By Bill Webb
The last few days around Jefferson City have been marked by prayer. As new Gov. Matt Blunt and the state legislature geared up for inauguration, at least three prayer meetings were held -- one sponsored by Missouri Baptist Convention last week, the annual Governor's Prayer Breakfast and a prayer meeting at First Baptist Church of Jefferson City preceding inauguation ceremonies the past Monday.
There is no question but that prayer is the most important support the citizenry can give its elected leaders. The Scriptures remind us to pray for those in authority over us in government. We don't have the luxury of picking and choosing. The Bible indicates we must pray for the finest and we must pray for the sorriest. Both need it, especially the sorriest.
Some politicians have given public service a bad rap, just like some teachers give education a bad rap and some ministers give the ministry a bad rap. That said, public service is a noble profession. Honest public servants don't get rich, but they find satisfaction in working for the common good. They should be respected.
The cynic will wonder whether praying for those in political life will do any good. That will depend in part upon the public servant and in part on what we pray.
We humans are given to what some might call "party prayer." That kind of prayer calls upon God to force a legislature to vote exactly as I want him or her to vote on every legislative issue. That sometimes is a little bit like praying that God will turn a Democrat into a Republican (if I'm a Republican) or to turn a Republican into a Democrat (if I happen to be a Democrat).
Many of us have this notion that God must share my political disposition. Or we guess that if he returned to earth, he most decidedly would choose the same political affiliation as me. I suspect God doesn't want to be made into anyone's else's image.
How then do we pray for public servants, particularly those charged with enacting legislation for the good of their constituents?
Here are a few suggestions:
-- Pray for leaders, not against them. We hedge on God's admonition to pray for those in authority. We interpret the admonition to mean we can pray for them to lose the next election or to get what is coming to them. But a prayer "for" is a prayer of blessing, the same kind we are ordered to pray for our enemies. Don't cheat on the prayer requirement.
-- Pray that leaders will gain wisdom. Admittedly, some may not seem to have very much. But the truth is that every one needs more wisdom than he has already. Legislative matters are often very complex. Wisdom is not a luxury but a necessity if one is too serve well.
-- Pray for strength. Few positions are as loaded with stress as elected public office. The weight of responsibility and service are heavier than we on the outside know. Scrutiny of political leaders is intense - intense enough to prompt some of the best people to back away from public service.
-- Pray for honesty. Some political leaders become intoxicated with power. Others find improper influence for their vote to become addicting. Some lose their ideals, and others simply sacrifice their own integrity and the integrity of their office. But the vast majority want to maintain their scruples and do what is right. Pray that they will.
-- Pray that leaders will seek out people who will help them live up to the highest ideals of their office. God has a way of providing supporters and helpers to us all. Some legislators discovered God for the first time because of the effective witness of a Christian in public office.
-- Pray that those who claim to follow Christ will live up to their calling. Nothing is quite so disconcerting as an avowed Christian leader who lacks civility and respect toward fellow public servants. Nothing is quite so winsome as one who reflects God's claim upon his or her life.