Prayer For Kings And All In Authority

It is written:

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2  for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Speaking of this passage, William Barclay has written:

“THIS passage distinctly commands prayer for kings and emperors and all who are set in authority. This was a principle of prime importance for communal Christian prayer. Emperors might be persecutors, and those in authority might be determined to stamp out Christianity. But the Christian Church never, even in the times of the most bitter persecution, ceased to pray for them. It is extraordinary to trace how, all through its early days, those days of bitter persecution, the Church regarded it as an absolute duty to pray for the emperor and his subordinate kings and governors. ‘Fear God’, said Peter. ‘Honour the emperor’ (1 Peter 2: 17)–and we must remember that that emperor was none other than Nero, that monster of cruelty. The early Christian theologian Tertullian insists that, for the emperor, Christians pray for ‘long life, secure dominion, a safe home, a faithful senate, a righteous people, and a world at peace’ (Apology, 30). ‘We pray for our rulers,’ he wrote, ‘for the state of the world, for the peace of all things and for the postponement of the end’ (Apology, 39). He writes: ‘The Christian is the enemy of no man, least of all of the emperor, for we know that, since he has been appointed by God, it is necessary that we should love him, and reverence him, and honour him, and desire his safety, together with that of the whole Roman Empire. Therefore we sacrifice for the safety of the emperor’ (Ad Scapulam, 2). Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage in the third century, writing to Demetrianus, speaks of the Christian Church as ‘sacrificing and placating God night and day for your peace and safety’ (Ad Demetrianum, 20). In AD 311, the Emperor Galerius actually asked for the prayers of the Christians, and promised them mercy and tolerant treatment if they prayed for the state. The second-century Christian writer Tatian says: ‘Does the emperor order us to pay tribute? We willingly offer it. Does the ruler order us to render service or servitude? We acknowledge our servitude. But a man must be honoured as befits a man, but only God is to be reverenced’ (Apology, 4). In the same period, Theophilus of Antioch writes: ‘The honour that I will give the emperor is all the greater, because I will not worship him, but I will pray for him. I will worship no one but the true and real God, for I know that the emperor was appointed by him … Those give real honour to the emperor who are well-disposed to him, who obey him, and who pray for him’ (Apology, 1: 11). And the second-century Christian scholar, Justin Martyr, writes: ‘We worship God alone, but in all other things we gladly serve you, acknowledging kings and rulers of men, and praying that they may be found to have pure reason with kingly power’ (Apology, 1: 14, 17). The greatest of all the prayers for the emperor is in Clement of Rome’s First Letter to the church at Corinth, which was written in about AD 90 when the savagery of Domitian was still fresh in people’s minds: ‘Thou, Lord and Master, hast given our rulers and governors the power of sovereignty through thine excellent and unspeakable might, that we, knowing the glory and honour which thou hast given them, may submit ourselves unto them, in nothing resisting thy will. Grant unto them, therefore, O Lord, health, peace, concord, stability, that they may administer the government which thou hast given them without failure. For thou, O heavenly Master, King of the Ages, givest to the sons of men glory and honour and power over all things that are upon the earth. Do thou, Lord, direct their counsel according to that which is good and well-pleasing in thy sight, that, administering the power which thou hast given them in peace and gentleness with godliness, they may obtain thy favour. O thou, who alone art able to do these things, and things far more exceeding good than these for us, we praise thee through the High Priest and Guardian of our souls, Jesus Christ, through whom be the glory and the majesty unto thee both now and for all generations, and for ever and ever. Amen’ (1 Clement 61). The Church always regarded it as a duty and an obligation to pray for those set in authority over the kingdoms of the earth, and brought even its persecutors before the throne of grace.” (William Barclay, The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (The New Daily Study Bible), 65-67 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press)

Christians pray for those who are in positions of authority. We pray especially that the leaders will lead in a righteous way so that there will be peace (1 Timothy 2:1-2), and we pray for them to be saved (Romans 9:1-3; 10:1-4). Our prayers for kings extends even to the wicked rulers; yet our prayers for those in authority do not lessen our responsibility to speak out against the wickedness of such authorities!

Mark 6:18-Because John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”

The wickedness of Herod’s marriage situation was public knowledge, and we see a glimpse into the courage of John the Baptist when we consider the background of his statement:

“Following His transfiguration, but prior to His triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem, Jesus “left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan” [Matthew 19: 1]. It is the understanding of many scholars, from a close examination of this passage and its parallel in Mark 10: 1, that Jesus left Galilee with the city of Jerusalem in Judea as His destination, but that He traveled through the region of Perea, which was across the Jordan from Judea, so as to avoid passing through the hostile territory of Samaria. Thus, it is very likely that our Lord’s next statement on divorce and remarriage occurred in the tetrarchy of Herod Antipas. If this was the case, and there is good evidence that it was, this would prove to be an extremely significant factor in helping one to understand the questions addressed to Jesus at that particular time. Herod Antipas, who reigned from 4 B.C. to 39 A.D., was an unusually immoral, crafty, and inhumane ruler. It was to this man that Pilate sent Jesus following His arrest, at which time Herod “ridiculed and mocked Him,” dressed Him up in an elegant robe, and then sent Him back to Pilate for crucifixion [Luke 23: 11]. In the summer of 39 A.D., Herod Antipas was banished by the Roman Emperor Caligula to Lyons, in Gaul, where, according to the ancient Jewish historian Josephus, he died in great misery. It was also Herod Antipas who was responsible for having John, the forerunner of the Messiah, beheaded [Matthew 14: 1-12; Mark 6: 14-29; Luke 3: 19-20]. John was arrested because he was condemning Herod for his marriage to Herodias, saying, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife” [Mark 6: 18]. Herod had divorced his Nabatean wife in order to marry Herodias, whom he had taken away from his brother Herod Philip. This was in violation of the Law of Moses, which specifically stated, “Do not have sexual relations with your brother’s wife; that would dishonor your brother” [Leviticus 18: 16]. Herodias herself was also infamous for her incestuous marital relationships. She was first married to her step-brother, by whom she had a daughter, Salome. Later, she entered into a marriage with her uncle, Philip; then into a third marriage with Philip’s brother, Herod Antipas. Following in the footsteps of her mother, Salome also broke with what was widely considered to be acceptable behavior in Jewish culture by openly renouncing her marriage vows. This incident is reported by Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews [book 15, chapter 7, section 10]. It is safe to say that no one in this highly dysfunctional family was even attempting to achieve the IDEAL. When John exposed their ungodly and unlawful practices, it cost him his life. It is entirely probable, in light of Herod’s sensitivity to criticism and his tendency to react harshly toward his critics, that the Pharisees who approached Jesus that day in Perea were hoping to lure Jesus into making some public statement against the lifestyle of Herod. Knowing how this would infuriate him, it could potentially lead to the downfall, possibly even the death, of this troublemaker named Jesus. If not His destruction, then perhaps His public humiliation before one or more elements of Jewish society would suffice to remove Him as a threat. It would not be difficult to imagine such thoughts running through the minds of those who put their questions to Jesus in the tetrarchy of Herod Antipas.” (Al Maxey, Down, But Not Out: A Study of Divorce and Remarriage in Light of God’s Healing Grace, 1422-1449 (Kindle Edition); Baltimore, Maryland; Publish America)

The sins of Herod were public knowledge, and hence John the Baptist publicly reproved the ruler.

As we pray for those in authority throughout our world, let us continue to speak the Word of God in love (Ephesians 4:15), calling all to repentance.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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