You will vote how you pray.

Posted: August 21, 2013 in Culture & Politics
Tags: ,

I think I’ve finally worked out how I’m going to vote on September 7 and all future elections.

I don’t mean I have chosen my party or candidate, just that I have a principle that will guide me in placing my mark on the ballot paper on the day.

See, I have this theory: We vote the same way we pray. Do you ever pray for your nation and your government? If so, what do you ask God for? If you made a list of these things, I’d like to bet that there would be a lot of overlap between that list and the criteria you use for selecting which party or candidate you will support in an election. It makes sense really. We pray about the things that are close to our hearts, and I think we also allow our hearts to determine our voting preferences.

It’s important to note that the New Testament and its instructions about prayer were written to a people who lived in a situation where they had no say in choosing their government. Caesar was Lord, and if you disputed that you would end up crucified (literally). The modern notion of democracy was completely foreign to the first century Christian. So, we stand in an incredibly privileged position – maybe a glitch in history – where we as citizens my be instrumental in determining the nature and personnel of our government. While there are no explicit instructions on voting in the New Testament, I think the best guidance comes from its teaching about the appropriate attitude of a Christian towards government, and these fall into two key instructions: Submit to them (Romans 13:1), and pray for them.

So, my voting is partly an indication of what goes on in my heart and mind and lips when I pray particularly for my nation and government. If this is the case, I would say it’s important that I am praying in the way God wants me to, and this will translate into wise choices come election day.

How does the Bible teach a Christian to pray for the government?

Matthew 6:9-10

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

You might say, ‘This is not a prayer for the government of the day!’ However, it is a prayer, and it is about government; and so it is a prayer that helps us get the right perspective in how we view government. As a citizen of the Kingdom of God, I am living in this world as an alien and stranger. While being part of the democratic process is good and valuable, and a privilege we should never take for granted, I must always remember Who is really King, and where my final loyalty lies. When I vote, I am participating in a system that one day will pass away, and be overruled and subsumed into the government of the Lord Jesus Christ. My vote ultimately does not have eternal value or consequences. It does not thwart or determine God’s overruling purpose for the nations, as He is the one who causes kingdoms and peoples to rise and fall, to appear and vanish, according to His good purpose and so that all people will finally glorify Him.

I need to make sure I do not take myself and my vote too seriously

1 Timothy 2:1-4

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Firstly, note the kind of prayers that should be employed for the government. It’s like Paul digs up every synonym for prayer he can think of to make sure we ask, intercede, and even thank God for our government. That’s quite a thing to say to people who potentially would be killed by said government simply for believing in Jesus as Lord. Thank God for an evil emperor who slaughters my brothers and sisters and claims himself to be God? You can’t do that unless you know true grace – grace that has redeemed you and changed you from an enemy of God to His child.

Secondly, note what we should be praying for: that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. It’s good to ask for a government that will enable me to practice my faith freely, and to live this life with integrity and godliness. Sound a bit selfish? It would be if we didn’t have the next verse. See, the goal of this is not just religious freedom and morality. It’s people being saved and coming to a knowledge of the truth. The implication here is that living peacefully and quietly in godliness and holiness means a freedom to proclaim the Gospel and freedom to hear the Gospel. The heart of this prayer is not, ‘God help me to be free to live according to moral principles,’ or ‘God, make sure people in my country do the right thing,’ but, ‘God, give me freedom and courage to proclaim your glorious Gospel, and an environment in which people will be able to hear and come to know you.’

And that’s it. In terms of Biblical instructions on how to pray for the government, that is.

I think that makes it quite simple. In choosing which party or candidate I will support, I should simply ask the question, ‘Which one promises to foster an environment in which I as a Christian may live with integrity of faith, and the freedom to openly declare the praises of him who has called me out of darkness into the wonderful light of His kingdom?’

Now, for the hard work in deciding who might do that…

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