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Salvation & Freedom for All

We are just a few days from possibly the most contentious election in modern history.  As citizens of the United States, we have the right, privilege and, many would argue, the duty to vote for or against the policies and politicians that will govern our land.  As citizens of the Kingdom of God, we maintain those rights and privileges to participate in local and national politics, but our duty is seen through a different lens.  In the apostle Paul's first letter to Timothy (2:1-3) he writes:

The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.

Pray.  Every way you know how.  For everyone you know.  There is such solid instruction in those words.  Other translations will list ways to pray--petitions (specific requests), prayers, intercessions (prayers for others) and thanksgivings--but I like the paraphrase of the Message version to just pray any way you know how.  It is not how we pray, but the act of praying, the engagement with God, that is important.  That means anyone can pray effectively.  Moreover, we can and should pray for everyone.  Everyone includes our friends, our enemies, our families, our neighbors, the people we like (or don't) on social media and the people whose tragedies we witness in the news.

Pray especially for rulers.  And their governments.  To rule well.  Regardless of the persons or policies we support on election day, and regardless of the vote tally, we are called to pray.  At first blush this call to prayer can feel like a chore.  In practice, however, I have found praying for our rulers and government to be freeing and peaceful, especially in the midst of seasons that feel disconcerting.  Praying helps me to see leaders as human beings rather than caricatures of political ideals.  Praying helps me to process my anxiety, fear, and anger so that these emotions don't become overwhelming.  And, of course, praying keeps me rooted in my identity as a child of God, citizen of His Kingdom, and secure that my hope is in Him.  Prayer even reminds me that God loves them as much as me, and that leads me to the next words Paul has to say (1 Timothy 2:4-6):

He wants not only us but everyone saved, you know, everyone to get to know the truth we’ve learned: that there’s one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us—Jesus, who offered himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free.

He wants everyone saved.  The agenda I need to most concern myself with as a citizen in the Kingdom of God is that of salvation for all.  When I do not know how to pray for political leaders (or anyone else), I pray for their salvation.  Whether they claim to already know Jesus or not, we can pray for more of the saving grace of Jesus to be present in their life.  The truth is, I actually often turn my prayers to the family members of leaders, praying for the salvation of spouses and children, so that the most intimate circles of influence for that leader are turned toward Jesus.

There's one God and only one.  That familiar saying about absolute power corrupting absolutely can be beautifully countered when we pray as Paul advises here.  I pray those in power recognize that only God has absolute power, that their power is subject to God's, and that salvation is the only true freedom.  While I appreciate, and even celebrate, the freedom I enjoy as an American citizen, it is freedom from sin I could never live without.  So I am digging deep and praying hard this election season for rulers and our government, but I do so trying to follow Paul's example with an emphasis not on particular outcomes, but on salvation and freedom for all in Christ Jesus.

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