a gift to 2017, with love from psalm 72

It’s a wrestle to pray for world leaders at the moment isn’t it? You can feel the tension without even taking in the day’s headlines, or looking at your social media feed to see what latest month’s worth of news has happened in just 24 hours, and who is – often understandably – incensed by it…

Post Brexit and post ‘Trump’, there is a deluge of information, rhetoric and reaction and – among many – a sense of confusion, bewilderment and even hopelessness.

But this is not the first time leaders have done things that many of their people struggle with. And it is also is not the first time Jesus’ followers have found themselves at odds with those who exclude and exploit… or those who dehumanise the excluders and exploiters.

And so, not only is there always hope; there is also always practical help with how to pray too.

For us, as so often in times of struggle, some of the most pertinent help has come from the book of Psalms; a precious collection of raw-voiced responses to every imaginable context in which the people of God might want – or need- to fall on their knees and pray…

This time, the re-orientating rescue came when our cycle reached Psalm 72 a few days ago…

Take a few minutes to read it now.

It’s an interesting one – a prayer for the King to lead well and a blessing on him to live long as defender of the needy… blessing all nations through his righteousness.

The psalm is attributed to Solomon, but its last lines voice it as the final prayer of King David.

Commentators always enjoy debating this kind of thing, but most of them form the likely conclusion that Solomon crafted the song after a prayer David spoke, perhaps on his death bed, and the fact it makes references to both the King and the king’s son underlines this…

So why is a thousands of years old poem written to speak blessing on the kings of the historic kingdom of Israel a gift to us and our intercession in the troubled opening months of this year?

Because it brings us back to three important truths:

1. When we pray for leaders, it must be with respect for both the image of God they bear and the authority they have been given – yes, very uncomfortable sometimes, but given, even if the purpose of why is unclear. (See 1 Timothy 2:1-2 and Romans 13:1)

2. When our minds are confused, and our emotions are high and our hearts are genuinely broken at the rhetoric and actions being taken in the name of our nation, or our faith, it’s hard to pray for those responsible in love. Instead of remembering who our battle is against (see 2 Corinthians 10:1-5) we turn our prayers against those who oppose what we believe to be righteous.

But Psalm 72 brings us back to what the vision of a truly godly leader is… and leads us in the example of praying for the leader in question to step up and into a demonstration of these things, through a transformation of their heart.

Instead of leading us further into the swirl of reactionary speculation, judgement and fear which voicing our own prayers simply out of what we are thinking might well do, its first seven verses ground us in proactive, watchful, blessing prayer.

3. This psalm also has its own particular context in another specific, and flawed period of history, which helps us remember the liberating truth that no earthly leader is perfect or exemplary. And whilst we need some of the psalm’s words to help us pray for our earthly leaders, we can also use them all to pray for a speeding of God’s perfect kingship to be fully restored in the earth.

For there is only one king all other kings should bow down and – as the psalm says – it is the Lord God alone who does marvellous deeds worthy of our praise. It is in him we must trust; whether the leaders we follow gain our disapproval, or our devotion – perhaps especially when they gain our devotion…

Psalm 72 is a welcome gift as it is. It needs no modern re-writing or re-purposing to be applied, razor sharp, and loving-hearted, right into the midst of current political upheavals and crises.

So like we have, can we invite you to receive it as if for the first time today, and to try to read it as a worked example? We’re sure you’ll find it really helpful if you can remember its key first seven verses phrases and approaches to pray over our prime ministers, presidents, monarchs and chancellors… and at a local level too over our MPs, councillors and even church leaders… especially when your thoughts or emotions whirl and wrestle, and you can feel anger or judgement rising…

Why not start praying with it now?

Pray that [insert name] would be endowed with justice and judge the people with righteousness, ensuring particular attention and proactive justice for those who are afflicted or weak.

Ask God to use the resources of [insert nation, area or group] that he has given to all of the people under this leader’s jurisdiction to be released and well used in order to bring everyone stability and plenty.

Spend time praying for [insert name] to have a softened heart in order that those who suffer or are vulnerable – and especially the children of these individuals and groups within society – are cared for and safe.

And ask God to give [insert name] a revelation of who the true enemy is, when they are tempted to live out of fear rather than love, and to defend themselves from those who need as much defending as their people, rather than recognising the devil’s schemes to turn people against each other.

There is an oppressor to crush – the father of lies – so pray for [insert name] to see the truth and oppose all lies, fear and oppression.

This kind of leader – the one you have been praying for to emerge, and blessing the image of God in – this one, you will find you can pray for to have long-lasting authority…. because who doesn’t want a leader who is like rain falling on a mown field?

Timely, serving, safe, refreshing and life-bringing…

… a leader under which the righteous could, and would, truly flourish.

And remember, anything is possible with God. So turn your gaze back to Jesus as the psalm’s closing verses remind us to, and declare:

“Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel,
    who alone does marvelous deeds.
Praise be to his glorious name forever;
    may the whole earth be filled with his glory.
Amen and Amen.”

If you found this blog helpful, you might also want to take a look at this article and written prayer from last week – how does love take hostile ground? The prayer from that blog is also available with the prayer guide from this blog here, in a collection of written prayers: for challenging leaders, and us as we challenge them

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