Shortly after PM Lee Hsien Loong went pale and fainted on stage during the recent National Day Rally, many of us received messages about him being unwell and urging us to uphold him in prayer. There were certainly some anxious moments. Some feared the worst as we recalled how it was only recently that our Finance Minister Heng Swee Kiat collapsed from a stroke during a Cabinet meeting. Thus, when PM Lee was well enough to return to the podium after an hour or so, our spirits were lifted up, being assured that all seems well.
As I think about this episode, it reminded me that we should be praying more regularly for the leaders of our nation. Rather than just on national occasions, during a crisis or due to some personal health concerns, perhaps we can learn to do so whenever we come across a politician’s name in the newspaper or when we read about something that concerns Singapore’s well-being. After all, our prayer for our leaders is out of obedience to God’s Word and meant to be an expression of our love for others.
In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, the Apostle Paul wrote that “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings, be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful quiet life, godly and dignified in every way”. As Christians, we are called to pray for others simply because everyone needs prayers.
Regardless of one’s social status and their potential influence on society, every individual is made in God’s image and is dependent upon God’s gracious providence. Whenever we are praying for our national leaders, our mindset should be that we are doing so because we understand that they are of value to God. They are firstly his image-bearers before they serve as office-bearers of the highest in our land. Put simply, PM Lee deserve our prayers and blessings because he would have just as much intrinsic value and worth even as an ordinary citizen working to support his family.
Secondly, we pray because regardless of our political inclinations, God’s Word must take precedence over how we feel and think about our national leaders. When Paul gave the abovementioned instructions to the believers during his time, the Christian community was experiencing much hostility. Furthermore, Nero was not exactly a benign emperor. Historically, he was known to treat Christians harshly, even to the extent of using them as human lanterns to light the streets of Rome! If the believers during Paul’s time could humble themselves to pray for such as those, then surely we can pray for our leaders even if we may not agree with some of their policies.
More importantly, Christians are to pray because we do not take for granted the religious freedom and harmony that we get to enjoy here in Singapore. Indeed, we thank God that our government is one who continues to proactively promote and preserve this liberty and peace. By doing so, they have cultivated a generally conducive environment for all religions to thrive. While we do pray for more open doors where we can proclaim the Gospel, we should also be fair-minded in our supplication. For example, we should avoid praying that a policy will only favour the practise of the Christian faith since this would be discriminatory towards others. To some extent, it would also suggest that we lack confidence that the Gospel can stand on its own.
Even as we pray for our leaders, we are cognisant that they will not be able to solve all our problems in their lifetime. Nevertheless, since they are elected as stewards of Singapore, we do expect them to help set a moral tone and we pray that God will guide them in doing so for the good of our country. Whether the leaders are Christians or not is secondary since it is not only the Christians who have the prerogative to moral values.
Thus, when PM Lee shared about how he wished that Singapore would be blessed with divine discontent and wisdom to count on blessings, there is no need to conclude that this hints of some Christian influence. After all, a simple Goggle search would reveal that the phrase “divine discontent” is associated with Ralph Waldo Emerson and many others who are not Christians.
At the end of the day, what matters most is that God’s people continue to pray and faithfully live out our faith because Scripture tells us that “this is good and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:3-4). Indeed, God loves all people and like everyone else, those in authority are also in need of being saved from God’s righteous wrath. And for us who are called God’s children, what a privilege that our prayers can make such an eternal difference!
Rev Edwin Wong
August 28, 2016