It’s hard to imagine living in a more politically charged climate than this one. The advent of social media and a 24-hour news cycle allows us not only to know what’s going on at any minute of the day but also to offer our opinions about it—opinions that can instantly be read and shared all over the world. Certain political figures—both holding office and seeking it—have polarized the populace. To remain neutral these days is to be without a pulse. Don’t worry, I’m not about to go political. Instead, I want to offer a reason that we must pray for our elected leaders.
Of course, we shouldn’t need this pep talk. First Timothy 2:1-2 is pretty clear:
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties [and] prayers, petitions [and] thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
Paul’s command couldn’t be clearer: We are to pray for all who are in authority, whether we agree with their stands on the issues or not. Though Paul doesn’t need my help, allow me to offer at least one reason that you may not have thought of to obey this command.
Here it is: Our leaders are in the thick of angel-versus-demon spiritual warfare (though they probably don’t know it).
While it’s possible to overstate the activity of demons and angels, I think it’s also quite possible to understate it. However, a careful reading of Scripture achieves the balance. It reveals that demonic/angelic activity is going on all around us, yet it does not encourage overreactions to it. In an effort to maintain that tension, I will not attempt to identify in what specific scenarios a particular leader has been under attack or in which demons may have been involved. I simply want to show you from Scripture that spiritual powers do interact with world leaders and their nations.
Ready? Okay, let’s do it.
- Sisera (Judges 4-5; esp. 5:19-20)
Remember the story of Sisera? If not, it’s a good one. Sisera was the army commander for Jabin, Canaanite king of Hazor, who had been oppressing Israel for twenty years. Finally, after two decades of subjugation, the stubborn Israelites cry out to God for deliverance, and He raises up some leaders. Deborah, the judge and prophetess of the time, tells warrior Barak to go and fight. He does so reluctantly, insisting that Deborah go with him. She agrees, but warns him that the honor of defeating Sisera will not be his; instead, the honor will go to a woman.
That woman turns out to be Jael. Sisera, army defeated in a lopsided loss to Israel, escapes on foot and seeks refuge at the tent of Jael, the wife of a friend of King Jabin. However, he doesn’t quite get the welcome he was expecting. Sisera asks Jael for a glass of water, but instead she gives him milk. This fills his belly, and he gives in to his fatigue. While he’s sleeping, Jael hammers a tent stake through Sisera’s temple.
Judges 4 relates this gruesome story in narrative prose, but Deborah retells it poetically in the next chapter. Verses 19-20 give us some insight into the battle that left Sisera vulnerable:
“The kings came [and] fought;
Then fought the kings of Canaan
At Taanach near the waters of Megiddo;
They took no plunder in silver.
“The stars fought from heaven,
From their courses they fought against Sisera.
Don’t let figurative language get in the way of my point. Take a second look at the last two lines of verse 20: “The stars fought from heaven, From their courses they fought against Sisera.” Stars in Scripture is a common way to refer to angels (see Isa. 14:12; Job 38:7; Rev. 1:16, 20; 9:1). So here in Judges we learn that angels themselves fought in Israel’s decisive victory over Sisera. They are actively involved in the affairs of the nations.
- The Kingdoms of Persia and Greece (Daniel 10:13, 20)
The book of Daniel pulls back the curtain a bit farther. Daniel is given a vision of a coming “great conflict.” Failing to comprehend its meaning, he prays for understanding. No answer comes for three weeks (Dan. 10:1-3). Finally, an angel arrives and apologizes to Daniel for the delay. He explains that he had been waylaid by the “prince of the kingdom of Persia” and eventually had to be helped out by angelic super-warrior, Michael. Later, he tells Daniel that he’s in a hurry to get back to the front lines of conflict, where he’ll go toe-to-toe with the “prince of Persia,” and prepare for an onslaught from the “prince of Greece.”
These somewhat difficult references to the “prince” of Persia and Greece again intimate that angels and demons are engaged in conflict at a national level. The “princes” mentioned here are likely demonic entities trying to thwart the efforts of righteousness.
What does this look like in the human realm? I have no idea. But with all this going on behind the scenes, how can we not be burdened to pray for the leaders who are caught, albeit unwittingly and unknowingly, in the midst of it? Look at one more example of angelic intervention.
- Darius the Mede (Daniel 11:1)
Daniel’s visitor from the previous chapter is still giving us an inside look at the war for the nations. He tells Daniel that when Darius the Mede first came to power, he was sent to encourage the king. That’s it. That’s all we get. This angel somehow encouraged a pagan king. Obviously, when we stop and think about it, this verse stirs up a lot more questions than it gives answers. However, we don’t want to make the text say something it’s not intended to teach. What we do know is that, at times (we don’t know how often), angels are sent to give encouragement to even unbelieving leaders. And based on what we just read about the fight going on for Persia, I can see why Darius may have needed a pick-me-up.
Our job is not to deduce when or how a nation or its leader is under attack from Satan and his underlings. Our task is to pray for our leaders. Knowing what types of attacks they—and their constituencies—may be under ought to motivate us. So maybe the next time you read an article or hear a sound-byte of a leader/candidate saying something that makes you cringe, want to scream, or roll your eyes, instead of muttering, tweeting, or posting an exasperated comment, take that moment instead to pray for (not about) that particular person (because they are people, after all). Then, afterward, if you still think that comment must be made, go ahead…or better yet, start the process over.