Is There Any Point in Praying for Non-Christian Rulers?

1 Timothy 2:1-4

Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.

[1 Timothy 2:2]

During my years praying pastoral prayers for government leaders, people have sometimes wondered why I pray for those who are not Christians. Not unreasonably, they think that Christians should seek God’s will, and therefore it makes sense to pray for Christian leaders. But what about when it comes to non-Christian or even non-religious folk? Is there any value to praying for them?

I would respond, first of all, by reminding us that Paul was instructing Timothy to pray for Nero, the emperor of Rome, who was not only not a Christian, but also one of the world’s most anti-Christian leaders. So, Paul’s teaching would surely lead us to pray for our leaders, no matter their religious beliefs (or lack thereof).

But there’s an even stronger point to be made here. The Bible teaches that God is sovereign over all nations, including those that fail to acknowledge him (see Rom. 13:1-5; 1 Pet. 2:13-17). God does not need national leaders to believe in him in order to be their ultimate ruler. Moreover, Scripture is clear that God can move in the hearts of political leaders and use them for his purposes, even when the leaders are not members of his covenant people. Consider, for example, the case of Cyrus, king of Persia (Ezra 1:1, Isa. 45:1-2, 13). God “stirred the heart of Cyrus” to serve God’s purposes in history. In fact, Isaiah identifies Cyrus as God’s “anointed one” (Isa. 45:1). Of Cyrus, the Lord says, “I will raise up Cyrus to fulfill my righteous purpose, and I will guide his actions” (Isa. 45:13).

Finally, Jesus instructs his followers: “But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” (Matt. 5:44). Surely, part of loving our enemies would include praying for them. So, we ought to pray for all government leaders, even if they reject God entirely, even if they are our earthly enemies.

Therefore, according to biblical directive and biblical example, there is a point in praying for non-Christian government leaders. In the mystery of God’s sovereignty, he takes our prayers into consideration as he executes his will. Moreover, as we pray for leaders of the nations, no matter their political or religious views, we are changed. We may discover greater ability to love them. And we will find greater confidence in the fact that God holds the whole world and all of human history in his strong, trustworthy hands

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