February 15, 2017
Imagine living in a nation where your pastor urges you to pray for the national authority that is persecuting you.
‘Pray For Those Who Persecute You.’
That was the reality of the first century church, when Paul asked his young disciple to pray. In his letter to Timothy, he asked him to pray for a government that persecuted believers and even fed them to lions in the Roman coliseum.
In 1 Timothy 2:1-3, Paul challenges young Timothy and believers everywhere to do something extraordinarily counter to fear:
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior…”
But how could Paul say this to Timothy, at a time when he knew the reality of the Roman government? Why didn’t the church fight back and protest their unjust rulers?
A New Direction
Paul’s profound study of the scriptures and personal relationship with God led him to truth about earthly authority:
The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord,
Like the rivers of water;
He turns it wherever He wishes.”
Undoubtedly, he knew this ancient truth, because he himself had been one whom God had turned in a new direction. He had first hand experience of how God could transform the life of someone in authority. Paul was transformed from a persecutor of Christians and was redirected to be the apostle of the first century church.
An Ordinary Man Said No to Fear
His name was ‘Ananias’. The Bible doesn’t give us much background – by all accounts he seemed like an ordinary man simply responding to God’s call in his life. But never underestimate an ‘ordinary man’. This particular ‘ordinary man’ responded to the call of God and helped transform Saul’s life of persecution into a new life of purpose as Paul.
Ananias’ initial response to God in prayer was fear of the man named ‘Saul’. But God told him to NOT fear – to go against the culture of fear in that day. God asked Ananias to helped guide Saul of Tarsus after God had struck him blind. Essentially, Ananias was called by God to give sight to a ‘political figure’ from Jewish authority, after Saul had been mandated to persecute Christians. Ananias had every earthly right to respond in fear, but God calls us to a higher ground – God’s love in us, ‘…drives out fear…’ (1 John 4:18).
Doesn’t it sound so familiar, that sometimes we as the body of Christ need to help give sight to those who can’t see. And in the case of Ananias it just so happened to be a man in authority. In that simple act of obedience, Ananias became an instrumental part in the first century church because he said no to fear.
Don’t respond in fear. Respond in prayer.
Where are you or your church congregation today?
- Are you responding in fear? The media, our friends maybe even our spiritual leaders are acting in fear. But what is the voice of God telling us?
- We are called by scripture to pray for our authorities, so that we can live peaceful lives. We see the evidence of this in the history of Rome, when after years of persecution the Roman Emperor Constantine accepted the truth of Christ. He went on to mandate that the Gospel be carried throughout the entire Roman empire.
- Instead of protesting for your rights, maybe we can pray for those who make decisions about our rights. Let’s make sure we are praying for salvation over our leaders and for Godly council to surround them, as we saw in the day of Joseph before Pharaoh or Daniel and the Kings of Babylon.
Each of us, should take a moment to ask God how we can better stand in the gap for our nation through prayer.