Why protestants should pray for Pope Francis 18th March, 2013Posted by Scotty in Church, Heart, Prayer.
Growing up, I never really understood the Pope. As a child, he was just a really old man in funny clothes. As a teen he captained the other team and so wasn’t relevant to me. As a young adult I listened to people debate about him. But as my faith has matured I’ve grown in empathy for this Roman Catholic figurehead. My curiosity was piqued reading Dan Brown’s novels, with their details of the conclave and the process for electing the pope.
I was intrigued when Benedict resigned, and began musing about the papal election. When I was in the airport travelling home from the States all the TVs were focused on the Vatican Chimney, and so I watched and pondered. As I was reflecting, I found myself more horrified for the man than excited for him, and I realised the tremendous responsibility we have as believers to PRAY FOR THE POPE. Here’s why:
- The Pope was appointed by God.
Scripture is clear: “There is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Rom 13:1), and we are to pray for those in authority (see 2 Tim 2:1-4). If you believe the Pope is a good and godly man, pray for Him, for He has been appointed by God to lead the Roman Catholic church, and he needs our prayers for God’s Spirit to empower him to govern wisely. If you believe the pope is the antichrist, pray for Him, for He has been appointed by God, and needs our prayer for God’s Spirit to take hold of his heart. It doesn’t matter where you fall on this spectrum, the result is the same. We have a responsibility to pray that God would move in and through this man.
- The Pope is a sinner and in need of Jesus.
It is quoted that upon accepting the papal office, he said: “I am a sinner, but as this office has been given to me, I accept.” This is a truth we need to remember. The Pope is a sinner and needs to experience Jesus. He comes to his office with a past riddled with sin, and he will continue in sin while in this office… because he is human. It is wrong to venerate him as a god, as some will do. But we must not do the opposite and accuse him of being the devil incarnate, for he is no more a sinner than we are. A sinner in such a high position desperately needs the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
- The Pope is the face of Christianity.
Whether you like it or not, this is the truth! Ask a random person on the street to name influential Christians, and the person they’ll name is the Pope. They don’t know Tim Keller, or Mark Driscoll, or John Piper, or your denominational leader… but they know the Pope. Every move he makes, every success and failure will be broadcast to the world and impact how people view Christianity. The enemy of our souls would love to exploit this situation to mar the image of Christ, so let us pray that the opposite be true.
- The Pope immediately becomes the most loved and hated person in the world.
The instant Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis, he became a figure adored by 1.2 billion catholics, but hated by millions who are antagonistic towards not only towards Roman Catholicism, but towards religion in general. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a “normal” person one day, and one of the most hated people in the world the next day. Moments after the election I saw an insane number of tweets and facebook posts simultaneously blessing and cursing him. The media now has their sights set on bringing out into the open any tiny piece of dirty laundry they can find, and conspiracy theories galore can be found with this man’s name as the focus. Throughout his life time he will receive death threats, curses, and all-night prayer vigils focused on his harm.
- The Pope has an unfathomable burden of responsibility to bear.
I can’t begin to imagine what it feels like to carry the burden that Pope Francis now carries. I think only Benedict and other world leaders can comprehend that amount of pressure. 1.2 billion Catholics are looking to Pope Francis to lead their church. Within the Roman church competing factions all want him to address or ignore various issues. The rest of the world is looking on to see what he will do to address the major failings that the media has made us so aware of. No matter what actions he takes, people in and out of the church will not be happy! In the midst of all this, he is somehow supposed to seek God, hear Him and do His will. I would crumple under such a tremendous load. I have a hard time picturing a Cardinal sitting in the conclave desperate to become Pope for the power and accolades. Instead, I imagine drops of sweat pouring down the face of any man whose name was read out from a ballot because of the gruelling task of implementing reform that is being called for from both inside and outside of the church.
- The Pope has an unfathomable amount of power and influence.
He can use this power for good or evil. His actions will have incredibly large ramifications, sometimes in the direction he is hoping, and sometimes those consequences don’t go quite as planned. Through him, more people can be influenced towards Jesus, but equally, many can be turned away. At the same time, we need to remember that the power to bring someone to Christ lies not with man, but with the Holy Spirit. God can use any person or any circumstance (good or bad) to introduce people to Jesus. With such a visible presence, I am praying that God will use this man to draw people to Christ rather than pushing them away. Pray that God would protect him from the lure of worldly power and use him to influence people toward Christ.
- The Pope is a Christian.
Of all the things I’m going to write, I know this is the place where people may get heated. I believe this pope knows Jesus. I have read some articles by prominent Christians I respect who know this man personally and attest to his love for Jesus. I get frustrated when Christians use blanket statements which state that Catholics aren’t “saved” as if being a Protestant is what saves. I have some wonderful Roman Catholic friends who love Jesus more than most of my Protestant friends and are clearly in a saving relationship with Jesus. Yes, we disagree on areas of theology, but then I don’t see eye-to-eye with every Protestant either. (I’m yet to meet a Christian with flawless theology, and those who claim to have it are making a dangerous claim!) There are people in the Roman Catholic church who think they are saved but aren’t. That breaks my hearts… just as much as when I look at people in my own church who claim to be saved but live lives that show otherwise. Sadly, there are many people around the world who attend churches and confess to be Christians, yet they don’t have a saving relationship with Jesus. I am encouraged that Pope Francis has a desire to ensure that Christ is preached. And I am praying that God will use the Pope’s imperfect-and-sometimes-erroneous preaching to win people to Christ in the same we He works in spite of my imperfect-and-sometimes-erroneous words to the do the same.
For all these reasons and more, Christians world-wide should pray for Pope Francis. We can sit back and criticise, or we can pray. I know which one God commands us to do.
If you are looking for some fuel for prayer, here’s an idea: Spend some time this week imagining what you would do if you were the Pope. Consider how you would fare if you were given his responsibility to bear. How would you address the controversial issues that lie before him? What backlash do you think you’d have to deal with? What changes would you make to the church and how would you implement them? What events in your life would the media dig up and how would it make you feel having them aired to the world? Would you be able to stay faithful under the pressure and while being enticed with power and riches? Then allow this to inform how you pray!
Lord Jesus, I pray for Pope Francis. Enlighten the eyes of his heart that he would know You deeply. Pour your Spirit over him, filling him with grace and humility to advance your Kingdom, not any worldly system. If his ways are opposed to Yours, convict him of sin and align him with Your Word. Give him wisdom to do govern wisely, and use him to bring people to the cross and in doing so exalt the Name of Jesus. Amen.