In the Office: Prayers for the Powerful

The psalm for today’s Daily Office offers these words:

Endow the king with your justice, O God,
the royal son with your righteousness.
May he judge your people in righteousness,
your afflicted ones with justice.

May the mountains bring prosperity to the people,
the hills the fruit of righteousness.
May he defend the afflicted among the people
and save the children of the needy;
may he crush the oppressor.

For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.
He will take pity on the weak and the needy
and save the needy from death.

Then all nations will be blessed through him,
and they will call him blessed.

Praise be to the LORD God, the God of Israel,
who alone does marvelous deeds.
Praise be to his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory.

Psalm 72:1-4; 12-13; 17b-19

Most of the Old Testament readings in the Daily Office this week have been coming from the early chapters of 2 Samuel. I haven’t been commenting on those readings in these daily reflections, because — by and large — I find them to be more discouraging than edifying. These chapters tell the tale of King David’s rise to power following the death of King Saul, and they are filled with intrigue, deception and violence. In fact, they read more like a Spanish soap-opera or a political thriller than God’s Word; and sadly, they bear too much similarity (in spirit, at least) to the current political theater that grips our own nation.

The Bible instructs “that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). But sometimes, it’s hard to know how to pray for leaders, especially when they seem to be acting in ways that seem to be so unfocused on the common good. And that’s where the lines from Psalm 72 (quoted above) come in.

Now, I’ll confess to being somewhat selective in the verses that I’ve offered here. But on the whole, it seems to me that this psalm prays for the king by focusing on three key areas — areas that are consistent with God’s desires for His people (in general) and for His leaders (in particular). Those areas are:

  1. That the leader(s) would be endowed with righteousness, so that all people — but especially the afflicted, the needy, and the oppressed — may be provided for;
  2. That the leader(s) would act in such a way that “all nations will be blessed,” and not just our own;
  3. That God would be praised, and His glory spread throughout the earth.

Granted, that’s a tall order for any leader, especially at a time when people are as divided and as skeptical as we tend to be. But still, perhaps we could offer a prayer for our leaders today, using Psalm 72 as our guide. Goodness knows, they need it. And I suspect that we do, too.

In the Office

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