In this election season, we should ask that God work in our leaders such that our lives might be peaceful, quiet, godly, and dignified and that the gospel message would be unhindered. From the look of things, diligence in this effort will become more urgent in the years to come. Many are regularly requesting of Him for our leaders’ good but more of us need to become consistent in obeying the command:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4 English Standard Version (ESV)
The apostle…expressly enjoins Christians to pray for [their civil rulers]…seeing that God appointed magistrates and princes for the preservation of mankind.
However much they fall short of the divine appointment, still we must not on that account cease to love what belongs to God, and to desire that it may remain in force.
[For this] reason, believers, in whatever country they live, must not only obey the laws and the government of magistrates, but likewise in their prayers supplicate God for their salvation. Jeremiah said to the Israelites,
“Pray for the peace of Babylon, for in their peace you shall have peace.” (Jeremiah 29:7.)
The universal doctrine is this, that we should desire the continuance and peaceful condition of those governments which have been appointed by God.
Second, God restrains evil, protects His church, and upholds society through His appointed government:
…[The Apostle Paul]…enumerates the fruits which are yielded to us by a well-regulated government. The first is a peaceful life; for magistrates are armed with the sword, in order to keep us in peace. If they did not restrain the hardihood of wicked men, every place would be full of robberies and murders…
The second fruit is the preservation of godliness, that is, when magistrates give themselves to promote religion, to maintain the worship of God, and to take care that sacred ordinances be observed with due reverence.
The third fruit is the care of public decency; for it is also the business of magistrates to prevent men from abandoning themselves to brutal filthiness or [villainous] conduct, but, on the contrary, to promote decency and moderation.
And without His appointed government, we descend into barbarism:
If these three things are taken away, what will be the condition of human life? If, therefore, we are at all moved by solicitude about the peace of society, or godliness, or decency, let us remember that we ought also to be solicitous about those through whose agency we obtain such distinguished benefits.
Hence we conclude, that fanatics, who wish to have magistrates taken away, are destitute of all humanity, and breathe nothing but cruel barbarism…
Calvin then raises the obvious question that is so pertinent for our times:
“…Ought we to pray for kings, from whom we obtain none of these advantages?” I answer, the object of our prayer is, that, guided by the Spirit of God, they may begin to impart to us those benefits of which they formerly deprived us.
It is our duty, therefore, not only to pray for those who are already worthy, but we must pray to God that he may make bad men good.
To emphasize the point that we should pray that these bad persons be made good, Calvin draws a severe analogy:
We must always hold by this principle, that magistrates were appointed by God for the protection of religion, as well as of the peace and decency of society, in exactly the same manner that the earth is appointed to produce food.
Accordingly, in like manner as, when we pray to God for our daily bread, we ask him to make the earth fertile by his blessing; so in those benefits of which we have already spoken, we ought to consider the ordinary means which he has appointed by his providence for bestowing them.
[Then,] if we are deprived of those benefits [that] the…magistrates [should provide], that is through our own fault. It is the wrath of God that renders magistrates useless to us, in the same manner that it renders the earth barren; and, therefore, we ought to pray for the removal of those chastisements which have been brought upon us by our sins.
So, magistrates’ failure is God’s wrath on us who have sinned by not relying on Him alone for good governance; a severe chastisement, indeed. Are we in the situation Daniel found himself and his people in Babylon?
However, Calvin states, our sin does not absolve these magistrates of their responsibilities before God to carry out their appointed administration:
On the other hand, princes, and all who hold the office of magistracy, are here reminded of their duty. It is not enough, if, by giving to everyone what is due, they restrain all acts of violence, and maintain peace; but they must likewise endeavor to promote religion, and to regulate morals by wholesome discipline.
The exhortation of David (Psalm 2:12) to “kiss the Son,” and the prophecy of Isaiah, that they shall be nursing — fathers of the Church, (Isaiah 49:23,) are not without meaning; and, therefore, they have no right to flatter themselves, if they neglect to lend their assistance to maintain the worship of God.
The earth seems barren, and repentance is called for. If we ask Him for daily bread, should we not fervently ask for rulers made just? Whatever political view you may hold, we all, in obedience to God, must implore Him for our leaders good that “we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”