Life for the first Christians was very difficult because they experienced great persecution. Jesus was crucified on the authority of Pilate, the Roman Governor. The apostle Paul was imprisoned and then executed by the Roman authorities. The Roman emperor, Nero, falsely blamed Christians for the great fire of Rome in AD64 and commanded that many of them should be put to death by burning, or in the arena, or by crucifixion. Christians were persecuted because they refused to worship the Roman emperor and say, “Caesar is Lord!” They were not disloyal citizens, but could only worship God and affirm “Jesus is Lord!”
Yet, despite the appalling treatment they experienced from the governing authorities, the apostles encouraged all Christians to respect the civil authorities, to pay their taxes, and even to pray for them. Paul wrote, “I urge that requests, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for everyone – 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 Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and come to know the truth.”
In the 21st century we need to pray for those who govern the nations. We are living in days of great instability. Governments and rulers are being overthrown and nations that possess military power are using that power more widely than ever before. People have great, and often unrealistic, expectations of what their governments can do for them. How should we pray for those who rule over us?
Pray that they will rule justly and not oppress their people. In some countries many people are arrested and never seen again. Sometimes soldiers are used to kill those who protest against injustice. It is important for all who have authority to fear the living God and remember that one day they will have to stand before God and be judged. He will deal with them justly.
Pray that they will rule morally and uphold God’s laws. Today some rulers are encouraging immorality by their own lives and by the laws they pass. God cannot be mocked. The Roman Empire was never defeated by their enemies, but was destroyed by its own inner moral corruption.
Pray that they will continue to allow the freedom to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. He is the King of kings and is able to save us all from death, destruction and despair.