God Save the King. No, Really

“It’s said that Mary Queen of Scots once admitted that she feared John Knox’s prayers more than all the assembled armies of Europe. She understood real power, superior to any force the world could muster against it.”

Most of us want to live a peaceful and quiet life. The idea of escaping to an isolated cabin in the woods, or landing on a desert island, far from the stresses and anxieties of day-to-day life, appeals to many. The dream is to find a place where our temporal worries can be forgotten, where we can live without loved ones as we would want to, and not under the unfortunate conditions that our circumstances force us to.

Today, we’re inundated with countless pressures. Thanks to the invention of the internet, we’re not just anxious about what’s happening in our own backyard. We’re now importing the stresses of what’s taking place on the other side of the world. Are we heading towards a new world war? Will the global elites force our children to fight and die in unjust wars and for unrighteous causes? Will we someday lose our homes for daring to state that two plus two equals four? Could we lose our freedoms for owning a “politically incorrect” and unedited copy of the Bible?

There are many unknowns about the future, and this has been the cause of many anxieties. It becomes all the more worrying when we consider just how little influence we have in directing the course of our own lives. World wars and the collapse of financial systems are not exactly in our power to prevent. It often feels as though we’re at the mercy of a cruel and unforgiving world. What could we possibly do in the face of such a ferocious beast of a system?

Well, according to the Apostle Paul, who knew the beastly system well, there is something we can do – something that is more powerful than any weapon the world can wield against us. But in order to know what we can do, we must understand the basis for why we can do it.

Basic to the Christian faith is the confession that Jesus Christ is Lord. Not only of the church, or spiritual matters, but of every sphere of life on earth. That is to say, all authority and kingship belongs to Jesus. “All authority,” Jesus said, “in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18). This is why Jesus is referred to as the “King of kings and the Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16). There is no king or lord in heaven or on earth that does not owe his primary allegiance to King Jesus, and therefore, there is no king or lord in heaven or on earth that is not accountable to the heavenly court.

What this means is that when our earthly authorities defy their King by acting unjustly or oppressing the people, Christians not only have the right, but the responsibility to appeal to their Superior. Whenever civil magistrates or global powers are insubordinate to God’s Word, Christians can, and must, petition the court to which earthly rulers ought to be subject.

It’s said that Mary Queen of Scots once admitted that she feared John Knox’s prayers more than all the assembled armies of Europe. She understood real power, superior to any force the world could muster against it. Do we share that same faith?

This was Paul’s answer. In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, the Apostle urged Timothy to make “supplication, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings” for all people, and in particular, for “kings and all who are in high positions.” In other words, Timothy was to pray for his persecutors, for those who made life difficult, for those who crucified Christians, who fed faithful families to wild beasts for entertainment, for those who set on fire the bodies of believers to light Rome’s streets at night. Christians are to pray for those who use their power to oppress and persecute the righteous, but to what end?

The purpose of the petition, according to Paul, is exactly what most of us desire, namely, “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Do you want a peaceful life? Pray for the powerful. Do you want a quiet life? Pray for kings and queens. Do you want a godly life? Pray for governments. Do you want a dignified life? Pray for those who wish to dominate you.

But what is the prayer we’re to offer on their behalf? What is our appeal to Heaven’s court? We are to pray that King Jesus would strike down his enemies with the Sword of his Word. In other words, we are to pray that they would become Christians because it is more likely that a Christian king would cultivate the social conditions necessary for the righteous to flourish in a peaceful and quiet life.

This is because the Christian ruler understands that he is not a law unto himself. He governs as one who is governed. He rules as one who is ruled. He ought to know how to treat his subjects because he is a subject himself. As Paul said elsewhere, “Masters, treat your servants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven” (Col. 4:1). The knowledge of our heavenly Master ought to prompt earthly masters to treat their subjects with justice and fairness.

Praying that our rulers would become Christian so that our lives might be peaceful is not a selfish request, Paul assures us. It is “good, and pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour” because God desires all kinds of people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Christianity is not just the religion of the poor, oppressed and lowly, it is for kings and all who are in high places.

Do you want justice? Do you want to be treated fairly? Do you want to live a peaceful and quiet life? Then there is something you can do about it. You can pray. Pray for the salvation of the powerful, no matter how detestable and evil they are. Pray, “God save the king,” in a true and eternal sense. Pray for the Bidens, the Trudeaus, the Albaneses, the Putins, the Jinpings, the Macrons, the Sunaks, the Merkels, among many others. By the grace of God, our Neros just might become a Constantine.

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