August 20, 2014

On Praying for the President

By In Blogs, C.Jay Engel

It is good to pray for rulers.

Often, Christian critics of the State (though few we are) can forget that.  It is a difficult thing to dedicate yourself to, especially in a Church culture in which the State’s activities are wrongly considered as usually moral because God ordained the State to exist.  The assumption that many American Christians have is that, since God ordained that the State should exercise authority over man, the State is just in what it does.  I am not talking the so-called “ideal government” here.  I am talking about the actual Federal Government that operates in Washington. That world center of corruption and moral decay.  That, that is what God has ordained to exist.  President Obama, tied with his predecessor, are two of the United States’ very worst Presidents in terms of disobeying God’s ethical standard, expanding the influence of the government into the lives of individuals, making a mockery of the US Constitution, and inflating the Federal budget.  We aren’t being pie-in-the-sky here when we say that God has ordained the current State to exist. He has, and it is a very evil entity.

Yes, God ordains evil things. God ordains all things.  Gordon H. Clark explains:

Only if God had been willing could this world, in all its details, have been brought into existence.

The opponents may at this point claim that Calvinism introduces a self-contradiction into the will of God.  Is not murder contrary to the will of God?  How then can God will it?

Very easily.  The term will is ambiguous.  The Ten Commandments are God’s preceptive will.  They command men to do this and to refrain from that.  They state what ought to be done; but they neither state nor cause what is done.  God’sdecretive will, however, as contrasted with his precepts, causes every event. […] These are two different things, and what looks like an opposition between them is not a self-contradiction.  the Jews ought not to have demanded Christ’s crucifixion. It was contrary to the moral law.  But God had decreed Christ’s death from the foundation of the world.  It may seem strange at first that God would decree an immoral act, but the Bible shows that he did.

Thus, evil acts, evil institutions, and evil men (are we not all evil?) have all been ordained by our sovereign God.  So naturally this includes the States of this world.  When it was said above that “God ordained that the State should exercise authority over man,” I am not making an abstract distinction between a “good” government and a “bad” government.  I am making a claim that is relevant to every single governing authority that has ever existed.  Thus, the proposition “God ordained the State” does not logically lead into the proposition “therefore, the State is morally just.”  That is like saying (pay attention to the point of the logic –not the political theory) “God ordained the thief to steal,” therefore, the theft is morally just.

Now then, because the State is under the sovereign arm of God’s ordination, it is ultimately Him who controls its existence.  When world ruler after world ruler acts in despicable ways –and don’t forget that the world’s most brutal displays of man’s depravity have come through the strong-arm of the State– God still reigns supreme.  This is why, more than the vote and more than protesting with creative signs and sharpened pitchforks, prayer is an effective means of dealing with the evil State.  We pray for our brothers and sisters, victims of government intervention into the economy and society.  But we also pray for the rulers themselves, that God would restrain him, hold him back from the sinful deeds that he, like all rulers, is capable of.  We pray that we may live in relative peace.  And although many of us and many of our loved ones are recipients of the State’s activities (think about our dwindling savings and monetary purchasing power and inability to find employment), we pray a prayer of forgiveness for our enemies.  We pray for their hearts, that they might be turned to the wondrous salvation that is found in Christ Jesus.

Praying for someone does not overlook his actions. The worst examples of the sinfulness of man are to be found in governments around the world.  Prayer is not an alternative to calling someone out for their vile deeds.  Prayer is in addition to criticism.  And sometimes, prayer can focus our eyes on the eternal when our temptation is to focus on the misery of the present.

If Christ can look down from the cross and cry out for the Father to forgive those who persecuted Him, surely we can lift our voices to that same Father and pray for those who treat us badly (the State is probably among the most pertinent application of Matt 5:44).

The State’s rulers are not good men. And neither are we.  Pray for me as I pray for kings.

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com
  • kim Ringsmose

    The purpose of the praying is explicit; “so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.” (1 Tim 2:2 NLT) We ought not pray for anything that is not in line with this.