By Dr. Harry Bultema

“I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, Intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for Kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” (1 Timothy 2:1-3)

 It was with great joy and gratitude that we received the proclamation of President Roosevelt in which he set aside a day of prayer. Christians, especially, should prize this proclamation and thank God that we have a government that acknowledges Him. This proclamation reads:

      “The American heritage of individual freedom and government deriving its power from the consent of the governed has from the time of the fathers of our republic been proudly transmitted to each succeeding generation, and to us of this generation has fallen the task of preserving it and transmitting it to the future. We are now engaged in a mighty effort to fortify that heritage.

     “Mindful of our duties in the family of nations, we have endeavored to prevent the outbreak and the spread of war, and we have raised our voices against international injustice. As Americans and as lovers of freedom, we are humbly sympathetic with those who are facing tribulation in lands across the sea.

     “When every succeeding day brings sad news of suffering and disaster abroad, we are especially conscious of the Divine power and of our dependence upon God’s merciful guidance.

     “With this consciousness in our hearts, it is seemly that we should, at a time like this, pray to Almighty God for His blessing on our country and for the establishment of a just and permanent peace among all the nations of the world.

     “Now, therefore, I , Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, do hereby set aside Sunday, September 8, 1940, as a day of prayer; and I urge the people of the United States, of all creeds and denominations, to pray on that day, in their churches or at their homes, on the high seas or wherever they may be, beseeching the Ruler of the Universe to bless our Republic, to make us reverently grateful for our heritage and firm in its defense, and to grant to this land to the troubled world a righteous, enduring peace.”

 It need not be said that all Christians should gladly obey the government in all things, and especially in such a solemn matter as this. There is but one singly exception to this absolute obedience and that has been stated for all times by the Apostle Peter: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Many Christians seem to forget this in our day. You may have seen the picture in the Grand Rapids Herald of a man that had been knocked unconscious by a policeman at Washington because he insisted on praying on the Capitol steps in connection with the demonstration of hundreds of anti-conscriptionists. In the picture a woman is seen clinging to the unconscious man screaming hysterically in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the man’s arrest.

 Persecution, some may cry; but this is nonsense; it is not any more persecution than when you are arrested for speeding. There is a law forbidding any demonstration at the Capitol without a permit. This was not persecution but a fanatic disregard of the law on the part of the demonstrators under pious guise—mere lawlessness and that in the name of Christ. These Christians (if such they really were) ought to have known that their prayers would not neutralize their lawlessness and would be an abomination unto God. They should have gone home and read Roman 13:1-7. If they had been forbidden to pray, it would have been different, then they should have obeyed God, like Daniel; however, they disobeyed both God and their government.

 Another example is of Christians disobeying Divinely-instituted authority. There were among the mountaineers of Kentucky and other States, so many fanatics who would get rattlesnakes and other venomous reptiles and take them to their religious gatherings. The authorities had to step in and forbid the bringing and handling of the dangerous rodents to religious services. People were permitted to attend church but not the reptiles and venomous snakes. This necessity for such action on the part of the authorities tells a sad story about some forms of Christianity. Several people and even pastors were arrested for having broken the anti-snake law. A woman and man died from being bitten in a church.

 Now you say, this is fanaticism gone to the extreme and rightly so but these people are duped by their ignorance of the Scriptures. They have read in Mark 16:16, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved and these signs shall follow them that believe; in My Name shall they cast our devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they shall drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.”

 Now all of these things surely go together but the preachers should at least have had enough sense to tell their followers that none of these things are for us today. And so lawlessness in the Name of Christ marches on and soon, perhaps, the lawless one shall be revealed. Let the Christian’s conscience be regulated by the Word of God rightly divided.

 In our text, we find that prayer and intercession are of prime and supreme importance. Prayer is either a force or a farce. Nehemiah prayed for nearly half a year. There have been prayer meetings that have lasted a week. A number of miners were caught and entombed by a fallen rock and were in a sad predicament indeed. They had nothing to eat and only a trickle of water that they caught in a cup. Their little carbide lamps gave them light for a while and then they were plunged into the blackness of darkness. When they learned that they were hopelessly trapped, they spent their time in prayer and song. The rescue party reached them after a week and they were still praying and on their caps was penciled, “If we are dead when you find us, we are saved.” These simple miners were not versed in theology but they were in knee-ology which is even better. There is wonder-working power in prayer.

 I know this by experience since the day God heard me as boy of eleven, when I prayed for a little lambkin that was missing and later found. We talk freely of the power of electricity, the power of gravitation, the power of the mighty Niagara Falls, but what is all this mentioned power in comparison to the power of prayer?

 Charles Spurgeon, on an occasion, was showing his tabernacle to some visitors and said, “Now I will show you the power room” and he revealed to them a side room where 300 saints were in prayer. Every man used mightily of God has been a man of prayer. Several years ago hundreds were saved in a meeting held in the southland. Afterward they found that a godly school teacher had dismissed her pupils an hour earlier from their classes than usual so that she would have more time to pray for that meeting held in her home town. Daniel is the Gibraltar character of the Old Testament and you know what a man of prayer he was.

 There is a wonderful and mysterious power in real prayer. Some seem to want to understand the mystery before they get to the real prayer-battle, but that is not necessary. You do not understand electricity but you press the button and bathe yourself in light. You do not understand the Doctor’s prescription, but you swallow the medicine, don’t you? I do not understand the workings of the radio (now television) but I avail myself of it and send out my voice through the air waves. If I had to understand it, I fear I would be very slow to search out the wonders of it. But thank God I can use it without understanding it. All of you do not understand the mechanism of your car but you ride in it, don’t you? You may not understand the digestive process of your body, but you eat. You may not understand the operation of an elevator but you avail yourself of its energy-conserving  convenience.

 All great spiritual awakenings from Pentecost to this day have originated from prayer. The famous Blackstone (outstanding authority on Law) said in his day that the preachers of England preached so that he could not tell whether they were Christian or heathen. Yet, a little group of students in an English University prayed and the great awakening under George Whitfield and John Wesley resulted. 

 ¨ A little group of students prayed in a haystack and the great missionary age, in which thousands  were sent with the Gospel to heathen lands, resulted.

¨ Martin Luther prayed and groaned and the great Reformation was the result.

¨ A little old lady prayed and Charles Finney was mightily used as a revivalist.

¨ Hudson Taylor prayed and the great China Inland Mission was born.

¨ George Mueller prayed and  7 million dollars was brought in to care for thousands of orphans.

¨ Aunty Cook prayed and the Moody Bible Institute was launched. What wonder-working prayer!

 Our God is able! He is able to succor them that are tempted (Heb. 2:18). He is able to perform (Rom. 4:21). He is able to make all grace abound (2 Cor. 9:8). He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we that we ask or think (Eph. 3:20). He is able to keep you from falling (Jude 24).  SO …

Don’t stop praying, the Lord is nigh,

Don’t stop praying, He’ll hear your cry;

God has promised; He is true!

Don’t stop praying, He’ll answer you!

 Notice the variety of prayer in our text where we find “supplication prayers,” “intercessions,” and “thanksgivings” listed. No doubt, these terms overlap somewhat and are partly given here for  the needed emphasis. (a) Supplications means that there is want and need and that we cry to God in our need. What needs we have in this day! Among so many things we need peace, prosperity and purity in private and public life. Oh, how our youth stands in need of this today. Let us supplicate God these days, O Christian. (b) Prayers implies the soul’s throwing itself prostrate before God in the dust to implore Him to pour out His all-sufficiency into our emptiness. In everything, a habitual acknowledging of God is understood—taking Him in our very confidence. (c) Intercessions refers to the soul’s concern for others. This is the direct opposite  to all selfishness in our prayers. Let us be more concerned than just for ourselves and ours. Intercession is an act of love (Heb. 7:25). (d) Thanksgivings: All these words are mentioned in the plural. It points to the multiplicity and the constancy of the prayer life. Thanksgiving is often forgotten but not in the Bible. There we are exhorted constantly to thanksgiving: in the Psalms, the Prophets, and the Pauline Epistles. For us, living in this continent, it ought o be easy to praise God for all His blessings and bounties. These four words, shading off into one another, show together how prayerful and thankful we ought to be and what intercessors God wants His people to be. May we obey God and pray.

 Let’s also consider the subjects of prayer as in our text. Strictly speaking, all these four words are stated in behalf o the government of that day. When we realize that the monstrous Nero sat on the throne, then this is a most remarkable fact to ponder. This proves that Christians ought to pray always for their government. How easy it ought to be for us to pray for the government we have. In the words “Kings” of our text, Nero is almost mentioned by name but it is pluralized to include every ruler and every President and the uncrowned Kings and Queens as well. As if this were not inclusive enough, the comprehensive statement “for all men” is given. It is sometimes asked in Christian circles whether it is right to pray for this or that certain dictator. How silly a question! Did not God emphatically say “for all men”? This does not exclude any man.

 Further, our prayer should rise “for all in authority.” To make it concrete, we are to pray for the mayors, the city commissioners, the governors, and above all, for the President of these United States—the Executive Head of this great Nation. We should remember in this connection that the King’s heart is in the hands of the Lord as rivers of water: “He turneth it whithersoever He will.” Therefore, let us pray that in these momentous days in which the two mightiest empire are at death grips, the affairs of our favored nation may be guided with wisdom and for the best of all the people and the welfare of the Church.

 The purpose of the prayers as exhorted in our text is “that may lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty.” The word “honesty” should be “gravity” meaning in this connection that the saints are not to be perturbed and unsettled by earthly commotions and revolutions. This word is used seven times in Paul’s Epistles. Our prayers and intercessions then are for our own good. A precious and deep lesson is implied in these words of quietness and depth. It is this: that the intercessions of the faithful for their God-given government to keep the land and the people in tranquility so that the Church can continue to grow numerically and in the inner strength of godliness and gravity.

 Here then we may well exclaim in parody of Shakespeare that more things happen on earth through the power of prayer than philosophers dream of. The wise Solomon said long ago that the ungodly set a city aflame. Here we see the exact counterpart that the believers living godly lives quench the flames of war, revolution, and the smoldering fires of discontent. The Pilgrims, Puritans, and other godly pioneers were nation builders and the godly of today are nation up-holders. The ungodly are nation destroyers. Ungodly Philosophers, who teach the young disrespect for Divinely-constituted authority, are more dangerous for the Nation than a bank robber.

 The remote and higher object of the prayers are stated in the word: “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior” (1 Tim. 2:3).

 If we are not motivated in our prayers by patriotic love for our land its people and government, nor for love for the temporal and spiritual welfare of the Church, then here is presented to us a third motive for our prayers for the State. God Himself takes interest in the State, and how could it be otherwise since He has instituted the State (Rom. 13:1-7). It is good, noble, beautiful and morally sublime in His sight when He sees His people taking hold of Him on behalf of the State. It is also highly acceptable. In this word, the rich hint is given that He gladly hears and answers these prayers on behalf of the government. Viewed from the acceptability of these prayers in God’s sight, it is a most regrettable and lamentable fact that the Christian Church at large has not been more faithful in this matter. Unbelief in the mysterious power of prayer and in regard to this particular assurance has played sad havoc with the intercessory life for the Church for the State and for the statesmen. Christians, awaken to your solemn calling in regard to this most important matter.

 The beautiful statement or title, “God our Savior” occurs five times in the Pastoral Epistles. God is our Savior and our Savior is God. Praise His Holy Name! If not, why not, accept Him just now by faith, ‘ere it be too late forever.