Prayers and Petitions

Today is Inauguration Day and, depending on what time your local station airs this program, Bill Clinton has either just become or is about to become the 42nd president of the United States. And already Christians have faced their first major challenge in responding to the new administration. The challenge came when evangelist Billy Graham accepted an invitation to give the prayer and benediction at today's inaugural ceremony. Several evangelical and pro-life leaders were dismayed. Here is a president who has vowed to throw open the flood gates to abortion on demand, gay rights, and a host of other moral issues Christians care about deeply. Should a prominent evangelical like Billy Graham be associated with him publicly? Would his presence on the platform be interpreted as an endorsement of the new president's policies? These are valid questions. And they illustrate a broader issue Christians will face in a variety of ways in the next few years: namely, how should we live under a federal government whose policies we sharply disagree with? If we turn to Scripture, the answer is surprisingly simple: We live the same way we do under a government we agree with. Scripture doesn't outline two different sets of principles—one to follow under friendly governments and another to follow under hostile governments. No, the principles are exactly the same. And they begin with prayer, In 1 Timothy 2, Christians are commanded to pray for those who exercise civil authority over us. Paul hammers his message home using four different terms: supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving thanks. Why is prayer so crucial? Because, as Paul says in Romans 13, government officials are "ministers of God" to preserve order and administer justice int he public arena. Notice that Paul doesn't limit his description to good rulers only; in fact, he penned these words during the reign of Nero, one of the bloodiest of the Roman emperors. So whether our rulers are good or bad, whether we agree or disagree with their policies, our duty remains the same: to respect and pray for them. This doesn't preclude criticizing their policies, of course, but even critique should flow from an attitude of prayer. So today as we gather around our television sets to watch the inaugural ceremony, with its bands and its banners, I'm glad to see Billy Graham standing on the platform. And I hope you are, too. His presence doesn't mean he endorses everything Bill Clinton stands for. All it means is that he's following the biblical command to pray for our civic leaders—to pray that God will work in and through them. Under the past two administrations, evangelicals had access to the corridors of power. We organized political campaigns, we moved to Washington, we lobbied. Some of these avenues will be closed to us now. But we can either moan and complain about it or we can get back to basics. And our most basic responsibility, Scripture tells us, is prayer. May I suggest that we join Billy Graham praying for our nation's new leaders.


Chuck Colson


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