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)
When we pray for civil leaders in the church we are following the teachings of St Paul. However, praying for our rulers doesn’t mean we ask God to assure their success in anything or everything they do or in all their machinations. We pray that God guide them, or even confront them and prevent them from doing evil, or intervene in their life to change their direction. We pray for their salvation even if we pray against some policy they favor. Some mistakenly think they should be praying for those in authority only when they like the person in office or agree with their politics or policies. We pray for rulers whether or not we agree with them, that God might guide them in their duties. So, in most liturgical services we pray this litany:
For this country, it’s president, for all civil authorities, and for the armed forces, let us pray to the Lord.
Fr Lawrence Farley comments:
In this litany, the Church also prays for the head of the civil government ‘and for all civil authorities, and for the armed forces.’ That is, she prays for peace at home also, that all those who govern may do so justly and wisely, and that the nation in which the local church finds herself may know tranquility. This, indeed, is exactly what St. Paul commanded the Church to pray for whenever her members assembled: ‘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‘ (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Surveying the political landscape may tempt one at times to give up on politicians and on the political process in general, to say that all politicians are crooks and that voting and civil duty are useless. The Church, in this petition, disagrees. Whatever the weakness of politicians and the political process, the proper response is not cynicism and withdrawal, but prayer.
For in whatever political system we find ourselves – be it American democracy or Byzantine autocracy or even a totalitarian dictatorship—God can use the ruling powers to fulfill His purposes. In the first century, Paul commanded the Church to pray for the ruler of the Roman Empire, saying that God had ordained all these governing authorities (1 Timothy 2: 1f; Romans 13:1ff) —and the ruler at that time was the infamous Nero! How much more should we, in in our day in the democratic West, pray for our rulers? (LET US ATTEND, pp 18-19)