Psalm 20: Pray for Those in Leadership

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
    may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help from the sanctuary
    and grant you support from Zion.
May he remember all your sacrifices
    and accept your burnt offerings.[b]
May he give you the desire of your heart
    and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy over your victory
    and lift up our banners in the name of our God.

May the Lord grant all your requests.

Now this I know:
    the Lord gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary
    with the victorious power of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
    but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall,
    but we rise up and stand firm.
Lord, give victory to the king!
    Answer us when we call!

– Psalm 20

In 1 Timothy 2:1–4, Paul urges, believers to pray for ‘kings and all those in authority.’ Leadership is an important task but is not easy and comes with heavy responsibility. Leadership takes its toll – Prime Ministers seem to age before our eyes as they are burdened with the responsibility of leading a nation. Leadership can be lonely and tiring. Leaders can be the targets of easy criticism particularly from those who do not understand the complexities of the issues they have to deal with or who have been miraculously endowed with that wonderful gift that we know as hindsight.

Psalm 20 echoes the Apostle’s instruction to pray for our leaders. In this case as the final verse makes clear the leader is none other than the king himself. He was the one who would lead his armies into battle (and it has often been commented that we might have fewer wars if this was still the case).

The first six verses of the Psalm suggest that answering the people’s prayer will be not just be about reassuring the leader but actually protecting him from whatever threats he faces.

The second half of the Psalm begins with the King’s response to the prayers of his people. It’s good to be prayed for, its even better to know that we’re being prayed for, sometimes that might be just speaking to someone, other times dropping them a note or a card. We all need to be encouraged and letting others know they are in our prayers is one way to do that.

Although this Psalm might have originated in a very specific context the final verses broaden their application. Our experience is unlikely to be one of leading a nation into battle but there are conflicts and struggles that we all face and even when there is no looming crisis this Psalm could still be used to pray for all who serve us in leadership.