Considering preaching a new sermon series on how to pray for those in authority?
Whether you’re currently preaching through an election season, you’re preparing for an upcoming National Day of Prayer, or your congregation is grappling with recent events that have left them confused, angry, or struggling to keep the faith, chances are, now is the perfect time to prepare a sermon series on choosing to pray for those in authority over you.
The truth is: Our nation often feels more divided than ever.
Rather than banding together to find practical, God-honoring solutions that benefit all, many Christians and non-Christians alike have resorted to arguing, name-calling, and refusing to listen to the other side. For some, their political identity has even become more important than their identity in Christ.
While Christians absolutely should care about issues of social justice and political policy, as these policies can have a massive effect on the health and wellbeing of many in our nation and around the world, we often forget one of the most effective and important action steps we can take as believers: praying for those in authority.
In this article, we’ll examine multiple Bible verses on praying for others in general, as well as Scripture about praying for leaders specifically. You’ll be equipped with practical examples, thought-provoking questions, and plenty of tips and advice to help you preach an excellent sermon series on praying for those in authority.
The purpose of this article is to present you with all the information you need to craft a unique sermon series that’s custom-tailored to your church’s needs, no matter which issues your congregation is facing today, so feel free to pick and choose what’s most helpful for you.
By the way: For more information on preaching through difficult topics like politics, be sure to also check out the Preaching Through podcast, a podcast all about preaching Jesus in 21st century America. Full of practical, biblical wisdom and advice, it’s designed to train and equip today’s pastors as we preach through many of the tough topics our congregations are facing today.
Why Should We Pray for Those in Authority?
When preaching a new sermon series on praying for those in authority, the first question you’ll want to help your congregation answer is, “Why should we pray for those in authority?”
After all, it won’t help your congregation to know how to pray for those in authority if they don’t also believe that praying for those in authority is important or a good use of their limited time.
As you’re outlining your sermon, here are three compelling reasons why we should all pray for all in authority that you might want to share with your congregation.
1. The Bible Commands Christians to Pray for Those Who are in Authority
God’s Word includes a number of Bible verses on praying for others that make it clear praying for those in authority isn’t just a good idea – it’s essential.
For example, Paul writes the following in 1 Timothy 2:1-2: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
When we commit to pray for those in authority, we are choosing to obey God and His will for our lives.
2. Our Leaders Need Our Prayers to Lead Well
In Jeremiah 29:7, we read these words the prophet Jeremiah wrote to the elders, priests, prophets, and people who had been exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
God could have simply blessed the leaders, without requiring the people to pray. He was (and still is!) certainly capable. But this isn’t what He chose to do. He invited the people to become involved through prayer, even though it likely wouldn’t have been comfortable or easy for them to pray for their captors.
Living in forced exile, it would have been easy for the people to bemoan their circumstances and despise their leaders. And yet, the Lord reminded the Israelite people to pray for kings and all in authority over them, as this would ultimately benefit the people as well.
The same is true for us today. Whether or not we agree with those placed in authority over us, by praying for our leaders to make wise decisions and lead their people well, we ultimately reap the benefit of these powerful prayers.
3. Prayer is Powerful
Speaking of powerful prayers, it’s important to remember how powerful our prayers actually are!
Consider the encouragement found in Proverbs 21:1. It says, “In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him.”
Similarly, 1 John 5:14–15 assures us, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”
Yes, God may not answer all of our prayers exactly how we want Him to. However, we can rest assured that, no matter what happens, God is ultimately in control, and when we pray for His will to be done, these are prayers God loves to answer!
Additional Benefits of Praying for Those in Authority
While the fact that God commands His followers to pray for kings and all in authority should be reason enough for us to obey, it can be helpful to look at a few additional benefits that praying for those in authority can offer us.
While these reasons to pray for those in authority may not be compelling enough to base your entire sermon around, they can add a bit of extra incentive to help motivate those who still aren’t convinced that praying for those in authority is an effective or worthwhile pursuit.
1. Prayer Softens Our Hearts
Heartfelt prayer doesn’t only have the power to change the people or circumstances we pray for. Prayer also changes us.
As we study Scripture about praying for leaders and we pray for kings and all in authority over us, we are reminded that leadership is difficult and that the people we pray for are infallible humans who need our help and prayer.
This encourages us to set aside any critical, judgmental, or angry attitudes we’ve fostered (whether knowingly or unknowingly) to consider our leaders with a greater degree of compassion, care, and consideration.
Our negative, judgmental, or critical attitudes may never directly affect those in authority over us. They may never know how we feel. Yet, these attitudes do have a tremendous effect on our own lives and the lives of those around us, including our families, coworkers, and friends (who often have to read or listen to our rants).
2. Prayer Reminds Us that God is in Control
For anyone who feels anxious, angry, or overwhelmed thinking about a potential future under current or potential leadership, Psalm 2:2-4 offers this humorous reassurance.
“The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
‘Let us break their chains
and throw off their shackles.’
“The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.”
No matter who sits in authority or what decisions they make, God is ultimately in control over all, and that will never change.
Just as God rescued the Israelites from slavery and Egypt and Jesus saved us from our sins through His death on the cross, God is still working seemingly hopeless situations in our favor today.
This is why Romans 8:28 reminds us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
When we pray for those in authority, we acknowledge God’s sovereignty over all creation and we call on His abundant goodness toward those who love Him.
Scripture About Authority and Praying for Leaders
As you prepare your sermon on praying for those in authority, it can be helpful to study multiple Bible verses on praying for others (both Scripture about authority specifically as well as Bible verses on praying for others in general).
Here are several Bible verses on praying for others you may wish to study further during your sermon prep or share as part of your sermon series.
Rather than simply preaching on praying for those in authority in general, you may find that one Bible verse about praying for leaders sparks an idea for a powerful sermon that addresses exactly what your congregation needs to hear today.
Feel free to use any of these Bible verses as a jumping off point to help you study and brainstorm a message that’s unique to your congregation, rather than trying to preach on them all.
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’”
No matter who is in political power or a position of leadership, Jesus ultimately has authority above all. Only God has the ability to grant authority, and He grants it to whomever He pleases.
We never have to worry about someone in power overthrowing God or making decisions that God is powerless to overcome. No matter what happens, God is still in control.
“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Rather than praying that God will elect the officials we want or that our nation’s leaders will make the decisions we prefer for our government, we should pray that God’s will is done above all – even if it isn’t what we would have chosen.
Sometimes God works through mysterious means we don’t understand or wouldn’t choose, but that end up ultimately being better than we ever could have asked or imagined.
“Then they gathered around him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.’”
Jesus and his followers could certainly relate to the frustrations of living under rulers who were unwise, unfair, or downright evil. In fact, many in Jesus’s day expected the Messiah would come to overthrow the government and restore the nation of Israel to its former glory.
Yet, Jesus never seemed concerned with grasping political power or influence.
Rather than resting our hopes on our political leaders to save us or our nation, we can remember that Jesus and the apostles worked outside of (and often in spite of) the political system of their day. We can do the same.
Our effectiveness for Christ is not dependent on our ability to achieve political power, favor, or influence. We can still be effective for Christ no matter who is in charge.
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”
Whether or not we agree with our leaders’ decisions, as Christians, we are expected to submit ourselves to the authorities that God has placed in positions of leadership over us. We can do this because we trust that God knows what He is doing, and He will work out all things for our good, even if we don’t yet understand His plan.
1 Peter 2:13-14
“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.”
The Bible doesn’t instruct us only to submit to those leaders we like, respect, agree with, or voted for. Rather, we are expected to submit to every human authority “for the Lord’s sake.”
When we respect those leaders God has placed in authority over us, we show respect for and faith in God’s goodness, His decisions, and His timing.
We don’t have to agree with everyone, but we do need to behave respectfully toward everyone.
1 Timothy 2:1-4
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
One of the reasons we are to submit to those in authority over us is “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
If everyone were in charge or fighting for their own way, life would be chaos. Instead, our God is a God of order, who has placed various leaders in positions of influence and authority for our benefit and the benefit of others.
Sometimes, our job is to stand up for what is right. Other times, our job is to pray for those in authority so they can do their God-given jobs well.
“This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”
While it’s common to think about what our leaders owe us, it’s far less common to consider what we owe to those whom God has placed in authority over us.
Rather than constantly seeking to get, we should also consider what we should give to those in authority over us, out of our love for Christ.
We should primarily seek to serve, not to be served.
“and [Jesus] asked [the Pharisees], ‘Whose image is this? And whose inscription?’
‘Caesar’s,’ they replied.
Then he said to them, ‘So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’”
While “separation of church and state” wasn’t a concept in Jesus’s time the same way it is today, Jesus does make it clear that politics and the church play two different functions.
Some authority has been given to our political leaders, but not all. Our government officials have an important function to play within our society, but they do not have the final say or authority on everything.
We can respect our leader’s positions and God-given authority while recognizing that they are limited in what they can do. We can trust them to do their jobs, without expecting them to accomplish feats that are outside their influence and control.
For example: Laws can’t change hearts. Only God can do that.
“Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!”
While we are expected to submit to those in authority over us, this does not mean that we have to simply obey our leaders blindly.
God is ultimately in authority over all human authorities, and our first allegiance lies with Him.
That said, there is a vast difference between not liking the principles or policies of the person in authority and being required to personally act in a manner that is not in accordance with God’s teachings. It is essential to discern which category the leader falls into before taking action.
There may be times when we will need to disobey our political leaders in order to obey God, and this obedience (and lack thereof) may come at a high cost.
“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.”
While a new election season or a change of leadership may produce a great deal of anxiety, fear, or uncertainty within ourselves and our congregations, we can rest assured that nothing is a surprise to God. He already knows everything that will happen before it happens, and He’s still at work behind-the-scenes, even when we don’t see it.
God has set invisible boundaries in place that no one can cross. We can trust that God will never allow anyone (including leaders) to act in a way that is too far outside of His will.
God does allow some sin as a part of free will, but no one can thwart His ultimate plans for mankind.
“The Lord foils the plans of the nations;
he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart through all generations.”
No matter what decisions our political leaders make, we can rest assured that God is still on the throne and His purposes will always prevail. While we do want to pray for those in authority over us, we can rest assured that God will never let them go too far off track.
“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”
No matter what decisions those in authority over us make–whether good or bad–someday these leaders will be called to give an account for the decisions they made during their time on Earth.
We can confidently pray for kings and all in authority, knowing that no matter what decision our leaders make, God will ultimately hold them accountable for it. Justice will prevail.
Which Leaders Should We Pray for?
It’s one thing to tell your congregation, “You should pray for those in authority.” It’s another to equip your church members with all the information they need to pray for kings and all in authority effectively.
At this point, your church members may be wondering, “Who exactly is included in the call to ‘pray for all those in authority?’”
By providing your congregation with a tangible list of those in various positions of authority or leadership, you greatly increase the chances that they will follow through in prayer.
You can share this list from the pulpit as part of your sermon, or you may choose to share it via your church website, your social media channels, or in an email your congregation can refer to again and again.
Here are a few influential leaders you and your congregation may choose to pray for:
- The President, Vice President, and their families
- Other national leaders in Washington D.C.
- Kings and leaders of other countries
- State leaders and representatives
- Local city and county leaders
- Church pastors, elders, and ministry leaders
- A boss, manager, CEO, or team lead at your workplace
- Your children’s teachers and extracurricular leaders
- The husbands, wives, parents, and grandparents in your church
- Famous celebrities and influencers whose views affect the culture
- Those in positions of leadership or influence within popular media and publishing companies. (Ex: radio, television, books, magazines, podcasts, movies, and youtube.)
- Those in positions of leadership or influence within companies, organizations, non-profits, and initiatives designed to enact or enable change in our culture.
While creating a complete, comprehensive list to pray for all in authority or leadership positions would be impossible, use this list as a jumping off point.
Then, rather than simply praying for those in authority in general, invite your church members to research and learn the specific names of those in positions of power or influence in your area.
No one person can pray for all in authority or leadership positions, but we can all commit to praying for a handful of leaders whose work most directly influences us, our families, our communities, and those most in need of mercy.
How to Pray for All in Authority
Now that we’ve examined the importance of praying for those in authority, we’ve studied several Bible verses on praying for others in positions of leadership over us, and we’ve taken the time to research a few specific names of local leaders, it’s time to get practical.
At this point, your congregation may be wondering, “How do we pray for those in authority? What should we pray for?”
Here are several practical ideas for how to pray for all in authority you can share with your church members.
You can pray that:
- God would give them wisdom and clarity in decision making.
- They would come to a saving faith in Jesus.
- They would submit to God’s authority in their lives.
- They would seek God’s will above all else.
- They would want to obey God’s laws, even when it’s difficult.
- They would spend regular time in God’s Word and in prayer.
- They would find and listen to wise counsel from a variety of sources.
- They would be able to work together with others to find the best solutions.
- They and their families would be protected against the enemy’s attack.
- They would be bold and courageous enough to stand up for what’s right.
- Their sins would be found out quickly and dealt with properly.
- They would seek out and receive pastoral care when needed.
- They would be refreshed by loving family, godly friendships, and God-honoring hobbies.
- They would grow in love and compassion for others, especially the less fortunate.
- They would demonstrate humility and a teachable spirit.
- They would lead through service–not ego, pride, or a love of power.
- They would earn the cooperation of those they are called to lead.
Need even more ideas for how to pray for all in authority to share with your congregation? These related articles list several ideas, in addition to the ones above:
6 Reasons Praying for Those in Authority isn’t “Working”
One reason why many of your church members may hesitate to pray for those in authority is because they don’t truly believe that prayer is powerful or effective. Maybe they’ve tried to pray for leaders and those in authority in the past, only to see no real results of their efforts.
Your congregation may feel as though they aren’t actually “doing” anything productive by merely praying a quiet prayer in their hearts. They may worry that God won’t hear them, He won’t care, or He won’t answer.
The truth is: Scripture warns us that there are practical action steps we can take and attitudes we can hold that make our prayers more or less effective.
Author Brittany Ann shares the following reasons why God doesn’t answer our prayers in her article on the topic. These may be helpful to share with your congregation – whether throughout your sermon series on praying for those in authority or in a dedicated talk on the topic.
1. You Are Asking For The Wrong Things
First John 5:14-15 promises us: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”
So why do we sometimes not receive the things we ask for? The key is found in this small phrase in verse 14: “if we ask anything according to his will.”
Prayer is not a blank check to ask for whatever we want, regardless of God’s will. Rather, prayer is an opportunity to partner with God and ask for His will to be done.
Rather than praying for:
- Our preferred candidate to win
- Our preferred political party to hold the majority
- The laws we want to be passed
- Everyone to agree with our opinions and preferences
- Everyone to vote in a way that benefits us
- Everyone to make decisions the way we do
We can choose to pray that:
- God’s will would be done above all else
- Our leaders would make wise decisions that benefit all
- Our leaders would be able to work together effectively despite differences
- We would be protected from the negative consequences of others’ sinful actions
- Our faith (and others’) would flourish despite the circumstances we face
- God would use all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28)
When we pray in line with God’s will for our nation (rather than simply our personal preferences), our prayers are far more likely to be effective.
2. You Are Asking For The Wrong Reasons
Similarly, it’s entirely possible that we may pray the right prayers for the wrong reasons.
Encourage your congregation to pause and do some self-reflection with questions such as:
- Why am I praying for this particular outcome?
- What am I hoping to gain or avoid?
- What do I think will happen if I get what I want?
- What do I think (or fear) will happen if I don’t get what I want?
Philippians 2:3-4 urges us to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
It’s easy to fall into the trap of praying for those in authority to do what we want, what would benefit us, or what would make us the most comfortable. And yet, we know God cares about all of His creation – not just our needs and often short-sighted preferences.
This is why it’s so important to pray for God’s will to be done, not necessarily our will.
3. There is Sin in Your Life
While God knows that none of us are perfect (and He doesn’t expect us to be), John 9:31 does give us this important warning: “We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will.”
Does this mean that, if your prayers aren’t answered, you must be in sin? No. The story of Job reminds us that it is possible for even the most upright to not have their prayers answered.
Yet, the Bible warns us: When we consciously and continuously refuse to listen to or obey God’s will for our lives, He may not listen to us in return.
4. You Don’t Have Enough Faith
Similarly, James 1:6-7 warns us: “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”
Again, does this mean that if your prayers aren’t answered, that you don’t have enough faith? Not necessarily. But it is something to consider.
Encourage your congregation to pause and consider questions such as:
- Do I believe God is capable of answering this prayer?
- Do I believe God hears me and cares what I want or ask?
- Do I believe God will answer my prayer? (Or does He only come through for others?)
- How do I think God will answer my prayer, if at all?
- When do I think God will answer my prayer, if at all?
Are you simply saying words because you think you “should,” or are you truly asking God, trusting that He will come through in His way, in His perfect timing?
Encouraging your congregation to pause and consider questions like these can shed a great deal of light on deeper issues they may have concerning their view of God and His goodness.
5. You Aren’t Listening
Is it possible that God did hear and answer your prayer, but you weren’t paying attention and didn’t notice? Alternately, maybe you did notice that things worked out the way you hoped, but you decided it was a coincidence or lucky break, not God answering your prayers.
Encourage your congregation to think back through prayers they’ve prayed in the past and ask themselves questions such as:
- How did each situation turn out?
- Which prayers were answered the way you hoped?
- Which prayers were answered in a way that was better than you hoped?
- Which prayers are you still waiting for resolution on?
- How might God use these outcomes to further His kingdom (even if the answers weren’t what you wanted)?
You (or your congregation) may just discover that God has answered your prayers in the past far more frequently than you realized–you simply forgot to pay attention!
6. You Haven’t Asked
Lastly, one of the most common reasons why our prayers for those in leadership aren’t answered the way we hope is because we forget to pray them in the first place!
Ask your congregation to consider questions such as:
- Have I prayed about this issue? (Or have I only talked, worried, or complained about it?)
- Have I prayed about this issue more than once?
- How much or how often have I prayed about this issue?
- What specifically did I pray for?
- Is there something specific I should have prayed for that I haven’t?
Remember, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 instructs us to “pray without ceasing,” while the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8 reminds us that it’s okay (and sometimes expected!) for us to ask for the same thing again and again.
Simply offering up a single, off-the-cuff prayer and hoping for an immediate result may not be enough to get the results we desire. Instead, God often wants us to come back to Him in prayer again and again.
Helpful Tips for Effectively Praying for Those in Authority
Now that we’ve looked at six ways how not to pray for leaders and those in authority, let’s look at a few useful tips to help us pray more effectively.
While it’s wonderful to examine Scripture on praying for leaders, simply reading or memorizing these Bible verses won’t help us if we don’t put them into practice on a consistent basis.
This is why James 1:22 instructs us: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
Here are four helpful tips you can share with your church members to encourage them to pray for those who are in authority more consistently.
1. Create a Written Prayer List
One of the most difficult parts of praying for those in authority is simply remembering to pray for them in the first place! Thankfully, this is a simple problem to solve.
Encourage your congregation to create a written list of specific people or offices to commit to pray for on a regular basis.
You may even hand out blank printable prayer lists or index cards before or after service to have your church members fill out together during the sermon or once they return home.
Encourage your church members to place these prayer lists somewhere they will see them often, such as in their Bibles, on a mirror or wall, in their wallets or purses, or on their car dashboards.
2. Set Aside Specific Time to Pray for Those in Authority
Additionally, you may want to challenge your church members to set aside a specific time or amount of time to pray for those in authority on a regular basis (whether daily or weekly).
While spontaneous prayer is wonderful, many people find that by setting time aside in advance, they are more likely to follow through.
You might encourage your church members to tie this new habit to an existing one for greater effectiveness. For example, they may choose to pray for leaders and those in authority while brushing their teeth, driving to work, eating lunch, or any other activity they are already doing on a consistent basis. This small tip can be very helpful.
3. Familiarize Yourself with Various Scripture about Praying for Leaders
As we saw above, there are several very biblical reasons why praying for those in authority might feel like it isn’t “working.” This can be very frustrating!
Rather than simply giving your church members the command to pray for kings and all in authority, you’ll want to make sure they are equipped with multiple Bible verses on praying for others they can study to better understand prayer on a deeper level.
It isn’t enough to know that the Bible says we should pray for those who are in authority. Your congregation may need to be taught not only what these verses are, but also how to understand them and live them out, practically speaking.
We covered many of these “pray for our leaders” bible verses, along with explanations for each of them, above. Don’t skip this crucial step!
4. Remember: God is not a Genie, Vending Machine, or Magic 8 Ball
Finally, as you preach your sermon series on praying for those in authority, it’s important that you don’t accidentally give the impression that God is a genie, vending machine, or magic 8 ball in the sky – an impersonal deity whose main function is simply to give us the answers or results we want when we want them.
Fortunately and unfortunately, prayer doesn’t work that way. (It would be convenient! But it isn’t worth the trade-off of the close, personal relationship we can have with Christ.)
Instead of urging your congregation to ask for specific answers or results, on the basis that our nation is in trouble and needs all the prayers it can get, encourage your church members to grow in their relationship with Christ through prayer.
The results we do (or don’t) receive should always be secondary to the relationship we’re cultivating with the Lord.
Sample Prayers to Pray for Those in Authority Over You
At this point, you likely have all (or at least most) of the information your church members need to understand that praying for those in authority is important and a worthwhile use of our time.
You’re ready to share Scripture on praying for leaders, you’re equipped to teach practical how-to steps, and you’re armed with numerous examples for how (specifically) we can pray for kings and all in authority.
Finally, it may be helpful to equip your church members with a collection of pre-written prayers or prayer starters they can use when they want to pray for all in authority, but they don’t know how.
Here are a few examples.
- “God, I confess that I have been more preoccupied with having my own way than furthering Your kingdom and loving Your people. Please help me to set my own ego, selfishness, and pride aside and love as You first loved us.”
- “Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that no matter what happens this election season, that Your will is done above all. You know what’s best and You see the outcomes of every decision, even when we don’t. Please work in whatever way You know is best.”
- “Dear Jesus, please raise up good, godly leaders who will take our city, our state, and our country in the right direction. Please empower them to make wise decisions and give them the courage to act upon them.”
Looking for more? These articles include additional sample prayer ideas for those in authority:
Common Pitfalls to Avoid When Preaching on Praying for Those in Authority
As a pastor, you hope the words you preach (whether on praying for those in authority or any topic) change lives. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to get the results you want, and the ends don’t always justify the means.
As you study multiple Bible verses on praying for others and plan out how you will teach your congregation to pray for those in authority, there are several common pitfalls you will want to avoid.
Be sure to keep the following tips in mind when preaching on praying for those in authority.
1. Avoid Taking Sides
Politics are rarely black and white. Instead, there are a variety of reasons why someone may choose to vote for one political candidate or law over another.
Plus, it’s almost never appropriate for pastors to instruct their congregation who to vote for.
Rather than choosing sides (and potentially alienating half of your congregation), it’s typically wiser and more effective to speak to the issues in general, to call your congregation to be more Christ-like, or to teach your congregation to pray for leaders and those in authority.
This article on How to Preach Through An Election Season has several important points you’ll want to consider before attempting to preach about politics from the pulpit.
2. Encourage Conversation, Not Divisiveness
Again, there are a variety of very legitimate reasons why someone may choose to vote for one political candidate or law over another.
Rather than presenting the issue as straightforward, you might invite further discussion among your church members to increase their level of understanding, love, compassion, and empathy.
There are multiple ways you could do this. In addition to challenging your congregation to pray for all those in authority (not simply their favorite political candidates), you might find ways to increase healthy conversations and edifying debates within your church community.
For example, you might facilitate an evening event where your congregants can speak openly and honestly about the issues and their concerns, where they’ll have an opportunity to hear the reasons and rationale of those who vote differently. You might even interview multiple people with opposing viewpoints from the stage in one of your Sunday sermons.
While these techniques will work better in some churches than others (you will need to consider the maturity and interest level of your congregation), when done well, events like these can foster additional empathy and understanding as well as model what healthy, open discussion should look like.
3. Avoid Getting People Needlessly Riled Up
It’s no secret that online clickbait and sensationalized news articles will grab an audience’s attention. However, as a pastor, you have a God-given responsibility to treat both your in-person audience and your online followers (and potential followers) with care.
In other words, avoid resorting to cheap tactics designed to elicit an overly emotional response.
Instead, present compelling Scripture about authority (there’s plenty of it in the Bible), equip your flock with the practical tools and advice they need to pray for all in authority, and then trust the Holy Spirit to complete His work in their lives.
As Philippians 2:13 reminds us, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” We don’t need to resort to cheap tactics when we have the Holy Spirit on our side.
4. Seek to Be Proactive, Not Reactive
While there will always be some political or social justice news stories we can’t foresee, much of the current news cycle revolves around common events or topics we can anticipate in advance.
Rather than waiting until the next scandalous breaking news story hits the media, it can be helpful to take a more proactive (rather than reactive) approach.
Teach Scripture about praying for leaders when people won’t assume (rightly or wrongly) that you are calling out a specific leader. Teach your favorite Scripture on praying for the government when emotions aren’t heightened and people are more likely to listen.
By preparing your congregation in advance for issues and feelings you know they will inevitably face, you’ll help ensure that they will be better equipped to react appropriately when the time comes.
5. Avoid Overstepping Your Authority as a Pastor
As a pastor, you likely experience a high degree of trust from your congregation. If you tell your congregation that a specific Bible verse about praying for leaders means something, they will likely believe you.
This is a great privilege (that’s likely been hard-earned through years of study and hours spent in prayer!), but it’s also a great responsibility.
As the pastor, your congregation may take whatever you say as Gospel truth… even if you are merely sharing your own limited human perspective on the issue. For this reason, you need to be very careful not to overstep and place your words in God’s mouth.
Even the apostle Paul had to be mindful of this when he was writing what would later become the New Testament.
We see this in 1 Corinthians 7:12, when Paul uses the phrase, “To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord).” Later on in verse 25 of the same chapter, he uses a similar phrase again: “I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.”
It’s fine to have your own opinions and preferences, but be very careful that you don’t unintentionally present your own individual preferences as God’s unchanging law.
6. Research Issues Thoroughly Before Giving an Opinion
One reason why it can be so dangerous to present your own opinion as Gospel truth is because political issues are so nuanced.
By taking sides on an issue, your congregation may naturally assume you (and therefore, God) are for or against a certain concept or policy you hadn’t intended to comment on.
Chances are, you know how the newly proposed law would affect you, but do you know how it would truly affect those who live a life very different from yours?
How would a new political candidate affect the lives of those who differ from you in any of the following areas:
- Geographical location
- Income level
- Skin color
- Religious beliefs
- Citizenship status
- Marital status
- Health status
- Occupational status
A new law that would provide major benefits to you might significantly negatively affect those in your congregation or the people they love.
By championing a piece of legislation that seems like an obvious choice to you, you may inadvertently send the message that you don’t care about (and can’t be bothered to learn about) the lives of those who wouldn’t be affected in the same way.
Even if you keep the same perspective, it’s important to better understand all the nuances of a topic before speaking publicly (or possibly even privately) about it.
7. Don’t Forget the Mission
As we discussed previously, while many in Jesus’s day expected the Messiah would come to overthrow the government and restore the nation of Israel to its former glory, Jesus never seemed concerned with grasping political power or influence.
Yes, as Christians, we should care about politics and social issues. However, we must be careful not to forget the real purpose we were sent here to fulfill.
When asked “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” in Matthew 22:36, Jesus didn’t answer: “to gain political power and influence.”
Rather, “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’” (Matthew 22:37-40)
May we never forget what Jesus tells us are the two most important commandments of all: Love God. Love others.
8. Accept that You’ll Never Be Able to Please Everyone
As a pastor, you know: Leadership isn’t easy. No matter how hard you try to make the right decision, someone is bound to be unhappy with or negatively affected by your leadership.
Some church members may feel you talked about politics too much, while others feel that you didn’t talk about politics enough. Some will want you to address specific issues, while others will want you to avoid them.
And for every issue you could address, chances are high that your audience may be full of people with vastly differing opinions on the subject. You’ll never be able to please everyone.
Rather than seeking to get everyone to like you or be happy with you (which would be impossible), make your aim to please God and to stay true to His Word above all.
This isn’t always easy, but unfortunately, it is part of the job.
Thankfully, you can take comfort that the apostle Paul knew and experienced the same feelings. We read his words in Galatians 1:10: “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
This is a good reminder for all of us.
9. Seek to Relate
While the majority of your congregation may not understand the unique pressures those in the top tiers of leadership face, chances are, they can relate to an extent.
After all, many of your church members are currently doing their best to raise great kids, manage their teams at work, or organize fundraisers, Bible studies, or other events – all roles that require some degree of leadership and decision-making.
Rather than presenting leaders as “different” than us (even if many do have privileges and responsibilities we don’t have), you’ll want to intentionally look for ways to help your congregation better understand and focus on the unique challenges we all experience to some degree–leaders included.
Again, this is where a greater degree of discussion or even an interview-style event can be helpful, in addition to sharing Scripture about praying for leaders.
When NOT to (Only) Pray for Those Who are in Authority
At this point, we’ve covered multiple Bible verses on praying for others as well as several practical examples, thought-provoking questions, and plenty of tips and advice to help you preach an excellent sermon series on praying for those in authority.
Yet, while prayer is powerful, there are times when simply praying isn’t enough.
Perhaps you or certain members of your congregation are feeling prompted by the Holy Spirit to take further action. Maybe you or certain members of your congregation have unique gifts, skills, or abilities you feel the Lord is calling you to use to make a difference.
If so, once you preach on the various Bible verses on praying for others and how to pray for those in authority, you may want to do a follow-up sermon on practical ways for people to take action after they’ve spent time in Scripture and prayer.
The Bible is full of inspiring stories of people God called to serve those around them in mighty ways:
- Abraham was called to leave his home and start a new nation (Genesis 12:1-3).
- Joseph was taken to Egypt and placed second in command to Pharaoh so that he could save his family and the nation from an impending famine (Genesis 50:20).
- God later sent Moses to Egypt to rescue His people from slavery (Exodus 3:1-10).
- King David was chosen to be the next king of Israel (1 Samuel 16:1, 12-13).
- Esther was called to use her new position as queen to save her people (Esther 4:13-14).
- Isaiah was called to be a prophet to the people (Isaiah 6:8-10).
- Mary was called to give birth to the Savior (Luke 1:30-31).
- Saul (later Paul) was called to preach the gospel throughout the region and eventually in front of the influential leaders of his day (Acts 9:3-6, 28:30-31).
Looking for even more examples? This article on 30 Examples of God Calling People in the Bible includes additional examples that may be helpful for your study.
Who knows what step of faith God may be calling your congregation to take today.
Your sermon on how to pray for those in authority may be just what your church members need to step out in faith, trust the Lord, and walk in His plan for their life today. Don’t forget: For more information on preaching through difficult topics like these, be sure to also check out the Preaching Through podcast, a podcast all about preaching Jesus in 21st century America. Full of practical, biblical wisdom and advice, it’s designed to train and equip pastors as they preach through many of the tough topics we and our congregations are facing today.