LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–The Moore household has a new prayer-partner, and her name is Nancy Pelosi.
I suppose “partner” isn’t the right word since the soon-to-be-speaker of the United States House of Representatives doesn’t know anything about our kitchen-table intercession. Nonetheless, my young boys will soon learn how to pronounce the words “Speaker Pelosi” as they ask God’s blessings for her.
It’s not that I’m a Pelosi supporter. Indeed, while the California congresswoman and I would probably agree at several points, I find her position on the most defining issue of the day –- the abortion of unborn babies –- to be not just wrong-headed but profoundly evil.
Nonetheless, my wife and boys and I will be praying for her. And I hope a wave of Southern Baptist churches and families will join us.
It is easy for Christians to pray for political figures who court our votes. There are several organizations out there devoted to encouraging believers to pray for President Bush. Our offertory prayers often ask God’s blessings on President Bush as he leads our country. And this is right. We are commanded to pray for President Bush. But our responsibility doesn’t end there.
The news networks tell us that the new majority in the United States House and Senate is the result of a “wave” of Democratic Party voters. From a human and historical vantage point, that’s true. But as those who believe in the providence of God, it is also true that “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God” (Romans 13:1). For whatever reason, on Election Day God decided that Nancy Pelosi will be sitting behind President Bush at next year’s State of the Union address. And God decided that outgoing Speaker Dennis Hastert would not be seated there.
As the Apostle Paul urges us to obey the “governing authorities,” we must keep in mind that he is not speaking of the religious right of the Roman Empire. He is speaking of a bloodthirsty and pagan Caesar, a government that was directly responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. Caesar never sought the evangelical vote -– or any other vote, for that matter.
It is not simply, though, that we as Christians are to obey our governmental leaders as long as they exercise legitimate authority (boundaries the Spirit sets forth in Romans 13 and elsewhere in the Scripture). We are also commanded to pray for these leaders. Paul writes to Timothy, “First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and for all those who are in authority” (1 Timothy 2:1-2a). Again, this is in the context of a pagan and ungodly first-century Roman Empire. Paul singles out kings and governing officials for prayer and he tells us why he does so: “So that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:2b). The “we” there is, of course, the church of Jesus Christ. We pray for our leaders precisely so that the church’s mission may be unimpeded by Caesar’s whims.
This has everything to do with the Great Commission. Immediately after instructing Timothy to pray in this way, Paul writes: “This is good, and it pleases God our Savior who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4). The church survives -– and people are saved -– even under governmental persecution. But we should not seek such persecution. We should pray for a government that allows the church to be the church, so that the church can call the lost to be saved.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t criticize our governing authorities. John the Baptist didn’t hesitate to do so, and lost his head in the process. Jesus sarcastically derided King Herod as “that fox” in a public forum (Luke 13:32).
It also doesn’t mean that we acquiesce to their demands. God gives Caesar the power of the sword and, in a representative democracy, we are Caesar. We’ll give an account for the kind of government we put in power, and for the kind of culture we allow to inform that government. I plan to denounce Speaker Pelosi’s abortion-rights ideology.
But at the same time, I am going to respect her as one who wields a power given to her by my God, and teach my children to do the same. I am going to love her and pray that God grants her health, happiness and wisdom to govern. I am going to pray that she will seek the punishment of evildoers and mercy for the poor and the vulnerable –- including the unborn babies upon whose corpses she, sadly, has built a career. I’m going to pray that Speaker Pelosi’s admirable love for the weakest among us will one day extend to the most vulnerable of all.
It isn’t easy to love and pray for someone who stands at odds with your worldview. But it pleases the God who wants all to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
So tonight the Moore boys, with their Mom and Dad, will pray for President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. And then they’ll be introduced to the name of Mrs. Pelosi, our new prayer partner.
Russell D. Moore is dean of the school of theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Adapted from a column first posted at www.henryinstitute.org.