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When Paul encouraged prayer for secular leaders was he thinking ahead of Hustler magazine?

Pray for your leaders. Image: Zachstern/Foter/CC BY-NC-ND

Pray for your leaders. Image: Zachstern/Foter/CC BY-NC-ND

[by Dean Smith] A recent article in the National Journal reports that Harry Flynt, the founder of the porn magazine Hustler, has been sending unsolicited copies of the publication to American politicians in Washington DC since 1983.

It arrives every month in an unmarked manilla envelope. And every month staffers open it.

Who knows why Flynt does it? We can only guess. But many assume he is trying to influence them.

Congress has even used the courts to try to stop these mailings to its 535 members. In 1986, the court ruled against the 264 members who participated in the case. The court decided it was Flynt’s first amendment right to mail the magazine.

The court said:

“Receiving Hustler once each month would not unduly burden a Member of Congress. Members are not forced to read the magazine or other of the mail they receive in volume. We cannot imagine that Congressional offices all lack wastebaskets.”

But as the article shows, though the magazine eventually ends up in the wastepaper basket, it is often read before that happens.

Pray for those in authority

In his letter to Timothy, Paul encourages prayer for our secular leaders:

 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. (1 Timothy 2:1-2 NASV)

But it is not just for Kings or presidents, but all in authority — all politicians and even those in senior administrative positions as there are forces at work trying to influence them.

As we read the Bible, some of the major problems believers run into came from the bureaucracy — such as the senior bureaucrat, Haman the Agagite, in the Book of Esther who influenced the Persian king to slaughter the Jews captive in Persia. It was prayer and fasting that broke this plot (Esther 4:16).

Paul and the Roman Emperor Nero

While Paul was writing his letter to Timothy, he was sitting in a Roman jail. The Roman Caesar was non other than the madman Nero.

So if Paul was praying for Nero, what excuse do we have not to pray for our leaders?

Paul was encouraging prayer, so believers could live peaceable lives — to be able to live our Christian faith without hindrance. While it is true, Nero horribly persecuted Christians and according to Ignatius, an early Christian writer from 110 AD, Nero beheaded Paul around 60 AD.

But Christian prayers for leaders did have an impact.

When Constantine the Great (272 AD – 337 AD) became emperor of Rome, his miraculous conversion to Christianity led to a remarkable transformation of Roman society.

According to early Christian historian Eusebius and others, at the Battle of Milvian Bridge (312 AD) — which would lead to Constantine claiming the Roman throne — in the early morning before the battle he saw a cross of light above the rising sun with the words emblazoned above “In this sign conquer” (Greek Ἐν Τούτῳ Νίκα’). Others report Constantine had a dream the night before the battle “to mark the heavenly sign of God on the shield of his soldiers.”

Whatever the case, Constantine ordered his troops to put Christian symbols on their shields before entering the battle where they triumphed over an army twice the size.

In 313, Constantine passed the edict of Licinius that read:

“that it was proper that the Christians and all others should have liberty to follow that mode of religion which to each of them appeared best.”

For the first time, Christians were allowed to practice their religion freely in Rome.

So while Harry Flynt delivers porn magazines to Member of Congress, it is also American’s first amendment right to deliver prayers to God on behalf of their leaders.

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