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The Christian Suppliant

Last time in the October Current Comments your attention was called to the Christian voter. The important thing in October for the American public was the campaign for presidency, and the choice to be made in November with the ballot. At least that was the important thing before the public mind. It also is such for the Christian voter’s mind as he looks at his task as citizen.

When you read this issue of November the election is a thing of the past. It will have been determined for us who will be the next president of the United States.

Reflecting a bit upon the American scene and even that of the world I perceive a rise in demagoguery. A demagogue is defined as a speaker who seeks to make capital of special discontent and gain political influence. This is more evident with T.V. There is direct contact with the masses and everything is made of it to promise the masses their desires. Because of T.V. and radio there is a proportional rise in interest in government and in the realization of the power of the masses by the people themselves. I am reminded of Acts 12:3, 21-23, “And when he saw that it pleased the Jews, (that Herod had killed James, L. D.) he proceeded to seize Peter also.” “And upon a set day Herod arrayed himself in royal apparel, and sat on the throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people shouted, saying, The voice of God and not of man.” The world and our country is in need of good rulers. After election day and after the taking of office the Christian’s duty as suppliant for the rulers comes to mind. We read in article 36 of our Belgic Confession, that it is the Christian’s bounden duty with respect to those in authority “to supplicate for them in their prayers that God may guide them in all their ways, and that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” This is according to the charge of Paul to Timothy, “I exhort, therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, be made for all men; for kings and all that are in high place; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and gravity.”

The apostle is referring to public prayers of the church as is also evident from verse eight. It must be clearly understood, from the nature of prayer that such must be made with all sincerity, from the heart. The reference is never to formal, blind repetition without purpose. It also goes without saying that the apostle does not teach here something contradictory to his other teachings of God’s sovereign election. Nor does he teach that we should pray for salvation for all rulers without distinction. Verse 4, “who would have all men to be saved” does not mean all individuals. Weymouth translates more correctly in his New Testament, “who wishes all mankind to be saved.” The Belgic Confession correctly interprets the text as referring to the duty of the Church to pray for those in authority that God may guide them in all their ways. That follows from the text which says that supplication should be made that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life (quiet and peaceable, A. V.).

What is that purpose and motive of this public prayer? It does not imply that the Christian life must be an idyllic, pastoral life, a life, far removed from the maddening crowd. We are in this sinful and sin-cursed world and our calling is not to seek a false, selfish isolation for ourselves nor for America. We are called into war, into hospitals and death scenes, into a life of public corruption, a life among publicans and sinners, into an age of appalling responsibility and judgment. Our tranquil and quiet life is not outward therefore. It is not ordained for us and especially not for our youth and children. And we are not taught to seek such in itself. Such cannot be in harmony with godliness and gravity.

Our quietness and tranquility is within ourselves. In the storms and stress of life through prayer and such prayer as is here commanded, we have the peace which passeth all understanding.

How is this effected through our prayers? Surely we are thus submitting ourselves to rulers and acknowledge publicly that all their talents and powers are from God above. We show publicly that we are not Anabaptists or revolutionists, as the Belgic Confession point out. We also as Church of Christ on earth point the civil rulers to their calling to rule in justice and punish evil doers. (Romans 13).

Having prayed for righteousness in civic affairs through the rulers in godliness and gravity we shall have persecution, but we shall also have peace. We shall be persecuted even for well-doing, but shall count it an honor.

As the Church grows into its calling, the antithesis is revealed.