January 17, 2022
The West Lafayette City Council is considering Ordinance 31-21, which could punish unlicensed faith-based counselors simply for teaching minors principles from God’s Word about human sexuality. While Christians should respond to this proposal in a variety of ways, one of our first actions should be to pray for our city councilors along with all the elected officials the Lord has placed in positions of leadership. The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy to give instructions and urge the church to pray for all kinds of people.
“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men” (1 Timothy 2:1).
What does “all men” include? Paul goes on to mention specifically “kings and all who are in authority” (1 Timothy 2:2). Christians should not only pray for civil leaders and political matters. Christians are told to pray for the sick and one another (James 5:14–16). We are exhorted to pray for church leaders (Hebrews 13:17–18). Jesus commands us to pray for our enemies (Luke 6:27–28). We also pray for non-Christians to repent from their sin and believe in the good news about Jesus Christ to be saved from the wrath of God to come (Acts 26:29). So, we need to consider the importance for why Paul mentions prayer for civil authorities, like our city councilors.
Prayer might not be our first response when confronted with what we believe is an unjust and unwise piece of legislation. However, those of us who seek to counsel others with the Bible must first choose to live by God’s Word ourselves. Even if we do not feel like living this way, our fundamental identity is not located in our feelings. As Christians, we are “in Christ” and by the power of the gospel, we can live in a way that obeys and honors our Savior. Paul’s admonition to Timothy provides several concrete reasons to spend meaningful time in prayer for our councilors.
Paul exhorts Christians to bring prayers of thanksgiving to God. We can thank God for civil leaders because Christians believe governing authorities are established by God for our good (Romans 13:1–7). Whatever concerns we might have with civil authorities, Christians are to be thankful in every circumstance (1 Thessalonians 5:18). We should first consider and thank the Lord for all ways our civil authorities are serving well. A heart filled with thankfulness helps us to appropriately respond to disagreements. Even if we are anxious about the decisions of governing authorities, we can bring our concerns to God with thanksgiving, knowing He cares for us and rejoice in Him (Phil 4:4–6).
Another purpose for why we should pray for our councilors and other elected leaders in positions of civil authority is very practical: “so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:2). Our elected public servants have a challenging responsibility. They must listen to constituents on a variety of issues. Then they must collaboratively respond to often competing interests in a way that seeks the welfare of society, brings community peace, and serves the citizens they represent. Adding further difficulty, we live in a culture that distrusts authorities and encourages slander, gossip, and complaining. As Christians, we want to embody the fruit of the Spirit and work to serve and submit to our local authorities toward the mutual goal of a peaceful civil environment.
Paul urges prayer for civil leaders so that Christians might live in circumstances without civil unrest and political turmoil, so ministry of the gospel is unhindered. This allows Christian faith and character to be expressed for society to observe. We should pray that our civil councilors will not hinder the sharing of the gospel and intervene in the lives of Christians who are seeking to serve their families and communities in godliness and dignity. Even when believers find themselves in tumultuous circumstances and under violent authority, like the nation of Israel in captivity in Babylon. The prophet Jeremiah commands the people to “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7).
Our church has prayed for and served our elected civil leaders in several ways over the years to demonstrate godliness and dignity. We provide biblical counseling resources for free to the Indiana State House through Public Servants’ Prayer (https://thepsp.org/). These counseling resources are recommended based on our experience counseling with the Bible for over 45+ years in our community. Through these resources, we aim to help our state civil authorities with personal spiritual difficulties that they may be facing. Also, we hope they become aware of various counseling issues and make wise policy decisions on these matters.
Just as Christians are responsible to pray and submit to governing authorities, civil authorities are responsible to listen to their citizens and govern justly and wisely. Civil leaders influence and shape society. Councilors can lead with wisdom, righteousness, and self-control in the fear of God. This type of leadership flourishes society (2 Samuel 23:4; Proverbs 11:10–11). Others can lead with folly, selfishness, and wickedness not fearing God and this destroys the welfare of society (Proverbs 11:10-11; 14:34; 24:24; 29:12). Councilors should purpose to create a societal environment where we can live freely and proclaim the good news about Jesus Christ without censorship or hindrance. Christians have been faithfully serving to meet the needs in our community and counseling those interested with the Bible for years.
The creation of Ordinance 31-21 is an example of civil leaders not fulfilling the responsibilities of their office. This ordinance needlessly restricts the religious liberties of many of its citizens. The councilors have chosen a specific course of action that unless changed is likely to result not in a peaceful civil environment, but litigation, public distrust, and distraction from meeting the counseling needs of the community.
The councilors did not consult the largest groups of non-state licensed counselors in our community. The councilors did not consider how and why these religious groups might disagree with the suggested ordinance. Nor did they consider asking fellow public servants why there are religious exemptions and protections at the state level (IC 25-23.6-3-2; IC 25-23.6-4-2; IC 25-23.6-4.5-2). Also, based on the language and lack of clarity in the ordinance, it seems they did not consult experienced legal counsel. Furthermore, they have not demonstrated why this ordinance is needed in the community nor the financial and community impact. Additionally, they have not collaboratively sought solutions with concerned citizens that could address thoughtfully all parties involved. For these reasons, Christians should speak out against the councilors not fulfilling the responsibilities of their office. We need to address this problem so that they might change their course.
We fervently pray for the salvation of all people, including elected civil leaders and those we are seeking to counsel from the Bible. Paul says, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3). God desires us to pray for all people like our councilors and counselees because God desires all people to be saved.
We can know that God desires all people to be saved because Jesus died on the cross as a sin offering to God, to make peace possible between God and mankind.
“For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:5–6).
This ordinance impacts all Christians who are responsible to admonish and counsel each other (Rom 15:14; Acts 5:42). Followers of Jesus Christ are commissioned by Jesus to make disciples of all nations which involves counseling and teaching children to believe and obey the Word of God (Mattew 28:18–20). We should pray that civil authorities grant us the freedom to share the gospel and counsel our neighbors, children, and community without hindrances to the Christian mission.
non-licensed faith-based counselor