Article Copyright 2016 by Bob Rogers
Fiddler on the Roof is a film about changing culture and faith among Russian Jewish families in 1905. In one scene, the village Rabbi was asked if there was a blessing for the czar, who had persecuted the Jews. He replied, “The Lord bless and keep the czar– far away from us!”
We may chuckle at the story, but we still wonder how do we actually pray for bad leaders. We feel a tension between the Biblical command to pray for all those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-4), and the fact that some of those in authority live ungodly lives and support unrighteous policies.
Cry out to God
Ezekiel cried out to the Lord in distress on behalf of the righteous remnant. “I fell facedown and cried out, ‘Oh, Lord GOD! Are You going to destroy the entire remnant of Israel when You pour out Your wrath on Jerusalem?” (Ezekiel 9:8; see also 11:13). There is nothing wrong with crying out to God about your heart-felt concern. Ezekiel did. But don’t stop there.
Pray for God to work through bad leaders
Habakkuk cried out to the Lord about evil rulers. In Habakkuk 1:2, the prophet described life under the wicked King Jehoiakim this way: “This is why the law is ineffective and justice never emerges. For the wicked restrict the righteous; therefore justice comes out perverted.” Sounds like a modern news report, doesn’t it? God’s first answer to this dilemma comes in the next verses, saying, “Look at the nations and observe– be utterly astounded! For something is taking place in your days that you will not believe when you hear about it” (Habakkuk 1:5). He goes on to describe how God would bring judgment on Jerusalem through the Babylonians.
God often uses nations and rulers for His purpose, even evil rulers. God can hit straight with a crooked stick anytime He wishes. He used King Cyrus of Persia (Isaiah 44:28-45:1) to bring the Jews home from captivity. Daniel 2:21 says, “He removes kings and establishes kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.” Acts 2:23 shows how God even used evil leaders in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ: “Though He was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail Him to a cross and kill Him.”
Therefore, we can pray for God to work through bad leaders. John F. Kennedy had many extramarital affairs, but God used his courage to stand against communist Russia in Cuba. Richard Nixon was corrupted by the Watergate scandal, yet God used him to open doors with China. We may pray for bad leaders by praying for good to overcome evil, despite their failures and sins.
Watch and pray
Returning to Habakkuk, we find two principles of prayer: expectancy, and faith. First is the principle of expectancy: the prophet finally resolved to be a “watchman” in prayer: “I will stand at my guard post and station myself on the lookout tower. I will watch to see what He will say to me and what I should reply about my complaint” (Habakkuk 2:1). Likewise, we are to watch what happens with rulers, and continually pray, expecting that God will do something. The second principle is faith. The Lord encouraged the prophet to keep watching, and waiting, and then God revealed one of the greatest doctrines of the Bible: “But the righteous one will live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). This verse is quoted repeatedly in the New Testament, reminding us that our salvation comes by faith and trust in the Lord, and Him alone (Romans 1:17, Galatians 2:11 and Hebrews 10:38). As Jesus said, “Watch and pray” (Matthew 26:41; Luke 22:46).
Ask God what you can do
Contemporary Christian singer Matthew West sings about how he saw all kinds of suffering and injustice in the world which disgusted him. Then the singer cried out, “‘God, why don’t you do something?’ He said, ‘I did, I created you!'” (“Do Something” by Matthew West, from the album, Into the Light).
Isaiah gives a similar response to our prayers complaining about bad government. Isaiah prophesied that the Lord would answer their cries when He saw social injustice in the land (Isaiah 58:3-10). The people were fasting and praying for justice. In this passage, God responded to the prayer by calling on His people to put feet to their own prayers. “Isn’t the fast I choose: To break the chains of wickedness… Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your house, to clothe the naked when you see him, and not to ignore your own flesh and blood? Then your light will appear like the dawn… and the LORD’s glory will be your rear guard” (Isaiah 48:6-8). God hears our prayers for justice to overcome evil, and He nudges us to get personally involved in fighting injustice. Pray for bad leaders by deciding to do something good yourself! You can vote for pro-life candidates, but don’t stop there; volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center. You can vote for candidates who support the police and who fight for racial justice, but don’t stop there; show your kindness and speak up against mistreatment of the police and mistreatment of those of other races.
So what does all of this mean to us today? It means that no matter who occupies the White House, God is on His throne, and He is in control. It means that while we pray for and support godly leaders, we also pray for God to work His will through ungodly leaders. He has done it before, and He can do it again. It means that we put our trust in the Lord, not in earthly leaders. It means that instead of just complaining about evil, we need to ask God what good we can do ourselves. Then we need to get up from our prayers, and do something good in the name of Jesus.
Copyright 2016 by Bob Rogers
On the social media site Instagram, if you put in a hash tag (#), it will tell you how many times this particular hash tag has been used. I decided do put in #votefor … and then insert the last names and first names of the major candidates for president. Here is what I found as of November 5, 2016,
#voteforcastle 10 (Darrell got 1)
#voteforevan 52 (McMullin got 2)
#voteforgary 157 (Johnson got 133)
#voteforjill 289 (Stein got 8)
#voteforhillary 12,261 (Clinton got 1,316)
#votefortrump 25,353 (Donald got 259)
I didn’t realize Napoleon Dynamite was on Instagram…
Christians are commanded in scripture (1Timothy 2:1-4) to pray for the president and all of our nation’s leaders. However, many conservative believers expressed more anger than prayer for President Obama, and many liberal people of faith are doing the same today for President Trump. The same was true when President Bush was in office. Yet it is my duty to pray for my president daily.
My friend and fellow hospital chaplain, Dick Allison, usually votes for Democrats. He tells me that during the Watergate scandal that plagued Republican President Richard Nixon, he would often complain about Nixon’s failures. He didn’t vote for Nixon, and he didn’t like him. One day he realized that he had failed to pray for Nixon. “Since that day, hardly a day has gone by that I have not prayed for the president, whoever it was,” says Chaplain Allison.
I have a fuzzy photo of President George W. Bush taken on August 21, 2006, when President Bush spoke in Savannah, Georgia. After speaking, he went through the crowd shaking hands, and I grabbed my camera and took this picture in such a hurry that it came out fuzzy. As Mr. Bush greeted the crowd and shook my hand, I said, “I pray for you every day.” He looked me in the eye, and exclaimed, “Thanks, it’s working!” A priest who disliked President Bush’s policies later told me, “It must not be working.” Because he disagreed with the politician, he dismissed the prayer. How short-sighted! Scripture commands us to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-4), and the Old Testament prophets modeled this kind of praying for us. Isaiah said that the Lord “wondered that there was no intercessor” (Isaiah 49:16), Jeremiah wept over the nation, and Ezekiel called for someone to “stand in the gap” (Ezekiel 22:30) on behalf of the nation. Whatever our political persuasion, we can be patriotic prayer warriors. If the praying prophets of ancient Israel could pray for their nation, even when they had evil rulers, can we do less? Will we stand in the gap for America?
Copyright 2016 by Bob Rogers
In such a weird presidential election year, I had a weird idea.
With so much discussion in both parties about experience vs. revolution and “Washington outsiders” versus “The Establishment,” I wondered if we could learn a lesson from history. You see, psychologists and economists agree that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. So perhaps if I looked at the 43 men who have already been president, I could see if we have learned something from the last 43 guys who were president that could help us pick the next gal or guy for the job. In particular, I had two questions in mind: 1) What kind of leadership positions did our past presidents have before they became president? 2) What kind of leaders seemed to make the best presidents? Here is what I learned:
Leadership positions of our past presidents
All of our presidents have had at least one of five kinds of leadership experience before becoming president. Of the 43 men, 13 were vice-president, ten were governors, seven were in the cabinet of the president, seven were generals in the Army, and six were in Congress (House or Senate). None of them– not a single one— lacked major experience in American government, unless you can call a general in the U.S. Army outside of the government. That isn’t to say that we cannot elect a businessman or businesswoman or a surgeon as president. It’s just that we have never done that in all of American history. It makes me wonder if there is a good reason for that. (Before somebody says, “Ronald Reagan was an actor,” let me remind you he was governor of California before he became president.)
The kind of leaders who made good presidents
The second question is more difficult to discern. More presidents came to the presidency from the vice-presidency (13), but that’s mostly because being president endangers your life. Of those 13, only five of them got the office on their own. The other eight former vice-presidents came to the office by virtue of the fact that the president died. Ten governors have been president, seven generals, seven in the presidential cabinet, and six came from Congress. But simply counting what position is the most common stepping-stone makes no sense, because some of them were terrible presidents. So why don’t we look at our very best presidents and our worst presidents? This is very subjective, but most scholars and popular opinion polls agree that our best presidents were George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson. So what leadership positions did they hold before becoming president? Washington was a general, Lincoln served in Congress, FDR was a governor, Teddy Roosevelt was vice-president, and Thomas Jefferson was secretary of state. They were all different! If the list of great presidents doesn’t give us any help, then what about the list of worst presidents? I’ll save you the time– the terrible presidents came from every different background, too, with one exception: governors. We had some governors who were pretty bad, but none of the really, really disastrous presidents came to the White House from a Governor’s Mansion.
The lessons learned
So what does all of this teach us? Great presidents have come from all kinds of different backgrounds, but they have had one thing in common: they had some kind of significant experience that could test their mettle and prepare them for the most challenging leadership job in the world. It doesn’t matter so much what experience they had; it matters more what kind of person they became because of that experience. But maybe, just maybe, all other things being equal, being the chief executive of a state is one of the best preparations for being chief executive of the nation.
Copyright 2013 by Bob Rogers
Thursday, May 2, is the National Day of Prayer, a day when Christians gather to pray for the president and all of our nation’s leaders. However, many Christians express more anger than prayer for President Obama. The same was true when President Bush was in office. Just as much vitriol was poured out against him from the left as is now being poured out against President Obama from the right. Yet it is my duty to pray for my president daily.
This fuzzy photo is a picture of President George W. Bush. On August 21, 2006, I led a public prayer for President George W. Bush at a campaign rally. After the president spoke, he went through the crowd shaking hands, and I grabbed my camera and took this picture in such a hurry that it came out so fuzzy.
As Mr. Bush greeted the crowd and shook my hand, I said, “I pray for you every day.” He looked me in the eye, and exclaimed, “Thanks, it’s working!” A priest who disliked President Bush’s policies later told me, “It must not be working.” Because he disagreed with the politician, he dismissed the prayer. How short-sighted! Scripture commands us to pray for our leaders. The apostle Paul said, “I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and for all those who are in authority…” (1 Timothy 2:1-2, HCSB).
The Old Testament prophets modeled this kind of praying for us. Isaiah said that the Lord “wondered that there was no intercessor” (Isaiah 49:16), Jeremiah wept over the nation, and Ezekiel called for someone to “stand in the gap” (Ezekiel 22:30) on behalf of the nation.
So I must pray for President Obama, just as I prayed for President Bush.
After all, if first century Christians could pray for a Roman emperor who threw them to the lions, cannot we pray for an elected president with whom we may disagree? Notice that when Paul urged us to pray for political leaders, he also gave us a reason: “… so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:2b). African-American pastor Tony Evans points out, “What many conservative Christians fail to realize … is that when our first black president, Barack Obama, is dishonored through caricatures, name-calling, or disrespectful talk by white Americans, it merely creates a greater chasm between the races.” (Tony Evans, Oneness Embraced, p. 52). Evans illustrates what the apostle Paul was talking about– angry words instead of words of prayer for President Obama create chaotic lives, not tranquil lives. One preacher pointed that that if we would pray for the president instead of complain about the president, maybe he would do better.
So I am praying for President Obama. Will you join me this Thursday and every day?