“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” (William Shakespeare, Richard II)
This quote above comes at the beginning of a recent movie, “The Queen.” In it, Helen Mirren gives a wonderful portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II at a critical moment in her reign, just after the tragic death of Princess Diana in Paris in 1997. The movie skilfully depicts Elizabeth caught between two opposing forces. On the one hand, her own upbringing, centuries of royal breeding, and the advice of her husband and royal advisers are all telling her to ignore the worldwide furore over Diana’s death, and carry on as normal, in a suitably aloof statesmanlike manner. On the other hand, her own government, and millions of her royal subjects, who are beside themselves with grief over what happened, are urging her to tear away the mask and make some kind of acknowledgement of the tragedy and tribute to Diana. One cannot but feel for the Queen, who appears as someone caught between two worlds and having to navigate in an environment she no longer recognises.
St Paul tells us in our second reading this Sunday: “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions.” Do we pray for our rulers? Yes, we cuss them, complain about them, laugh at them when they make blunders. But do we pray for them? Paul goes on to say “This is right and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.” Why is it “right and acceptable” in God’s sight to pray for our leaders? Firstly, Paul says that our rulers have the responsibility to ensure we are able to lead “quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and dignity.” Without some sort of responsible leadership in our country, our society, our world, we would have anarchy, the breakdown of civilization, and chaos.
Furthermore, St Paul says that God “desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Even if our leaders are not particularly Christian or even righteous, even if their decisions and actions often go against what we hold as important religious values, the answer is not to curse them or dismiss them, but to pray for them. Pray for their conversion to Christ, a heartfelt conversion which will influence all their political and social behaviour. Pray for their well-being, and their family’s well-being. Pray blessing on them, even when the kind of stands they take grieve our hearts or even infuriate us. The National House of Prayer in Ottawa have a campaign of prayer going, where each politician is assigned to a particular intercessor, who makes it their responsibility to contact the MP and let them know they are praying for them. Who knows what effect such prayers are having on their consciences and decisions? And on the well-being and security of our country?