When prayer becomes our priority, we begin praying for everyone we know, even the hard people. Paul insisted to Timothy that “requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone” (1 Timothy 2:1). In the next verse, we see that Paul even includes pagan kings. When George W. Bush was elected president of the United States, a group of evangelical Christians tried to get a million Christians to pray for him every day. It sounded like a great thing to do, but I felt a nagging conviction from the Lord at that time, as if he were saying to me, “Mike, why didn’t you pray for Bill Clinton? I heard you laugh at a lot of Bill and Hillary jokes, but I didn’t ask you to joke about the president—I asked you to pray for him!” It felt like a kick in the gut from the Holy Spirit.
The Bible doesn’t tell us to pray only for people we like—it tells us to pray for everyone. Jesus told his followers to pray for their enemies, including those who persecute them (Matthew 5:44). Howard Crowl, one of my missionary mentors in the DR Congo, gave me some great advice about prayer. A certain Congolese pastor, he said, had always irritated him by his words and actions. Howard realized that he was in danger of developing bitterness and resentment toward the man, so he intentionally began to pray for the man by name—every day. Howard was not praying because he wanted to; he prayed because he knew he needed to, regardless of whether he felt like doing so. Howard illustrated this to me by putting his fingers on his lips and forcibly moving his lips, saying: “I will pray for this man every day, even if I have to make myself pray by moving my lips!” Howard’s prayers changed his heart toward this pastor.
REFLECTIONS: Think of some Government leaders who are not Christians that you need to pray for. Think of some people who really irritate you that you need to pray for. Think of one or two people that have hurt you in some way, people you really don’t “feel like” praying for. Follow Howard’s advice and make yourself pray for these people and see what happens to your heart.
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
1 Timothy 2:1-4