By Rev. Alexia Salvatierra
We believe in prayer. When we love someone who is sick, most of us pray for that person frequently if not continually. We trust that God will respond to our prayers. However, our response to Paul’s injunction to Timothy (1 Timothy 2:1-4) to “pray for our leaders” does not often inspire the same level of passion and fervency. Why? Perhaps some of us have difficulty believing that God works on the big canvas of our society and world in the same way that He acts in the smaller canvas of our personal lives. Our image of God is smaller than the true majestic power of the Lord of the Universe. Others of us believe that God works on every level but we don’t see public decisions as important. We don’t see decisions about public policies or legislation as seriously impacting our lives or communities.
When public leaders make decisions that strengthen protections for children at risk of trafficking, fund development of clean water sources or set up public-private collaborations that result in more effective maternal and child health services in underdeveloped countries, more children experience abundant life and God is glorified. If we care passionately about the well-being of children around the world, we need to pray fervently for our leaders to make decisions that please God. We read in Romans 4:4-7 that God has a divine purpose for government. Psalm 72 is a beautiful prayer for the king that helps us to understand how a government behaves when it is responsive to God’s call:
For he (the king) delivers the needy when they call,
the poor and those who have no helper.
13 He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life;
and precious is their blood in his sight.
Over 90 percent of our federal legislators claim Christ. They are our brothers and sisters, committed to doing God’s will. They need our daily prayers and our support.
We also learn from the prophets that public prayer matters. It is important to pray for leaders in the privacy of our prayer closet or our own minds and hearts. It is also important to pray with leaders, to pray over leaders, to engage in public prayer that reminds leaders of God’s sovereignty and their responsibility. When we visit legislators to advocate for justice for children, we always hope to bring along a prayer warrior, who quietly holds up the whole conversation in prayer while the rest of us dialogue. When a visit is bathed in prayer, the Spirit is freed to move in powerful and often unexpected ways.
Lastly, it is important to engage our children in praying for our leaders. When families pray for leaders, children learn their responsibility as faithful citizens and their power as children of God to contribute to His transformational mission.
Today, the 114th Congress of the United States is being sworn in. Let your members of Congress know that you are praying for them and encourage them [this action has expired].
Rev. Alexia Salvatierra is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, with over 30 years of experience in ecumenical, multifaith and community ministry, community organizing and legislative advocacy. For over 11 years, she was the executive director of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice. She currently serves as the director of justice ministries for the Southwest California Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and consults with national/international organizations, including World Vision, InterVarsity, Sojourners, the Christian Community Development Association, Auburn Theological Seminary and Interfaith Worker Justice.
She is the author of Faith-Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World, published by InterVarsity Press.
This is part one of a four part series that Rev. Alexia Salvatierra is writing in January for our biblical justice series.
Photo:© 2007 World Vision/ photo by Amio Ascension