those in authority (1 Tim. 2:1). But I didn’t know what else to do. I’ve always been lousy at praying out of a sense of duty. So if I pray for anything long enough without sensing any joy, without experiencing the quickening power of the Holy Spirit, and without seeing any results, I quit.
Some people might consider this a sin, and I can certainly see why, especially when it comes to praying for those in governmental authority. After all, when the prophet Samuel was tempted to stop praying for king Saul, he said “God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you” (1 Sam. 12:23). So in that instance anyway, not praying for the government was pronounced sinful.
But, then, Samuel’s case was different. His prayers for the king made a difference. Mine? Not so much.
The way I saw it, nobody on Capitol Hill or Pennsylvania Avenue would miss my prayer supply all that much. It obviously wasn’t having much impact. Even with my prayers (and those of a lot of other people who are much better praying out of duty than I am) the current U.S. Congress had still managed to earn the lowest approval rating of any Congress ever. The members had gotten into so much strife with each other they could hardly get anything done. And in one public opinion poll where people were asked to give favorability ratings to various things, cockroaches received a higher rating than our present Congressional body.
Talk about not getting results from my prayers. One might almost conclude they were doing more harm than good.
I realize now, that was actually the truth.
You see, it’s not just what we say in prayer that matters, it’s what we inject into it.
It’s the essence of it. Two prayers might contain exactly the same words. Both might be based on Scripture. But one might be injected with bitterness, resentment, criticism and judgment. The other might be injected with gratitude, forgiveness, faith, and love.
Would both those prayers produce the same result? Certainly not. The first would actually have a negative impact. It would infuse the atmosphere with spiritual darkness and make the situation worse. The second would release God’s light and open the door for His mercy and grace.
This is why it was not a sin for me to stop praying for the government when I did.
On the contrary, it was a step in the right direction.
Amazing as it might seem, I actually was being led by the Holy Spirit to cease praying for those in governmental authority! The reason was simple: I’d gotten irritated with them and developed a bad attitude. I had little to no love for politicians on either side of the aisle and to be perfectly honest about it, I doubted that even God Himself could do anything with them.
What’s worse, my crummy attitude didn’t even bother me. After all, I was in good company. Political negativity permeates our entire culture these days. Snarky remarks, unkind attitudes, and harsh judgments aimed at our government officials are common place, even among seriously devoted Christians. Disrespect toward leaders with whom we disagree is so prevalent that it’s become like the air we breathe. We’re hardly even aware that we’re inhaling it.
So with the permission of the Lord, I took a break from it all. And for a while I thoroughly enjoyed my government-free prayer times.
Then one morning something quite unexpected happened. As I was just loving on Jesus and worshipping Him, I found myself in the spirit, hovering over—of all things—the United States Congress.
Oh what a sad sight it was! Members of every faction in both parties were being harassed on every side by wicked spirits. Fiery darts of evil pelted them from all directions. A cloud of darkness and confusion pressed in around them making it impossible for them to see. Blinded as they were, each party and faction was convinced that the whole mess was the fault of the other so they were fighting each other with great ferocity.
It was like the whole government had erupted into a bar room brawl with everybody in the fight convinced they were right.
As I watched the scene, the love of God flooded my heart. I felt sorrow and compassion for everybody involved. The irritation I’d felt and the judgments I’d held against Democrats and Republicans alike dissolved in an instant and I just wanted to hug them and help them all. Nobody could get anything done in that atmosphere! I thought. Nobody!
Then the Lord lifted me a little higher to give me a broader perspective and I saw something even worse. I saw that Christians (myself included!) had actually been fueling that horrible atmosphere with our ugly attitudes and words. Instead of covering our leaders with words of blessing and grace, we’d joined in with the world’s chorus, denigrating them and further cursing the entire situation.
Even when we did say the “right words” in prayer, in many cases those words hadn’t been infused with love for those we were praying for. And since faith works by love (Gal. 5:6), even our boldest prayers of “faith” had done little good. As we criticized and judged one minute and prayed the next, we’d become like the fountain described in James 3 that sends forth
[simultaneously] from the same opening fresh water and bitter water. “Out of the same mouth come forth blessing and cursing. These things, my brethren, ought not to be so!” (v. 10).
I don’t mind telling you, I had a major repentance session that morning. I asked God to forgive me for every unkind word I’d spoken and negative attitude I’d harbored toward our government leaders. I pled the Blood of Jesus over those words and attitudes and declared them null and void so that they would do no further harm in the spiritual realm. Then I began to thank God for the gift of government and for every person in authority in this nation.
I asked God to forgive them of every wrong decision they’d made, to extend mercy to them, and give them grace and wisdom to be the blessing He had called them to be. I released genuine, heartfelt compassion toward them and prayed blessing over everybody I could think of—from President Obama to John Boehner to Harry Reid to Ted Cruz.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that I now agree with them all. It doesn’t mean I won’t cast a vote against them at election time if that’s what I the Lord shows me is right to do. Nor does it mean I won’t raise a dissenting voice when I sense that righteous dissent is called for.
But what it does mean is this: Agree or disagree, I commit to love them. I commit to voice my dissent with respect, and treat them, even in casual conversion (or on Facebook) the way God tells me to in 1 Peter 2:17: with “honor.”
It means I commit to humble myself enough to acknowledge that I am not called to judge their motives or their character. That is above my pay grade. What I am required and equipped by God to do is surround them with compassion, forgiveness, grace, and faith so that that if there is one ounce of willingness within them to do what is right, they will have the clarity and ability to do it.
“But what if they’re just evil?” somebody might ask.
Then, according to Job 34, God will remove them. He will see to it “that the godless man may not reign, that there be no one to ensnare the people” (v. 30, AMP).
I believe that scripture. I actively confess it in my prayers. But deciding who it applies to is not up to me, it’s up to God. That’s His part. Mine is to pray for government leaders in love and faith until He decides their time is up.
Some years ago, one of the prophets and ministers I respect most in the Body of Christ told about a group of believers who lived in East Germany before the Berlin Wall fell. They’d been praying for their government for years to no avail until one day they realized they had been praying with bitterness and resentment in their hearts instead of love. So they made a change. They continued to pray for the communist governmental authorities but they began injecting their prayers with forgiveness and compassion. They began to pray blessings over them.
You know what happened. Within a short time, the Berlin Wall fell. A government that looked impossible to change…changed. And people were set free.
Lately I’ve been thinking, What if we were to start a new movement among praying believers? What if we all started sending our unconditional love to Washington D.C. through our prayers and our conversations? What if we started speaking highly of and graciously toward everyone there? Forgiving those who’ve done wrong and constantly saying things like, “I disagree with their position on the issues, but I love them and bless them. I believe God can work with them. God can turn their heart.”
What could happen? What would happen?
Maybe I can’t prophecy exactly how events would unfold, but I can tell you this. The first thing positive change we’d see would be in our own hearts. I know this from experience because I no longer dread praying for Congress or for our President. I enjoy it because I love them.
And for the first time in a long time, I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. I can see in my heart a glimpse of God pouring out His Spirit on the government of this United States. I can see an awakening unto God on Capitol Hill. Because, for the first time in a long time, I am looking at that Hill with the eyes of Love.
Perhaps you’ve already been doing this. If so, thank you. If not, I hope this will help. Kelly and I love you so much and deeply treasure our partnership with you. We’d love to hear anything you have to share along these lines, so feel free to write us anytime.