This article was originally published with Convivium.
I sat as a child with sticky jam-covered fingers wrapped around each other as I was taught to pray. Snack time at my children’s Bible program had concluded, and it was time to learn how to pray using my fingers. Hands together and sitting in my little orange chair, we went through each finger one by one.
The thumb was the closest to you, a reminder to pray for family and friends – the ones closest to your heart. The index finger was the one that pointed to the dust covered chalkboard, reminding me to pray for my teachers, Sunday school teachers and pastors, the one who taught me the Word of God. The middle finger stood taller than the others, a reminder to pray for the government and the leaders of our country. The ring finger, with its bright blue dentist-prize ring was the weakest finger, the one that couldn’t quite stand up on its own. A constant reminder to pray for the poor and oppressed, those who were being taken advantage of and couldn’t stand up on their own. And the last and the smallest, the pinky finger, was a reminder to pray for myself, the things I needed and wanted.
I have always loved this simple model of teaching a child to pray. As an adult however, it has grown easy for me to forget some of those fingers. I remember to pray for those closest to our hearts, for ourselves, and maybe for the oppressed, but do I remember to pray for our leaders? Do I seek God, cry out to God, on behalf of the leaders and rulers of our land?
Throughout the Scriptures, God tells us to pray for our leaders and our government. Whether good or bad, righteous or faithless, we pray for our leaders and for God to work through them. Members of any community, great or small, are profoundly impacted by the hearts and choices of their leaders. For better or for worse we look to them and lean on them.
In the midst of difficult to comprehend national and world events that leave us shaking our heads, incredulous and angry, a deep brokenness has begun to fester. A brokenness at the systems around us that rip children from parents, that cause families to flee for their safety, that makes one person feel lesser than the other – a deep pain at injustice or unfair bias.
I am learning that it takes faith like a child to pray for our government. Because if I am honest, the moments that I simply don’t want to pray for my leaders and my government far outweigh the ones I do. I don’t want to pray for people I believe are making harmful decisions. It is easy to pray for the leaders I support and agree with, it is not easy to pray for the leaders I dislike or don’t respect.
Regardless of where you may fall on the political spectrum, it seems that our nation, our neighbours and our world are grieving the unfolding of events around us. Whether conservative or liberal, right or left, people are unhappy and afraid – unsure of how to proceed. There are leaders we respect and leaders we don’t, and the question remains how do we respond?
In the center of that uncertainty, of that pain and of that doubt, our response as a body of Christ, with all our different political leanings, must be prayer. Prayer for our nation, prayer for our government, prayer for our leaders.
“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7
Right here, right now. Right where you are. In whatever broken mess you find yourself in, pray. Pray for the success of the leaders and the nation around you, because when they succeed, we all succeed. Pray for success, not in the eyes of the world, but in the all-knowing eyes of God Almighty. Pray for the mix of justice and mercy only God can perfectly give. Pray that whether like Joseph or like Pharaoh, God would use our leaders for His will and His glory.
We pray for our leaders because God has called us to. We pray for our leaders for their sakes and our own. Because without God’s intervention in the systems and governments around us, there can be no peace. Like a freckle-faced child with her brain still on snack time, we need a simple faith that God is in control. We choose to trust that He is present in our community, our circumstances, our country. That He is with us.
“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 Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4
Peace. In the face of waves of refugees and asylum seekers landing at borders across North America and Europe, peace is a longing that resonates deeply. We seek peace from physical violence and persecution. Peace from ideological bombardment that stifles the freedom of speech and expressing of differences. Peace from the oppressive rulers and regimes that cause parents to take their children by the hand and flee.
As a person of the Mennonite faith tradition, the desire for a peaceful and quiet life resonates. Growing up with stories of the flight from a dangerous communism that allowed no religious expression, I developed an understanding of what God has given us in Canada: a place of peace. I do not know if this will always be true, or if it will always be my life’s reality, but for now I do know that I grew up utterly unfamiliar with the sound of bombs. My parents raised my sister and I not only with access to education, but with multiple options for schooling based on our family’s needs, desires and convictions. We grew up worshipping, privately and publicly, without fear.
People all around the world flee from one place to another in search of a peaceful and quiet life. A life where they can work quietly and grow without fear of it being ripped away from one moment to the next. A life where they can raise their children in peace. From one government to the next, asking when their quiet peaceful life can be found.
We pray for our leaders for this reason. For a life of peace. And so we lift our prayers like broken hallelujahs, and ask the God who saves to rescue and redeem. To come in to our time and society of brokenness and to take us, our leaders, our governments, and knit us back together. To hold us up and give us peace.