How Christians can promote peace in their communities through prayer

October 14, 2019

Envied by most of the world, the citizens of the United States enjoy the freedom to hold and espouse diverse political views. Those views, however, do not emerge in a vacuum. They are shaped by our human experience, our family background, and our religious convictions. 

For example, in 1961 President John F. Kennedy signed the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act, which expanded the federal government’s ability to issue farm loans. As uninspiring as that may sound to some people, that piece of legislation allowed my uncle to buy a farm that he has worked and expanded for over 50 years. President Kennedy personally knew very little about agriculture, but his efforts to invest in farmers left a lasting and formative impression on my family that has shaped our political perspective and public engagement. 

As public policy initiatives of elected officials affect our way of life, our political perspectives soon shape our souls. How we think, the values we hold dear, the convictions we feel compelled to propagate, and the way we treat our neighbors all come from the private place of our soul. That is the reason that although the government cannot establish religion, the religious convictions of the citizenry most certainly influence public policy. 

Perhaps that is the reason the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: “First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Tim. 2:1-2).

Paul knew that peace, a tranquil and quiet life, in the city of Ephesus would make room for the gospel of peace in the hearts of the residents of that city and beyond. So “first of all” praying was the most powerful way for New Testament Christians to love their neighbors and to promote peace in their community.

Now in our present political environment as divisions widen on over public policy, as bickering has become a national past time, and as anger is often the currency of public debate, it could be that the most effective way for us to minister to the souls of our neighbors is to pray for everyone, including our neighbors, our leaders, and all who are in authority. 

More than persuasive arguments and more than political tactics, it seems God uses our “first of all” praying to influence our conversations over the backyard fence, to direct our political engagement in the public square, and to ultimately make room for policies that promote peace in our communities. 

It could be that the most effective way for us to minister to the souls of our neighbors is to pray for everyone, including our neighbors, our leaders, and all who are in authority.

How then do we engage in this kind of praying? Perhaps these four “first of all” habits of prayer will help:

Pray with a fresh awareness of God.

Prayer is by definition an invitation for human beings to turn our attention to God. When we pray, we acknowledge that God transcends the time and space we currently occupy. God is eternal with no beginning or end. He is perfectly holy, and he is unlimited in love, power, and wisdom. Very simply, God is greater than we are. His sovereign reign over every created thing means that we can trust him for every issue, big or small, new or systemic, that affects our families, communities, and our nation. 

So rather than living anxious and angry, rather than withholding kindness and love from those who hold diverse views and values, and rather than talking past our political rivals, we can fully trust a God who always rightly acts with righteousness.  

Pray with an honest assessment of yourself.

Prayer reminds us of our personal limitations. If we were self-sufficient and possessed complete understanding, praying to God would be unnecessary. But we have real needs that we cannot meet. We not only live as fallen, sinful people, we also bear the burden of a certain amount of ignorance. The human experience includes consequences of our personal and national transgressions are beyond our ability to repair. 

So we all need mercy, grace, forgiveness, restoration, and wisdom that only God can provide. As we humble ourselves and ask him for help, he responds not with condemnation, but with generosity and blessing. 

Pray with a genuine interest in others.

When the prophet Micah called God’s people back to God, he called them to care about other people: “Mankind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

Additionally, the prophet Jeremiah called exiled Jews to pray for and seek the welfare of their foreign city (Jeremiah 29). And then when Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he pointed out the hypocrisy of some religious leaders who used prayer and fasting as an opportunity to promote themselves. They were more concerned about how they were seen by others than how well they served others. 

Whatever their political views, background, moral or religious convictions, or usefulness is to us, our neighbors, our leaders, and all who are in authority are created by God and bear his image. 

So effective praying comes from the heart of a Good Samaritan who actually stops to help. Our prayers may sound angelic, but without sincere love for neighbor demonstrated by a willingness to listen, understand, and serve people who are different from us, they are only a noisy gong and clanging cymbal. 

Pray with an enthusiastic expectation for the future.

People of faith who have little faith in God do not serve our neighbors very well. The Bible tells us that God hears the humble cries of his people; that God forgives and restores sinful, broken, wayward people; and that God turns weeping into laughter. 

Is it possible, then, that negativity among God’s people is the sin that oppresses our neighbors and our nation more than any other? Is it possible that our cynicism toward an unbelieving world reveals our own unbelief that the gospel is really the power of God to turn even the hardest heart into a believing one? Is it possible that our pessimistic view of the world is the attitude God is waiting for us to leave behind? Is it possible our refusal to trust the Spirit to act powerfully through his Church to show and tell the Good News has left our neighbors stuck in the bad news of sin and brokenness? The call to pray is, at the heart, a call to believe God for greater things as he advances his Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. 

Not every Christian is called into politics and not every Christian has a loud voice in the public square, but every Christian is called to love our neighbors. And we do that most powerfully through “first of all” praying—the kind of praying that cares for souls, seeks the peace of our communities and our nation, and makes room for the gospel to take root in the hearts of the neighbors across the street and around the world.

Daryl Crouch

Following 28 years in pastoral ministry, Daryl Crouch now leads Everyone’s Wilson, a community transformation initiative that helps churches bring the whole community around every school so that every student, educator, and family can live whole. He’s married to Deborah, and they have four children. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24