Romans 13 says that we should pray for those in authority, but how do we pray for those leaders who are corrupt?

Good day Lou, a political question please.
Paul tells us (Rom.13) to pray for those in authority over us. But what about when those people are corrupt and who rob the poor?
What is an appropriate prayer?


Thank you for asking such an important question. I am certain you are not the only one who grapples with this question (I too have wondered how to pray for those in leadership that are corrupt).

Yes, in Romans 13:1 it says: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”

And then in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 it says “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quite lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and please God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

So really, there is no way of getting around this idea of praying for authority (even those whose we fundamentally disagree with), we must because its biblical… additionally, I think to the original readers of 1 Timothy this idea was even more drastic than our current situation. This letter is referring to praying for Roman officials who are clearly persecuting the body of Christ. This is not an easy pill to swallow. So what should be our response?

Well, the first thing we need to remember is that nothing is a surprise to God and no government/pm/president/nation can thwart his plan. We see all throughout the Bible that God even used very wicked leaders to bring about his overall plan for the nation of Israel. This doesnt mean God agrees with their choices by any means; however, it does give us the encouragement to know that God is still God even in the midst of a broken corrupt leader.

Secondly, I think we need to pray for our leaders how we would anyone we know is not walking with the Lord. If we are not careful, we can become quite pharisaical towards them “Father, thank you I am not like [Fill in the Blank - leader, president, boss, etc]” when really our desire would be that all would come to know Him. We are all in desperate need of God’s grace and mercy… we need to make sure we remind ourselves even the most wicked leaders are just like us outside of Christ’s sanctifying work in our hearts. Our hearts should break for those who are not walking with the Lord, not self-righteously judge them.

But this doest mean we shouldn’t pursue justice or want people to be held accountable to their actions. God is a just God as well as a loving God. We cannot have one without the other. I dont think we need to ask the Lord to bless leaders who are marginalizing the poor… but I do think we can pray that he would give them wisdom, that he would soften their hearts, and that he would show them what justice truly is.

Im not sure if you saw this Bill, but about 2 months ago President Trump randomly showed up at McLean Bible Church outside DC and asked to be prayed for. The head pastor, David Platt, without a lot of time to decide or prepare said yes. Regardless of your views on President Trump, I think David’s prayer was Biblical and spot on. I think his prayer could be applied to all leaders for all times and I think he gave us a beautiful template as to how we should pray for our leaders (again, whether we agree with them or not).

Here is a link to an article that the Gospel Coalition wrote on this prayer and it has the prayer written out as well. I hope this helps. I know it has helped me and it gives me guidelines to follow.