Next week Australians are facing a federal election. Each of us who is 18 years old or over needs to choose our candidates or parties and vote accordingly.
You already know that the church is not going to tell you for whom you should vote. It does encourage you, however, to gladly and willingly play your part in the democratic process, and to vote responsibly.
In 2013, as we prepared to vote that year, I wrote, ‘By the time Australians meet again for worship on Sunday the vote will be over. Saddened as we might be by the low level of public debate and the frantic nature of promises made and soon broken, we will pray for our elected representatives and our government with all our heart. … we will also pray that our leaders do not act in narrow self-interest, but for the well-being and benefit of everyone who shares this piece of God’s creation we call Australia …’ Not much has changed in that respect this time around, and this time I suggest three questions that might help you prepare:
- How will I use my vote for the greatest good, and not in self-interest? Will I vote for a candidate because of what the candidate or his or her party promises to do for me, or because of what they will do for the vulnerable and those most in need?
- How do I use my vote to place the moral and ethical health of our society ahead of pure economic interests? A truly successful and healthy society requires the practice of justice, compassion, integrity and a humble spirit of public service.
- How can I take this opportunity to pray for our leaders and for a peaceful society so that the gospel of peace may flourish and grow? This is the principle St Paul lays out in 1 Timothy 2:1-4: ‘… I ask you to pray for everyone. Ask God to help and bless them all, and tell God how thankful you are for each of them. Pray for kings and others in power, so that we may live quiet and peaceful lives as we worship and honour God. This kind of prayer is good, and it pleases God our Saviour. God wants everyone to be saved and to know the whole truth…’
A number of Christian commentators are urging us along similar lines. One useful piece is by John Dickson, recently posted on Eternity News, ‘How to vote Christianly’: https://www.eternitynews.com.au/the-vote-2019/how-to-vote-christianly/.
Of course, many of us have already been praying for the election. At St John’s Perth, where I worshipped today, the congregation prayed, ‘Risen, Jesus, you choose as your own people of all nations and tribes and languages. Hear our prayer for Australia and the coming Federal election. We thank you that we can live in a country with a constitution based on the truth of your Word. Give us wisdom to elect wise and committed leaders who will form a just and caring government. Thank you that we are a nation which enjoys the freedom to worship and honour you. May our future government serve according to your will, and bring glory to your name. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.’
Finally, let’s not lose hope in our electoral system, or in our politicians. It and they are a great blessing to us. Journalist Greg Sheridan, in his 2018 book God is Good for You, observes that an Australian politician is more likely to be a believing, practising Christian than a member of the general population. We don’t always notice this because those who report on our politicians, namely journalists, are among the least religious groups in society. As a result they routinely fail to report, in any meaningful way, the faith that drives many of our politicians, as it’s simply not on their radar. Religious faith of one kind or another still sustains our society, far more than most journalists seem to realise. Our parliaments and our politicians really do need our support through prayer.
Yours in Christ’s service,
Pastor John Henderson
Bishop, Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand
Perth, 5th May 2019