Christians have an obligation before God to pray for their rulers, and rulers have an obligation to ask God for the grace to be able to faithfully serve the people entrusted to them, Pope Francis said Monday.
In his homily at morning Mass in the chapel of his Santa Marta residence, Pope Francis reflected on Saint Paul’s exhortation to offer up prayers for those who wield political power, so they will govern with wisdom.
“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 quiet lives in all godliness and holiness,” Paul wrote in his first letter to Timothy.
The Pope said that “it is a sin” not to pray for government leaders, since they have such need of God’s grace and wisdom. We are not well enough aware of this responsibility to pray for politicians, the Pope continued, and so “when a leader does something we don’t like, we say ugly things and when he does things we like, we say how great he is. But we leave him alone, with his party, to figure things out with parliament, but alone.”
Maybe some console themselves by thinking that their obligation ended with their vote, whether for or against a candidate. This is wrong, Francis said.
“We cannot leave government leaders on their own,” he said. “We have to accompany them with prayer.”
Even those who disagree with their leaders, or think they act in a way they shouldn’t, should pray all the more, he suggested. It’s especially then when they need prayers the most, he said, adding, “you should pray and do penance for those who govern!”
“We need to become more aware of our duty to pray for those who govern,” Francis said, saying that he was going to ask his hearers “a favor.”
“I’m going to ask each one of you to take five minutes today” and you need to ask yourselves, “Do I pray for my leaders?” and “Do I pray for all leaders?” he said.
And if you examine your conscience and you find you haven’t prayed for your leaders, you should mention that in confession “because not praying for government leaders is a sin,” he said.
The Pope also insisted on the need for those in posts of political leadership to pray so that God will give them the strength and the wisdom they need to rule justly.
Reflecting on the day’s Gospel reading from Luke where a Roman centurion implores Jesus to cure his slave, Francis said that the centurion “felt the need to pray” because “he was aware that he was not the master of everything, that he was not the final resort.” On the contrary, he who “does not pray, shuts himself in his self-reference or in that of his party, in this circle that one can’t get out of; he is a man closed in on himself,” Francis said.
A leader should always be aware “that there is another who has more power than he does,” the Pope continued. “Who has more power than a ruler? The people who gave him power, and God, from whom the power comes through the people. When a ruler has this awareness of subordination, he prays.”
The leader’s prayer, Francis said, “is the prayer for the common good of the people entrusted to him.”
When a ruler knows that there is another who rules over him, “this leads him to pray,” he said.
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