In an age where rage and insult infest social media posts and where people get shot after blowing their horn at a potentially speeding motorist, it is easy to be captivated by the fervent and righteous outrage and to yearn to participate in it. Then, just I am about to unleash my own potently phrased angry outburst, I read what Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2 about prayer and what Peter wrote in 1 Peter 4 about how self-control affects prayer.
Paul urged that prayers be offered for all people. He expressly included heads of state and government leaders among those people for whom we should pray. Why should we pray for these people? First, “that we may live a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:1-3). We pray for leaders so that society may be at peace. Second, we pray for these people, including our leaders, because God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Paul reminds that Jesus gave his life as a “ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:6). This is the reason men should lift holy (a reminder about proper attitude and behavior) hands in prayer “without anger or quarreling.” In other words, pray that God will turn the hearts of world leaders to himself, that he will help them find ways to break down barriers that divide while they govern effectively. Pray that he will cause perpetrators of evil, whether here or on the other side of the world, to awaken to the horror of their rebellion against their Creator and repent. Pray that he will mold them and us into the holy and loving family he wants his people, his church, to be.
Peter reminds us that we need to be self-controlled and sober-minded because “the end of all things is near.” He says that we must do this for the “sake of your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7). He then ties love of others, hospitality (without grumbling), speaking like a representative of God, and performing acts of service into this template of behavior and mindset. We must act and pray in a way that glorifies God. Living, acting, and praying in these ways demands that we curb our tempers, that we establish what is true before we castigate in speech or print, and that we conduct ourselves in the way that we expect others to act. Failure to be self-controlled will affect our prayers. I suspect we don’t want to experience the impact of that failure.
O God of peace, you call us to be ministers of reconciliation. That mission sometimes requires us to confront and to call to repentance. Give us the maturity to look hard at ourselves and our own behavior before we criticize others. Give us the wisdom to pursue truth and to admit the possibility that we may not know all the variables that drive decisions by our leaders. Help us to remember that that they, and our enemies, also are people whom you love and want to be saved. Help us to be instruments of their salvation. May we stop before we say or write words that will incite their anger against you and your people, unless those words will provoke a reaction that ultimately will cause them to glorify you when they realize that we truly spoke or acted with love and desire for their salvation. In Jesus’ name, Amen.