Prayer—Politics by Other Means

The recent election and more particularly the reactions to it in on my Facebook news feed, caused me to reflect on a book title I read in college—Politics by Other Means. The book was assigned for a government class called Comparative Models of Democracy. To the chagrin of my former professor, I retain only incomplete and elusive memories of this book. What really stuck with me was the intriguing and suggestive title.

Partly, it suggests that things don’t always remain the same, that there are other, more creative or more effective options, that you don’t have to play by the established rules.

After the election results became apparent, many fled to the social media soapbox to voice their grievances. What followed, in a sense, is a testimony to true democracy. There were no raids by secret polices, no seizures of property, and no arrests. And yet, despite the robustness of American democracy, as a Christian I felt an acute sense of lack.

I can understand why Republicans are disappointed and why some Christians are apprehensive. But this is precisely where the power of this suggestive book title gains steam. Politics by other means.

Rebel? Reform? Resign?

For a long time American politics and society has more or less “enjoyed” (I’m sure not everyone has been enjoying it) strong Christian underpinnings. Are these eroding of late? Should Christians mourn? Hibernate? Demonstrate? Emigrate? As Hans Küng stated the trilemma in a different context, “Rebel? Reform? Resign?”

One thing is becoming obvious, as Charles Colson once remarked, “The kingdom of God will not arrive on Air Force One.”

This is true no matter who the ruling party is, Democrat or Republican. And for Christians maybe it’s a needed wake-up call that we can’t rely on a political party to do what we ought to be doing. The Sermon on the Mount is the Christian standard, and it is aimed at areas of life, the interior, which cannot be legislated. In the end, we need to be ok with the “stone cut out without hands” (Dan. 2:34) crushing all of human government, including American democracy.

Kingdom of God?

Both political theology, liberation theology, and moral theology all leave something to be desired. And throughout history, many “premature identifications” of the kingdom of God have been made.

In On Being a Christian (p. 244), Hans Küng identifies some of these historical misnomers:

  • The solidly institutionalized Church of medieval and Counter-Reformation Catholicism
  • Calvin’s Genevan theocracy
  • The apocalyptic kingdom of revolutionary, apocalyptic fanatics like Thomas Münzer
  • The kingdom of God of theological idealism and liberalism as an existing order of wholesome morality and consummate bourgeois culture
  • The thousand-year political Reich, based on ideologies of nation and race, as propagated by National Socialism
  • The classless realm of the new man which Communism has hitherto striven to realize

Jesus made clear that the kingdom of God does not come with observation (Luke 17:20). Which may have been a disappointment to some of his contemporaries. At least one of his disciples, Simon the Zealot, was a revolutionary. The Zealots wanted the radical, immediate, and violent overthrowing of the Roman occupying forces.

But for Jesus neither legislation nor revolution were the solution.

Prayer as Radical Commitment

In his book Marcel Proust, Roger Shattuck notes:

Clausewitz describes war as the continuation of policy by other means. Like many authors, Proust often treated writing as a continuation of life by other mean.

To this I would add, Jesus treats prayer and proclamation as politics by other means.

This is not a cry to not be involved, but an invitation into greater areas of involvement which are exclusively available to the church. If the church doesn’t lobby here, no other institution can or will. Prayer and proclamation are two imperatives directly tied to the manifestation of the kingdom of God.

Matt. 6:9-10  “You then pray in this way: Our Father who is in the heavens, Your name be sanctified; Your kingdom come; Your will be done, as in heaven, so also on earth.”

Matt. 24:14  “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole inhabited earth for a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

Vote, but more importantly pray and proclaim

Volunteer, but more importantly pray and proclaim

Voice opinions, but more importantly pray and proclaim

In this light, an overtly secular government may be more helpful than a theologized political party. It may help us remember our true mission in the world.

15 thoughts on “Prayer—Politics by Other Means

  1. I really liked this section…

    “To this I would add, Jesus treats prayer and proclamation as politics by other means.

    This is not a cry to not be involved, but an invitation into greater areas of involvement which are exclusively available to the church. If the church doesn’t lobby here, no other institution can or will. Prayer and proclamation are two imperatives directly tied to the manifestation of the kingdom of God.”

    The church’s main commission, and privilege, is to cooperate with God through praying according to His will. I like how you brought in Matthew 6, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done…”

    Regardless of our political views or outlook on social issues, as Christian we should be “lobbyists” for God. Because if the church doesn’t, who will?

    On the positive side, this is a privilege to directly have a part in God’s will being done on the earth. I’m just thinking about all the little prayers, conversations, we have with God throughout the day that give Him a way in our daily life to work things out for His glory. But then, when the church comes together to pray we are doing business for God on a much greater scale. What a honor.

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  2. “We can’t rely on a political party to do what we ought to be doing.” Regardless of the political party in control, we should pray for the leaders and the government. 1 Tim. 2:1-2 comes to mind immediately about this. We can also pray, not for a mere human reform of society but for God to head up all things in Christ (Eph. 1:9-10).
    Then proclaim. Lord, open doors in us for Your word to be released and open doors for Your word to be received by others.

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    • Exactly. Of course, this is often easier said than done. I’m sure more than a few Christians thought Paul was crazy when he told them to pray for Nero, and for his salvation at that, not his dethronement.

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  3. “For a long time American politics and society has more or less “enjoyed” (I’m sure not everyone has been enjoying it) strong Christian underpinnings.”

    This is very true. I’ve been considering this point lately. If you read what the Lord speaks in the gospels you will realize that this is NOT to be expected. I was touched by Matthew 24:9: “You will be hated by all the nations because of My name.” The Lord’s word is very strong.

    I was also touched by Matthew 24:14, when He says that “the gospel of the kingdom must be preached to all the inhabited earth for the TESTIMONY to all the nations, and then the end will come.” In the midst of this opposition stands a testimony, a group of people who are living under the Lord as their King. So we always have these two things going on together: Persecution and Pursing. And for these we need to Pray and Proclaim.

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    • Great point David. While maybe not to be expected, I definitely appreciate the help, especially in basic rights of religious freedom, meeting publicly as the church, freedom of speech to preach the gospel and publish books, etc. Also the fundamentals of morality are legislated. But these are pretty rough approximations of the Christian message. Matthew chapter 5-7 is the Christian standard, and it cannot be legislated. Hence the need of the church to be the kingdom of God in reality today and bring in the kingdom of God in manifestation in the future.

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  4. Good post. Observing “Christians” being upset at the supposed “secularization” of government and politics always made me uncomfortable.

    On the one hand, we acknowledge the authority of human government, realizing that there is One who is pulling the strings on the marionette of human government. On the other hand, we are active participants in the increase of the divine kingdom, which is in opposition to all human government, democratic, theocratic, or otherwise.

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    • Christians are dual citizens, with dual rights and responsibilities. So involvement in political issues is appropriate, but without forgetting, neglecting, or compromising the greater responsibilities and calling of our heavenly citizenship.

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  5. The conclusion of this post expresses my feelings exactly.

    I was reminded of Dan 6:10 which says “Now when Daniel came to know that the writing had been signed, he went to his house (in his upper room he had windows open toward Jerusalem) and three times daily he knelt on his knees and prayed and gave thanks before his God, because he had always done so previously.”

    May this also be our posture.

    The final decision of things is not made by any earthly government. Rather, as Nebuchadnezzar came to realize that “the heavens do rule” and that “Most High is Ruler over the kingdom of men and gives it to whomever He wills” (Dan 4:26, 32).

    Our “trowel” and “sword” (Neh. 4) are our “proclamation” of the gospel and our “prayer” of authority.

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  6. I’m super thankful the elections are over for now. What a mess. I agree that prayer is an awesome way to cast your vote. All the candidates and issues leave much to be desired. Lord do what is best for your eternal purpose, and for your household and churches today on this earth. Thank You it matters to you concerning us.

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  7. I really liked your blog post. It was refreshing to see that the Kingdom of God is not dependent upon our human government. We need to continue to pray for the Lord’s interest on the earth!

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  8. Pingback: God’s Purpose in Prayer | life and building

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