I attended a local city council meeting for the first time in July. Our city council was considering a controversial decision, and I sat for hours as concerned citizens on both sides of the issue voiced their opinions. During the meeting, some of my fellow citizens raised their voices. Others talked about those they disagreed with as if they were ignorant (or worse) or horribly inconsiderate (or worse).
Then a pastor stepped up to the microphone. He wasn’t the first (or last) pastor to speak that day, but he was the first to tell city council members that he prayed for them regularly. “Your names are listed on our prayer list every week,” he told them. After he shared his thoughts, he started to return to his seat. A councilmember called him back to the microphone. “I just wanted to say thank you for saying that you pray for us. That means a lot to me,” she said. “I will remember that.”
I think we all know we should pray for our leaders — kind of like we should pray for unreached people groups and the missionaries our church sends out. But how often do we actually do the praying we know we should do? Since that city council meeting, I’ve thought about three different groups of leaders we should all be praying for.
This is who I think of first when I think about praying for our leaders. The president, vice president, secretary of state, senate majority leader, speaker of the house — all of these national names and faces jump into my mind when I think about our leaders.
And no wonder. No matter who fills these roles, the offices carry a huge amount of power. Their decisions affect a lot of people and can have long-lasting ramifications. The stakes are higher at the national level. There’s usually more drama, too, but that’s not the point of this post.
King Solomon was arguably one of the most powerful kings in history. But he seemed to realize that the power wasn’t ever really his. “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord,” Solomon wrote. “He turns it wherever he will.”
Presidents and high-ranking senators and representatives and cabinet members make lots of big decisions. But they don’t have as much power as they might think they do. God can overrule them from the inside out, guiding their decisions like the banks of a river guide its water.
National leaders are important — no doubt. But it’s easy to overlook our local leaders, like the members of my city council in that meeting. Board members of some state and local boards of education are in the news right now, but even in smaller areas, other school boards are making decisions about the same issues without the fanfare of national television cameras. There are public library leaders deciding which new children’s books to encourage children to read, financial leaders keeping an eye on local banks and budgets, and emergency services leaders making literal life-and-death decisions.
Until that meeting I attended, I’m not sure I could have told you the name of my city’s mayor. I still don’t know who is on the local board of education or who leads the local political parties. These are people who make regular decisions that impact everyone in my community, which is a huge portion of all the people I know and pray for regularly. Why not pray for these leaders, too?
Next month is Clergy Appreciation Month. After the crazy last couple of years, our pastors and other church leaders deserve appreciation for sure. Again, I’d have to admit that I haven’t prayed for my pastor these last few months — or ever — like I should have. That’s a good place to start.
But beyond our local church leaders, we have national church leaders and even international, when you think about leaders of missions agencies or other similar organizations. How often do we pray for the heads of internationally-known relief agencies or the missions organizations that send out the missionaries our church supports?
Streams to the ocean
There’s a local science museum here that has a lot of hands-on activities for kids. There’s a water table with a constantly-flowing stream of water and dozens of plastic rectangles that can be inserted into little stands that are dotted across the table like a grid. When you insert a rectangle, it diverts the water. If you use strategy, you can wall up the water in some areas and create a current that guides these little floaty things all the way to the end. Of course, it is a museum for kids, so more often than not it’s a bit disorganized. But if someone knows what they are doing, it is incredibly easy to guide that water.
Again, I’m reminded of Proverbs 21:1. Our leaders make decisions that impact many people, and their decisions are undoubtedly important. But our leaders aren’t as powerful as they — or we — might think. Our God is guiding our leaders as easily as if they were a stream of water, even in our small, local communities. Each of our local streams follow His plan as He continues to unfold it.
I didn’t expect to learn about prayer when I walked into that city council meeting, but I did. And now it’s time to start praying.