What really happens when religion and politics mix? When you see Christians jumping on the political bandwagon, you may feel weary. You wonder if Christians should spend time on politics or maybe you are glad that Christians are showing concern for society and getting involved. You may feel you should be involved. But you wonder if politically involved Christians are being naïve or simplistic. You may doubt whether or not you should vote for a candidate just because he claims to be a Christian. You wonder if Christians are right to act as a pressure group in government. And you wonder, is there a truly biblical approach to political involvement? According to first Timothy 2:1-4, the first ministry and outreach of believers meeting together in regular fellowship is prayer. The first specific topic for prayer is the government. We are to pray for good government. God desires all men to have the truth of the gospel preached to them. Good government facilitates the preaching of the gospel while bad government hinders it. Therefore good government is the will of God.
The place of Christians praying to enthrone and sustain righteous leadership can not be overemphasized. Over the years and in history, Christian’s prayers had enthroned and sustained righteous leadership and liberate citizenry from bad leadership in some cases. This importance of praying for good government is stressed by Derek Prince in his book “Shaping history through prayer and fasting” said he, “The truth is that Christians are not held responsible to criticize their government, but they are held responsible to pray for it. So long as they fail to pray, Christian has no right to criticize …. This applies with double force to Christians in such a democracy who, in addition to the normal political machinery, have also available to them the God-given power of prayer by which to bring about the changes which they believe desirable, either in the personnel or in the policy of the government”.
In Kenya, Great Britain, United States of America had experience the power of praying Christians to bring changes in government and affairs of mankind in society. In Rivers State years back Bishop Elkannah Hanson led praying team to enthrone and sustains the government of Chief Rufus Ada George. In 1998/99, Rivers State Christian Elders Forum initiated by Rev. Mosy Madugba and headed by Elder Sam Mbata with me as the Publicity Coordinator in concert with the Military Administrator, Group Captain Ewang by prayers brought about the government of Dr. Peter Odili. In 2003, it was all comers’ affairs Christians and different religious groups were falling over to be noticed as praying for the re-election of Dr. Peter Odili to the extent that it caused division among Christian’s groups. Prior to the emergence of Sir Celestine Omehia as Governor and thereafter, the problem is not lack of praying Christians but the extent it has degenerated. That prayer has been politicized by Christians as well as politicians politicking with it.
Why politicization of prayers? “For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people” (Rom. 16:18) By reason of selfish interest, intrigues and self-seeking on the part of some Christian leaders who initiate move or form groups to pray for politicians and attempt by some politicians who have seen how Christian prayers had played dominant role in enthroning past governments began to recruit pastors, prophets and praying groups to out do one another in support of their candidacy. To the extent that some Christian leaders collects money from politicians to pray for their success at the poll. Bickering in Pentecostal circle today is as a result of this unwholesome practice. Derek Prince related this incident in his book of a young man named Wilson Mamboleo of the vision he saw and spoke about the intervention of God on behalf of Kenya came through a group of Christians who united together to pray, in accordance with scripture for the government and the destiny of their nation. “Only the supernatural power of the prayer of my people can turn away the troubles that are coming upon Kenya” Is there not good reason to believe that these words apply first as much to our country and Rivers State in particular?
In this area of political instability and cult/militant violence in Niger Delta, there is also proliferation of praying groups. Is like every politician or elected Government officer take pleasure to raise such group. And many Christian leaders are mobilizing prayer support groups for politicians and governments. Good, but my quarrel is the motive and the practice of using this prayer groups to curry favour and seek attention of politicians and Government. The abuse is that these prayer groups have politicize prayers that it is more of publicity and praise singing of Government and politicians in the media than agonizing in prayer for violent free state and prosperity of our people. Priest Pastors and prophets helped ministers to enthrone rulers in the Bible but were never running around rulers/government officers for attention. If Christian leaders conduct themselves very well these politicians and rulers would seek for our counsel and prayers to rule well without unduly advertising ourselves to them. We should not lower the dignity of our calling and offices because we need government help to do ministry work.
Yes, I initiated Rivers State Concerned Ministers Association now Concerned Gospel Ministers’ Association. It is patterned after defunct Rivers State Christian Elders Forum. It is not seeking for recognition. We do our praying. When politicians and Government officers need our counsel on issue we give. We in Concerned Gospel Ministers’ Association have not received financial assistance from politicians or Government. Jesus in Matt. 6:1-18 places main emphasis upon the motive, and warns against religious ostentation for the sake of impressing men. Crises in Pentecostal circle is because some of our leaders for ego and conflict of interest ran around political office seekers to mortgage our collective heritage and interest to collect money from political officer seekers secretly with intent to mobilize the votes of Christians to support those their business politicians partners that occasion our division and crises. Must we continue this way?
To free Rivers State from present political upheaval and violence, for the Lord to do a powerful work of revival in Rivers State and Nigeria at large, believers need to rediscover Jesus’ heartbeat as expressed in His “High priestly” prayer of John 17. In a word, we need to work together as the brothers in the Lord that we are. “Believers plagued by disunity and dissension are disqualified from God’s blessing, while unity and cooperation among true members of God’s family invites His spirit to accomplish mighty things” (Dr. Joe Aldrich). We don’t need to engage in press war nor use the force of police or court to bring peace, stability or justice to our land. Let all those mushroom prayer groups, the priests, the ministers, and the elders(Joel 2:15-17) should come together, leave politicians out of it and agonize in prayer for Rivers State, whatever evil plans by selfish politicians, cultists and militants will stop and peace will reign in the State.
How that government will affect Christians depends upon the attitude and conduct of the Christians. Christians get the kind of government they deserve. For the politicians and those in government who thinks that raising prayer groups and getting pastors to pray for them with money, what God requires in those who role is “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God” (2 Sam. 23:2-4). Even devils and unbelievers pray. God does not promise blessing to a government upon the condition that it carry a particular party label. God promises blessing to a government whose officers fulfill two great basic moral requirements. He demands that they be “just” and “God fearing”. When politicians induce cultism and militancy in our polity and call on men of God/churches to pray, God shall not answer such prayers. But just and God fearing leaders who honour the priesthood and genuinely call for the prayers of Christian believers, God will answer. Politicians and government officers must stop politicizing prayers. Christians must stop politicking with prayers.
“The ministry of preaching is open to a few. The ministry of praying is open to every child of God. Don’t mistake action for unction, commotion for creation, and rattles for revivals. The secret of praying is praying in secret. A worldly Christian will stop praying and a praying Christian will stop worldliness. When we pray, God listens to our heartbeat. Hannah’s “lips” moved, but her voice was not heard (1 Sam. 1:12-13). When we pray in the Spirit, there is groaning which can not be uttered (Rom. 8:26)” (Battle cry for the Nations). Let us stop political prayers of seeing ministers/pastors all over government house and function seeking for recognition and asking to lead prayers. Let us stop advertising our prayers. Destiny and nation changing prayers are not advertised. They are not paid for by publicity or money but by secret tears, mourning and fasting in our closet.
Believer’s prayers are precious and costly. It should not be advertised or sold or induce by politicians offering money to get you to pray. We must pray to stop the violence but we should stop politicizing and politicking with prayers of God’s people.
Dr. Lewis Akpogena