Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Praying with the Heart of St. Paul

Praying with the Heart of St. Paul

This Sunday’s second reading (1Tim2:1-8) really caught my attention. It has long pricked my conscience, but I heard parts of it I never noticed before. I would welcome feedback from any priest or theologian regarding the comments I make here.
In verse 2, we are told to offer prayers “for kings and for all in authority.” This I have done, but it has been a challenge, especially since 2008. Readers of this blog have heard me bemoan the policies of the Obama administration many times, as many Christians have. But I have consistently prayed for him.
After the disaster of 2012, and an election I do not believe was validly conducted, it became even harder to do. I have wondered, were Germans supposed to pray for Hitler? We are to pray for our enemies, I know, and I do not compare Mr. Obama to Hitler, but how am I supposed to pray for this man by name every day, I wondered? I have taken to praying specifically for his conversion, which I know is what is most important for any soul. But still I wondered, am I embracing fully the command of the Gospel?
Then I heard this reading at Mass this week, both on Tuesday and again on Sunday, and something caught my attention that never had before. After St. Paul asks for prayers to be offered for kings and those in authority, he says, “that we may be able to lead undisturbed and tranquil lives in perfect piety and dignity.”
Is St. Paul especially asking for prayers for those in authority because they have the power to grant earthly peace to the Church? I have genuinely desired the salvation of Mr. Obama’s soul and yet I have been praying for his conversion particularly so that his persecution of Catholics (HHS mandate, for example) and promotion of anti-Christian values might end. This has caused me to feel a little self-serving, but I wonder if this is much of what St. Paul had in mind.
I have also wondered if my desire for “a tranquil life” is appropriate for a member of the Church Militant. Verse 3, however, says that “this is good and pleasing to God our savior.”
So I will continue to pray for the conversion of Mr. Obama, and for a tranquil life as a Catholic, with more confidence now. And I will also remember the last part of that sentence, which reminds us that even if we should find that tranquility, there are always battles to be won: “[God] wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.”