IVP - Strangely Dim - Lord, Have Mercy

November 3, 2008

Lord, Have Mercy

A dispatch from Lisa, who is currently holed up in an undisclosed location.

I know we're all sick of political commercials; signs in yards with names and positions in big red, white and blue letters; phone calls and junk mail from candidates; newspaper and magazine articles on the candidates' past sins, present mistakes and whereabouts, and future vacation plans; the latest political poll; and so on. So I'll keep this short.

Conversations with friends and Paul's words about praying for leaders in 1 Timothy 2, as well as wise commentary from N. T. Wright on that same passage, have reminded me, in the midst of all the hullabaloo, that we're called to pray for our leaders. So, whether or not you voted early at the mall, are going to vote on Tuesday and ask for extra stickers to wear throughout the day so that everyone will know you voted, or aren't going to vote at all and didn't even know there was a presidential election this year--start praying.

I admit, it feels like such a small thing to do for an election that will affect nearly every other country in the world. Voting sometimes feels that way. (As a friend recently expressed, in a broken system can my one vote really make any practical difference for people in need? Will broken, sinful people in power really act out of the best interests of others?) But prayer can feel even a step further removed from Washington, D.C., than voting: If I throw up this prayer for our leaders, will God really hear? Will my prayers for our president and other leaders really bring about change in them, in this country?

Many days, if I'm honest, it doesn't feel like a prayer will affect national and global affairs. But as I talked with friends about the election, it struck me what a dangerous position president of the United States is: in our post-Fall world, few men or women can handle that much power and not fall into sin or greed as a result. So even when we feel like our prayers won't make a difference, I'm convinced we must pray for our leaders.

We're commanded to, for one thing. And prayer moves our focus away from the little power we have to the power of the One we pray to: the only true God, the only all-powerful One who really does hold the kingdoms of the world in his hands. If Paul can exhort others to pray for their leaders while imprisoned by members of his own government, surely we can put his words into action.

Here a few suggestions for prayers you can pray for our leaders, whoever they are:

* Pray for grace to handle the power of their position and wisdom to use that power for the best interests of others, particularly the poor and oppressed.

* Pray for the wisdom and humility to surround themselves with wise people who will help them handle the power.

* Pray that they will be good listeners.

* Pray for their family life.

* Pray for a heart that is compassionate, that longs to see justice done.

* Pray for godly vision.

* Pray for protection from those who would harm them and their families, whether physically or emotionally.

Who knows? As we pray, God may move and empower us to act in some of these areas, to make a difference not for our country or our glory, but for his kingdom and glory.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at November 3, 2008 3:38 PM Bookmark and Share


Great word. Many times I don't know what to pray for when I pray for our leaders. This has helped. In fact, I'm going to use this with our family devotion tonight.

Comment by: Scott McMillan at November 4, 2008 8:40 AM

Yesterday donkeys triumphed over elephants. Lord, have mercy on the donkeys. And everything else you said.

Comment by: Bayle M. Sass at November 5, 2008 9:46 AM

I agree that sometimes the thought of praying for our leaders seems a little meaningless. Better, and maybe more appropriate, would be to pray for ourselves and what we may have to endure in the coming years both economically and socially. But we're all Americans, are we not? Called to support in prayer and deed not a man, but a country, and not a political philosophy, but the ideals of freedom and liberty.

Thanks for the post.

Comment by: Billy Coffey at November 10, 2008 2:59 PM

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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