Applying 1 Timothy 2

ben carsonThis past week’s annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington featured a speech that is gaining some popularity and is showing up in followup comments and interviews in many media outlets. Dr. Ben Carson, Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, gave a speech that is not only being shared and posted by many on social media, but has some calling for him to run for president in 2016.

If you have heard or read the speech and got excited about it, it’s because you agree with his political solutions to America’s challenges. How do I know that? Because that’s all he talked about. At a prayer breakfast. No, I’m sorry THE Prayer Breakfast. The words that have ignited such enthusiasm in so many have left me wanting more. Much more.

Click on the link here and see for yourself. Dr. Carson is a well-known Christian who has a tremendous testimony. His comments in this speech were fine and even inspiring to those who agreed, but the venue was completely wrong, which is what’s wrong with what passes for prayer breakfasts these days.

He began with four Old Testament Bible verses which were never explained or revisited. I’m still not totally sure how they fit the speech. It would be refreshing if we could get speakers at prayer breakfasts to try to understand what God would want to say from His Word to the listeners rather than decide what must be said then make some lame attempt to find verses to bolster his views (which these didn’t), mention them briefly, then ignore them. 

The rest of the speech centered on the importance of education (with some autobiographical paragraphs from his impoverished childhood and the evils of sports being elevated over academics), the national deficit, the overburdened taxation system, and solutions to health care. Jesus is mentioned once – only as a model of the One who explained things in parables, which Dr. Carson then attempts to do, ineffectively.

God is only mentioned in the section on taxation as the One who established the principle of the tithe (in other words, a flat rate system.)

I love Ben Carson. I love his story and his bold faith. It’s great that he has so many platforms to share his views. I just can’t understand why, at a prayer breakfast, he would almost completely avoid talking about spiritual things. That’s my disappointment. That’s where it fell short for me or maybe I don’t understand what prayer breakfast speakers are supposed to do. If so, let’s quit calling them “prayer breakfasts”.

We’re excited to unveil the new Maryland prayer blog from Capitol Commission! You can see it here. The Free State Prayer Slate will be still be up through the end of 2012, but you can begin using the new site now.

Let me encourage you to sign up on this new blog to get a daily or weekly email reminder to pray for your leaders. What a great tool to follow the biblical command to lift up our nation and leaders to the Lord. Also, take advantage of the links for each leader to get more information or contact them to let them know you prayed. The links include their website and email as well as ways to connect by Facebook and Twitter.

Marylanders, we have no excuse not to pray as 1 Timothy 2:1-4 tells us. Sign up today for the email reminders!

My colleague, Ron Bigalke, with Capitol Commission Georgia, offers this prayer on this election day. Thanks, Ron, for pointing us to the cross on this important day.

“Lord God, thank you for your grace—received through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ—which allows Your people to call upon You in prayer.

Lord God, I have prayed for my own discernment as to Your will and purpose, and I also pray that You would grant discernment to the unbelieving community. I pray that what is right would be so evident that even unbelievers would vote using wisdom and would demand honesty and uprightness from their elected officials.

Lord, in the name of Jesus, may the citizens of our nation become so weary of sin and degradation among our leaders that they will seek godly leaders to represent them on every level of government. Give such leaders favor with the public and the media.

Help your people to recognize that as we work upon immortal minds and fill them with the wisdom of Your Word—with the just reverence for You and the love of our fellow citizens—that we labor for that which is eternal.

Lord God, help us not to regard Your providence in our nation with a careless attitude. We appreciate not only the right but also the privilege to vote. I pray that I, in addition to others, will use that privilege wisely by seeking Your will in considering the qualifications of those for whom we vote. I pray for the body of Christ that all would understand the right to vote as a gift from You and to avail themselves of every opportunity. May there arise such an expression of righteousness in our electoral system that it would affect every realm and level of government in our nation.

For those elected officials who lead in their communities and lead our states and nation, may you surround them with wise counsel: men and women of integrity who seek Your will and the good of this nation beyond their own, and whose motives are for that which you deem right.

I pray that You would grant saving faith in Jesus to our incumbents and candidates, and for those who do believe and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord God and Savior, that you would grant them Christlikeness, discernment, honor, integrity, knowledge, and understanding so that our nation may know stability internally and abroad.

I give thanks to You for those who desire to serve. Lord God, I praise You alone as sovereign because You alone rule over all, and You alone are able to defend and keep us. I praise You that these times are under Your sovereign control, and that the king’s heart is like channels of water in Your hands (Prov 21:1). I give thanks for our current leaders and our new officials, in accordance with Your Word (since all those in authority are established by You to serve Your will and purpose).

I pray that You would bless the evangelistic and discipleship ministry to our Capitol communities, as your church seeks to reach them by Your grace and for Your glory. I thank You for blessing that ministry and thereby working in and through our leaders, so that we may have peaceable lives in godliness and honesty.”

Recently, Paul Meinsen, my Capitol Commission colleague in Missouri, had a strange experience. It is recounted in this article.

If you had been Paul, would you have had an answer? How pathetic that a professing follower of Jesus would have such an attitude, but it is possible that you or I might come across something similar, especially with the current political turmoil and upcoming elections. We should be ready with an answer. What would you say?

Yesterday, I was scheduled to pray to open up the Quad State Legislative Conference. This is a group of legislators from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia who gather each year to discuss issues that affect our region, especially the Interstate 81 corridor which connects all four states. The meeting was held in Martinsburg, West Virginia, about a 25-minute drive from my house.

I had thought through what I might pray for when I got there. I usually thank the Lord for public servants who serve as ministers for the good of the people, pray for them personally including their families, pray for their spiritual lives and ask for godly wisdom as they make decisions for their constituents. I left the house at the time I had planned. Everything was right on schedule until I hit Tuscarora Pike, which was closed.

Now you have to understand where I live. There is a mountain between my house and Martinsburg, so when you encounter a closed road, your options are limited. I was halfway up the mountain when I saw the sign, so after backtracking, finding another way and getting behind a rather slow driver, I lost 40 minutes.

I was going to call a legislator on his cell phone to let him know I was running behind, but for the only time I can remember, my phone just had a black screen. It was fine earlier that morning and was fine when I finally got to the meeting, but was dead when I needed to call someone before the meeting started.

Then I went to the wrong floor of the hotel and couldn’t find the meeting room for a few minutes. When I did arrive, the welcome was being delivered and I wasn’t called on to pray. I had to leave after about an hour. Like I said, it was a bad day.

I asked the Lord “why” a lot yesterday. Why the delays? Why the frustration? Why the opposition? Why was Satan so intent on making me late? After all, it was just a prayer.

It was just a prayer.

As soon as I thought it, I was ashamed. Did that sentence really show what I think about prayer? I call people to pray for their leaders constantly. Deep down, do I really consider prayer something so small that it’s unworthy of satanic opposition?   

Oswald Chambers said, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.”

So there’s the confession of my fleshly thought and the rebuke I gratefully received. May we not handle prayer as an insignificant thing.

And please keep praying for your leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

Today, the first Thursday in May, is the National Day of Prayer.  Thousands will gather for public prayer events and even more will remember to speak private words to God asking for help for our nation. It’s a day that true followers of Christ should rejoice in (regardless of who else chooses to join in or promote it). It’s an acknowledgement, at the very least, that we depend in some measure on God for direction, provision, mercy and safety. It brings some questions to mind, though:

Will God hear every prayer lifted up today?

If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. (Psalm 66:18)

Will every prayer come from the right motivation?

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:3)

What should our ultimate motivation be as we pray for America?

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations,  I will be exalted in the earth! (Psalm 46:10)

What can we pray that our nation would sense and realize?

Put them in fear, O LORD! Let the nations know that they are but men!  (Psalm 9:20)

For what task should believers ask to be empowered in today?

Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! (Psalm 96:3)

As we pray, what relationship should we seek with America?

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  (1 Timothy 2:1, 2)

As we pray for “kings and all who are in high positions”, what should take priority?

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (1 Timothy 2:3, 4)

God bless you on this special day in our country, however you choose to participate.  These are just a handful of Scriptures that may guide how we pray today, but there are hundreds more. You may want to have an open Bible in your lap to look for more direction from God to pray with His words for America.

Also, as you pray for leaders, this list will point your mind toward biblical thoughts.  It’s from Frank Erb, my Capitol Commission colleague in California.

May God bless our nation, one heart at a time turning to Him.

In USA Today, you can find out if you live in a peaceful state. The Institute for Economics and Peace has ranked all 50 U.S. states according to “homicide rates, violent crimes, percentage of the population in jail, number of police officers and availability of small arms”. See where your state shows up in the report here.

As interesting as the rankings are, the Institute’s definition of peace caught my eye. For them, and most people in the world, the definition of peace is “the absence of violence”. That definition may work fine for a study in geographic social trends, but is a sad substitute for people’s everyday lives. You don’t have to have bullets flying around you to lack peace.

Finances, health problems, unruly children, broken dreams, job losses, divorce, depression, car issues – these and and a multitude of others take peace away every day. As a matter of fact, each of the problems just listed were mentioned to me in one day of visits with Maryland General Assembly members and staffers. Some were dealing with the situations just fine. Others were a mess. And none of the issues depended on the number of police officers nearby. Peace is not merely the absence of violence – it is the presence of Jesus Christ.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  John 14:27

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.  John 16:33

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus ChristRomans 5:1

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.  Colossians 1:19, 20

As you pray for your leaders, pray that they will find true peace, not by the world’s philosophy, but through the one and only Prince of Peace.

Wednesday, January 12, is the start date for the 2011 Maryland General Assembly session.  After last November’s election, 30 freshman legislators were voted into office and have been busy with meetings and orientation.  To pray effectively for all of the leaders of Maryland, you can access the updated Prayer Calendar here.  Many important decisions will be made over the next 90 days, so be in prayer for the session.  Also pray for the weekly Bible studies that Capitol Commission will host for legislators (Thursdays at 8:00 a.m.) and aides (Mondays at 11:30 a.m.).  I look forward to sharing God’s Word and leading our discussions on how to apply these truths to life in the capitol!

John Sartelle has some excellent thoughts on prayer over at the Ligonier Ministries website.  In his article “Prayers Well Aimed”, he applies the principles of 1 Timothy 2:1-4 to all prayer, but narrows the focus on prayer for those in leadership.  It’s a good reminder and challenge for anyone who wants to grow in their prayer life.  I highly recommend it.  The full article can be found here.

Bill Husfelt, Superintendent of Bay City Schools in Florida

Amazing video is being played on newscasts around our nation today from a violent school board meeting last night in Panama City, Florida.  A man named Clay Duke entered the meeting with a gun and, after allowing some in the room to leave, opened fire with the pistol.  See more details and video here.  In the end, no one was killed or injured except the shooter, who apparently took his own life.

Some of us pray for leaders in our society, but after seeing scenes like the shooting last night can we not sense the danger that public figures may face?  Should that not produce more urgency in our prayers?  Does safety even enter our minds when we pray for leaders?

Let’s learn from incidents like this.  Disturbed, self-destructive people who have been hurt are bent on hurting others and sometimes they go after elected officials and others in authority.  Since our governmental leaders are called “ministers of God” to us for our good (Romans 13:4), we should include them in our prayers and because of the reality of violence in our world, their safety should be included in those prayers.

Bill Husfelt, the superintendent of Bay City Schools, gave God the credit that no one on the board was injured or killed.  He said, “God was standing in front of me and I will go to my grave believing that.”  Do you believe God intervenes in man’s affairs and spares people from harm?  There’s no way to watch the video of this shooting and refuse to see God’s protecting hand over those desks.

Pray for the safety of your leaders.

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