Praying for the Nation, Praying for the Kingdom
This Thursday (May 3) marks the annual National Day of Prayer in our country. It is encouraging to see an official recognition of the importance of prayer. But what should be our goal in praying for our nation? If our true citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20) and if being in Christ transcends ethnic and political distinctions (Colossians 3:11), then how ought we view and pray for our nation?
Prayer for our national leaders is directly commanded in Scripture (1 Timothy 2:1-2) and should be a regular part of our prayers every day. When giving his testimony before King Agrippa, the apostle Paul stated that his desire - and, we may assume, his prayer - for the king was that he would be saved (Acts 26:27-29). So our prayer for our leaders includes prayer for their salvation. But it is also prayer for the effects of their leadership. In 1 Timothy 2, Paul urges prayer for all people, especially those in authority, and he goes on to explain why. In 1 Timothy 2:2 he says that the goal of such prayer is, "that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way." In other words, our prayer is that our leaders would govern in such a way that it brings peace to the people.
As we pray for the needs of our nation, we must remember to pray for God's kingdom to advance against all forms of evil that oppress people - against violence, racism, abuse, and everything that is contrary to God's vision of beauty in creation. We desire to see the people of our nation delivered from the spiritual oppression of such evils (Ephesians 6:12).
But there is one prayer that should be on the forefront of our minds as we pray for our nation. Jesus taught us to pray "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." As we pray for this or any nation, the goal is not the exaltation of any earthly nation or kingdom. We pray that the kingdom, the power, and the glory would be to God and his reign, not to any country on earth. Yes, we pray for our nation - that it would be blessed and at peace. But there is only one nation whose greatness and glory we should desire and seek, and that is God's kingdom.