The Law of God and Public Policy: A Good Society (6)
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2.1-4
The great public policy mistake
With respect to matters of public policy, the great mistake Christians have made over the previous generation has been in thinking that public policy is, in the first instance, a political or even a cultural concern.
We have believed, that is, that the primary way to achieve a good society is through political activism or cultural reform. We have augured for policies more in line with our worldview, and for politicians who will support our views and forge policies and enact laws accordingly. At the same time, we have decried cultural forms and institutions which promote views and practices contrary to the teaching of Scripture.
We might have thought, after two generations of pursuing this tack, that we would see significant progress in stalling the juggernaut of pragmatism, relativism, and narcissism. Quite the contrary is the case. Proponents of a progressivist worldview have become established in all the halls of government in our society, in each of the major political parties, and in schools and colleges and cultural institutions throughout the land; and they show no sign of backing away from their agenda. They are much more adept in making public policy, and less bound by scruples of unchanging moral conviction.
The way to a good society is not, in the first instance, through politics and public policy. Nor is it through culture. Public policy is important, or else the Law and Word of God would not have so much to say about it. But we can only expect God to bless our efforts at achieving a good society when we undertake our work in line with what His Word teaches.
And as we have seen, the base language and primary locus of public policymaking is prayer.
The starting-point for public policy
Public policy is not, first of all, a matter of politics or cultural reform. Like everything else in life, the making of public policy is first and foremost a spiritual issue. This is so because it is happening “under the heavens”, that is, in a world created, owned, and upheld by the Word of God. Jesus Christ has reconciled the world to His Father, and He is advancing His Kingdom in it for the purpose of making all things new (2 Cor. 5.17-21; Rev. 21.5).
God is sovereign in the affairs of men and nations. He rules and overrules all deliberations, acts, and policies according to His own good purposes and in His own way and time. And He is more favorable, in the long run and the short, to those who rest their hope in Him and trust His Word and ways in every aspect of life.
We will make the greatest headway in affecting the public policies of our nation and in achieving a truly good society, when we ground and pursue our work in the public-policy arena in prayer. Paul says it is not by politics that we may hope to achieve a just and good society; this can only be achieved when men everywhere lift up holy hands of prayer to the Lord (v. 8).
If men will pray, and pray in the manner Paul outlines in our text, we will have more hope of realizing a good society where the Gospel can flourish and truth and goodness will abound.
Prayer and public policy
Prayer is the means by which we may expect God to show us great things and mysteries we’ve never seen before (Jer. 33.3). Through repentance and prayer, we may hope that the Lord will begin to heal our land (2 Chron. 7.14). Only by praying without ceasing, with brothers and sisters from many congregations and communions, continually and fervently, and with a focus on public policy and the coming of Christ’s Kingdom—only by thus praying can Christians truly hope to achieve the just and good society we seek (Matt. 6.10).
Here there is much work to be done. It seems clear today that we do not believe in such prayer. When in your church, for example, do people pray in this way? And especially, where do you see men in your church earnest in and devoted to prayer for a good society? When have you heard such prayers from the pulpit on Sunday morning? How often do prayers for such matters as we are concerned about in this study fill your own pleadings before the Lord?
If men will pray, God will bring His goodness to light in the land of the living. If men will not pray, though they exhaust themselves and their treasure in political and cultural reform, a good society such as Paul envisions will continue to slip through our fingers.
Failure to pray is simple unbelief. We must repent of our unbelief and take up the work of prayer with greater devotion and dedication. We shall not be able to realize progress in Christ’s Kingdom, or in returning our nation to a greater experience of justice and goodness, apart from prayer.
Prayer is the starting point for public policy. Prayer must be the sustaining power of public policy. And prayer in the form of worship will be the outcome of public policies, forged in prayer, which lead to a peaceful, godly, dignified, true, and Gospel-friendly society. As long as we continue to regard prayer as a perfunctory matter, we shall not make progress toward the good society we seek. But let believers come together, lifting holy hands to the Lord continually and fervently for all aspects of public policymaking, and we will see the hand of God begin to move in our favor once again.
1. Why do you think it is that men don’t pray like Paul describes in these verses?
2. What can you do to encourage the men in your church to take prayer more seriously?
3. What will you do to improve your own prayers for a good society?
Next steps—Preparation: Review your practice of prayer. Is it of the sort that might conduce to realizing a good society? Where can you improve?
T. M. Moore
Men must pray. Our booklet, If Men Will Pray, calls on men to join together in prayer, to encourage and be accountable for prayer, and to enlist other men to join them. Order your free copy by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.