This article was originally published in Edition (7) of Prayer Magazine,  Jul-Sep 2006.

WHY SHOULD WE PRAY FOR GOVERNMENT?

Over the span of my life I have been to many churches as I have moved between England and Wales. For my first ten years I went with my parents to our local Anglican Church. Most weeks it seemed to me the Vicar would say a prayer that went something like this. ‘We pray for Elizabeth our Queen, for her Prime Minister and Cabinet. Grant them, O Lord, wisdom that we might be wisely and quietly governed’.   

1I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth’. 1 Tim 2. 1-4.

The force of 1 Tim 2.1-4 was brought home to me with special clarity when, one July morning, as I was about to set off on a long car journey, my father gave me a teaching tape on ‘prayer for government’ by Derek Prince which focused on both the 1 Timothy passage and 1 John 5.[1] As I drove through the New Forest in the bright early morning summer sunshine I remember being particularly struck on a number of counts.

  1. Praying for government is not optional. It is a command. Pray ‘for Kings and all those in authority’!

 

  1. To be told that praying for a particular subject is according to God’s will is unusual. There are very few subject areas that God highlights explicitly, telling us that it is his will that we should make them the specific subject of prayer.

 

  1. God makes it clear that if we pray according to his will, he will hear our prayers and if he hears our prayers he will answer them. ‘Now this is the confidence we have in him, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that he hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked him’ (1 John 5.15). What proportion of the prayers that you prayer can you be confident are according to God’s will? Well we know that it is according to God’s will for us to pray for government because it is one of the few things that he explicitly tells us to pray about.

 

Now, to be sure, I would not want to overdo this point. Paul tells us to pray about all areas of concern (Phil 4.6), expecting great things of God, miracles etc (James 5.15). Nonetheless, however, it will be very useful for us to consider our lack of prayer for government in the context of the fact that: a) most unusually we are explicitly instructed to pray for government and b) we know that because this is ‘according to God’s will’ he will answer these prayers.

 

A SPECIALIST MINISTRY?

In recent years, as evangelical Christians have become more aware of the erosion of the Judeo-Christian heritage in our legal system, they have demonstrated an increasing interest in prayer for government. In this context we have seen concerned Christians, encouraged by key para-church bodies, setting up special prayer meetings to pray for government. This is very beneficial and should be encouraged but lest anyone should get the impression that praying for government is a ‘specialist ministry’ that can simply be ‘contracted-out’ to an expert group of Christians, we must remind ourselves that prayer for ‘all those in authority’ is something that is required of all of us. Whilst one can take account of the need for ministry specialisation, which will result in some praying particularly for government, one can no more release any Christian from the responsibility of praying for government, on the basis that this is ‘not their calling’, than one can release any Christian from the responsibility of needing to always ‘be ready to give an account of the hope that they have (1 Peter 3.15)’, on the basis of their not being an evangelist. On a congregational level - and Derek Prince argued that this should be our prime focus given that 1 Timothy is basically about the provision of guidance for local churches - it is time for those parts of evangelical Christendom that have ceased to pray regularly for government to emulate the Anglican’s fine example. On an individual level it is time for all of us - myself included! - to remember to make space in our own prayer times for ‘all those who are in authority’.

HOW SHOULD WE PRAY FOR GOVERNMENT? INTELLIGENT PRAYER

It is of course not enough to know that we should pray for government. If we are to be like the sons of Issachar who understood the signs of the time (1 Chron 12.32) then we should be able to pray intelligently. This requires at least two provisions. First we need to understand something of the mechanics of government and second we need put in place procedures to ensure that we are kept up to date with current developments in government.

a) UNDERSTANDING THE MECHANICS OF PARLIAMENT

In focusing on the need to pray for the law-making process with understanding, we need to address the fact that some political situations can be difficult to appreciate without background knowledge. You will often hear requests such as, ‘Please pray for ‘such and such’ a bill which has passed its Second Reading in the Commons and is now in Committee’.  What exactly does that mean? The law making process goes something like this:

Government will usually begin by publishing its ideas for future legislation in the form of a Green Paper or consultation document to which responses from the general public are welcome. If it decides to pursue its proposals a White Paper will then be published, defining the definite direction of government policy, followed by draft legislation called a bill. (It will not be called an Act of Parliament unless or until it has passed successfully through Parliament). Sometimes the government will publish the bill and put it out to consultation before it is actually introduced to Parliament. This provides members of the public with a welcome opportunity to let the government know what it thinks about the draft law.

Having moved through these preparatory stages, the bill will then enter Parliament. The British Parliament has two houses, the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Draft legislation must pass through both houses. Given that the basic law-making power is associated with the democratically elected House of Commons, bills usually start in the Commons and are then sent to the unelected House of Lords which carries out an ‘amending’ function. (Because of its lack of democratic credentials, the convention is that the Lords should not amend finance bills). If the Lords believe that some form of amendment is necessary the legislation will then be sent back to the Commons which will decide whether or not it wishes to embrace the amendment. If the Lords is not satisfied by the Common’s response, it can then block the bill for twelve months. Let’s look at the exact phases through which legislative proposals must travel in order to eventually become law.

THE FIRST READING

This is when a bill is formerly presented to the House for the first time. It is a formality and there is no debate.

THE SECOND READING

This is the first major opportunity to debate the substantive principles of the bill. Amendments can be suggested in the Lords.

THE COMMITTEE STAGE

This is the stage at which a bill is subjected to a careful clause by clause investigation. In the Commons this normally takes place in a specially convened standing committee made up of a representative grouping of MPs who meet in a committee room and not in the Common’s Chamber. Sometimes, however, this detailed scrutiny can take place on the floor of the House when Members sit as ‘a committee of the House’. In the Lords there are no standing committees and the Committee Stage takes place in a variety of places including the Lords Chamber and the Moses Room. The Committee Stage is particularly significant for the Commons as it presents one of the main opportunities to table amendments.

THE REPORT STAGE

This is when the committee ‘reports back’ to the whole House having conducted its clause by clause assessment of the bill. Constituting a major opportunity for debate, this is the last time at which the Commons, but not the Lords, can introduce amendments. The Report Stage does not usually take place in the Commons when the Committee Stage was held on the floor of the House.

THE THIRD READING

In the Commons the Third Reading usually follows immediately after the Report Stage and is a formality. No further amendments may be tabled. In the Lords, however, the opportunity to table amendments still exists.

ROYAL ASSENT

If the bill passes successfully through both houses it will then go for Royal Assent from the Queen and thus become an Act of Parliament.

AN EXAMPLE

Let’s root this process in the practical example provided by the bill which was a major focus of Christian attention during 2005-6, the Incitement to Religious and Racial Hatred Bill. Initially sent to the Commons, the bill went through its First, Second, Committee, Report and Third Reading stages during which Christians were encouraged by key lobby groups (see below) to both pray and contact their MPs to express concern about the proposed legislation. The bill travelled successfully though the Commons without amendment. It was then introduced in the Lords where it received a much rougher ride. Significant amendments were introduced to the bill and thus, once it had completed its journey through the upper house, it was then returned to the Commons. Happily the Commons voted, by the smallest of majorities, to endorse the central amendment. The bill then went on for Royal Assent and became an Act of Parliament. The success of the bid for amendment was a great answer to prayer and arguably the most dramatic breakthrough to have been experienced since Christians, in recent times, have become particularly concerned about the loss of Judeo-Christian values in the legal system.

CONCLUSION

Thus, when you hear of a bill travelling through Parliament which is a matter of concern you must first establish where it is in the parliamentary process. If things are going badly and the bill is reaching its final stages in one chamber, having already been through the other chamber, you know that things are serious because there is very little time left for changes to be introduced. If the bill is only part way through one chamber and has not yet entered the other, however, you know that there is more time to pray for changes to be introduced. (If the bill is one you support then the reverse considerations will apply, unless of course amendments seek to make the legislation even better!).

VISIT THE PALACE OF WESTMINSTER WEB SITE

If you want to see: when Parliament is sitting, what it is debating, past debates and the latest news from the Palace of Westminster then visit:

www.parliament.uk

In the next edition of Prayer Magazine we will continue to look at the processes of Government and will encourage you to join with Members of Parliament as prayer is made at 2.30pm before each afternoon session in the Commons and the House of Lords.

PRAYING FOR WESTMINSTER

In his book The Political Animal, Jeremy Paxman is struck by the persistence of faith in Westminster, stating:

“Although the business of politics is an intensely earthly trade, it is noticeable that religious belief seems to be much higher among members of the House of Commons than in the country at large.” (2002: 42)

Given the effects of secularism during the last century, many will be surprised by this observation. Yet, politics is about conviction and in the absence of clear ideological frameworks and in the context of secularism failing to deliver on its promises, Christians are once again stepping back into the ring – and they need prayer.

In the Palace of Westminster, Christians in Parliament (CiP) is an official, all-party organisation for believers from across the Lords and the Commons. Inclusive of MP’, Peers, policy staff and house staff, CiP provides a point of communication for the activities of the whole Christian community, including the National Prayer Breakfast. As the Executive Administrator for CiP, I’m responsible for co-ordinating our annual Week of Prayer which this year will run 13 – 20 June. The week is run in partnership with the Whitehall Wide Network of Christian Fellowships, and crucially receives wonderful support for 24-7 Prayer. Each year a large number of prayer gatherings (large and small) take place across the Parliamentary estate and Whitehall departments. Other activities include; daily prayer-walking, evening prayer and worship events in local churches, churches nationwide and globally praying through-the-night and lots more! The themes below represent what we feel are the most urgent priorities for prayer at this time. More information about the Week of Prayer, and about an initiative to link Christian prayer groups with MPs at a constituency level can be found at: www.christiansinparliament.org.uk

Apart from the huge encouragement that politicians take from knowing that people are praying for them (as opposed to praying against them), within Parliament it is clear that prayer is having a tremendous effect and God is indeed on the move.

THEMES …

  1. PARLIAMENT
    • Thank God for freedom to pray, worship and fellowship together
    • Pray for God’s continued blessing upon the Christian community within parliament; the MPs, Peers, Policy Staff, House Staff
    • Pray for peace and purpose that comes from a clear identity in Christ
    • Pray that God’s people continue to grow in numbers, being led by the Spirit and in being rooted in the Bible. To hear and obey, and for confidence to speak truth with grace

 

  1. POLITICS
  • Pray for effective Christian presence and influence in political debate
  • Pray for the wise, bold and prophetic proclamation of God’s truth in the public square. For the proposing of dynamic, appealing alternative ways of governing
  • As secularism continues to collapse, pray for the pulling down of strongholds and ideas that militate against God and his people
  • The political parties – that they will all be infused with Christians and biblical inspiration – to make goodness fashionable again

 

  1. GOVERNMENT
  • Pray for wisdom for the Prime Minister and the Cabinet
  • Pray for integrity and truth in the administration of the departments of state
  • Pray for God’s people throughout Whitehall

 

  1. CHURCH
  • Pray for unity of purpose and harmony of voice for national renewal
  • Pray for greater Christian engagement in local and national politics
  • Pray for church to see politics as an important mission field, and for young people to be envisioned and motivated to get involved

 

"… if my people who are called by my name,

will humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face,

and turn from their wicked ways,

then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin

and heal their land."

                                                                                                2 Chron 7: 14

 

PRAYER FOR THE NORTHERN IRELAND ASSEMBLY

‘The Northern Ireland Assembly was recalled for business on Monday May 15 2006. The past three and a half years when devolved government was suspended has certainly been an interesting time with a series of events including elections, bank robberies, murders, spy rings and allegations of collusion which even the most imaginative soap writer could not have predicted.

This recall of the Assembly is a serious attempt by the governments in London and Dublin to kickstart devolved politics in Northern Ireland. The summer also brings with it what is termed locally the ‘marching season’. In some areas this can be a time when the strength of local division is heightened and emotions run high – sometimes leading to sporadic violence. However, this year so far parades have passed off relatively peacefully which is an encouraging sign.

As Christians how should we pray over the next weeks and months?

Praise

We praise God that in the midst of uncertainty He is the rock on which we can rely.

Thanks

For a peaceful start to the ‘marching season’.

Petition for:

All 108 Assembly members as they seek to do business together – that discussion & debate would be constructive and that decisions would be made which benefit the whole community.  

The leaders of the political parties – David Ford, Alliance Party; Rev Ian Paisley, DUP; Mark Durkan, SDLP; Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein; Sir Reg Empey, UUP – as they seek to lead their communities and their parties.

Eileen Bell, the newly elected Presiding Officer that she would have wisdom as she makes decisions and steers a course for the day to day business of the Assembly.

The Parades Commission, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and other groups as decisions are made about parading this summer.’

Karen Jardine Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland Parliamentary Officer

http://www.eauk.org/northern-ireland/public-affairs/

A Christian view from within the Scottish Parliament

In the summer of 1999, the Scottish Parliament was re-convened for the first time since 1707. Despite an overwhelming vote in favour of devolution in a referendum in 1997, the Parliament has struggled to win the affection of the public during the first seven years, not least because of the phenomenal delay and cost over-run that afflicted the Parliament building.

Holyrood (as the Parliament is known) differs from Westminster in a number of ways. Most obviously, there is no second chamber. Instead, a collection of very powerful (and it has to be said effective) committees of MSPs are responsible for scrutinising legislation. Another key difference is the proportional electoral system which results in coalition government (currently a partnership of Labour and Liberal Democrats) as well as seats for several small parties.

In terms of spiritual influence within Holyrood, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the Parliament is anything other than an aggressively secular institution, reflecting in part the decline of adherence to biblical Christianity in Scotland as a whole over the past half century. Unlike at Westminster, the Parliament has no chaplain and no formal prayers. There is a weekly ‘time for reflection’ to open business each Wednesday, although this is routinely shared with people of other faiths.

On a more positive note, there are a number of Christian MSPs and staff members who try to meet together in the Parliament’s little used ‘Room for Contemplation’ (there is no actual chapel) for a time of praying and sharing each Wednesday. There is also an extremely active group of Christians from outside the Parliament – known as Parliamentary Prayer Scotland - who meet together for several hours a week in a nearby hall to engage in specific prayer for politicians, staff and legislative programme. This group have a strong relationship with many of the MSPs, as do the representatives from the churches, including the Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office, Evangelical Alliance Scotland, CARE and the Christian Institute.

Please Pray for:

  • Scotland’s First Minister and Cabinet – that God would grant them wisdom in their deliberations.
  • MSPs – particularly those who profess faith – that God would guide them in their work and use them to glorify his name within the Parliament.
  • The staff/MSP fellowship group – thank God for this group and pray more Christians within the Parliament would feel able to commit to attending on a regular basis.
  • The many Christians across Scotland with an active interest in the life of the Parliament – thank God for their prayers and support.

By Michael Veitch – Party Researcher and member of the Parliament Fellowship Group

PRAYING FOR GOVERNMENT IN REPUBLIC OF IRELAND

In considering the government of the Irish republic one is immediately struck by how, in many ways, its structure closely parallels that of the UK. The National Parliament (Oireachtas) consists of the President and two Houses: Dáil Éireann (House of Representatives) and Seanad Éireann (the Senate). The Dáil Éireann is a democratically elected house of 166 Members, ‘TDs’, and, as such, constitutes the most influential chamber, paralleling in many ways the UK House of Commons. The Seanad Éireann, meanwhile, has 60 members, ‘Senators’, and is indirectly elected by a variety of mechanisms including vocational committees and the choice of the Prime Minister, the Taoiseach. Given its weaker democratic credentials the Seanad Éireann, like the Lords, carries out a more limited amending function which does not extend to money or constitutional bills.

The actual law making process again has many parallels to that of the UK. Draft laws are called bills and these must pass through both houses into order to become law. There are five separate legislative phases in each house:

To find out more about the government of Ireland visit:

The National Parliament web site:      www.oireachtas.ie

The Irish State web site:         www.irlgov.ie

Whilst Ireland does not have anything like the same number of Christian lobby organizations as seen in the UK - from where one can gather information about current prayer priorities for government - it is important to be aware of the newly formed Evangelical Alliance Ireland. It defines amongst its objectives ‘engaging with society’ and specifically mentions politics in this context.

www.evangelical.ie

Readers should also note that, as a UK and Ireland body, Prayer in Action intends to carry an increasing amount of information about the prayer needs of Eire, via the Prayer Force Email Service and the Prayer in Action web site, in the coming months and years.

Karen Jardine Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland Parliamentary Officer

PRAYING FOR THE WELSH ASSEMBLY

The National Assembly for Wales has sixty Assembly Members working with a brief that has, since its creation in 1999, been slowly expanding and which, in light of the government's response to the Richard Commission, is now set to further expand as a result of the new Government of Wales Bill. This draft legislation was introduced to the Commons on Saint David's Day this year, the same day that Her Majesty the Queen opened the Assembly's celebrated new building.

One hundred and one years on from its last revival the government of Wales needs prayer! A few specifics include the election of God fearing politicians in the forthcoming May 2007 election, favour for the Church that it would increasingly be looked to by government to play a prophetic 'joseph role' and that, as part of this, the relationship between the Welsh Assembly Government and the Christian Voluntary Sector would be particularly blessed. For more information visit: www.gweini.org.uk and www.eauk.org/wales/nalo

Prayer on the Isle of Man

MANX PrayerNET is the main prayer network on the Isle of Man and has a great website covering most of the life of the Island including It’s Government, which stands in it’s own right.

For more information and current prayer needs please visit http://www.prayernet.org.im

  

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