A Legislator's Tools for Prayer
Ruth lists 3 tools for improving your prayer life, including seeking out "sword brothers"
People often ask elected officials why they run for office. When I posed this question to my colleagues, they responded in a variety of ways. For some, they ran for office because they knew when they were 8 or 10 years old that they wanted to do this. For others, politics fascinated them or their college major was Political Science. Some decided to run for office because an issue had popped up in their community that had turned them on to the importance of public office.
My story never went like that at all. I was a very reluctant recruit. God let me know He was calling me to run for office about ten years before I did. For eight years, I argued with Him about it. When He finally got my attention, I asked the Lord, "How do I prepare to run for office?"
I was home schooling my kids at that time and God laid it upon my heart to place my children in school and spend two hours each day in Bible study and prayer. In doing this, God would make me a tool He could use in public service. I thought to myself, "That's not how most people prepare themselves for public office." But, I had learned after resisting God for eight years that I should not to argue with Him. In submission to His will, I put my children in school and began to spend two hours a day in Bible study and prayer.
One morning, I woke up and God had changed my heart. I actually wanted to run for office. My husband came home that day and said, "I think you ought to run for office." The next day, my pastor called to affirm that I ought to run for office. The day after that, my political party called me to inform me that the fellow who was going to run for a particular seat was no longer running. Would I consider running in his place? I viewed all this as God saying, "Yes, you are going to run for office. I called you and this is your seat."
I would like to share with you three tools for prayer that God has used in my life as a legislator, but I believe they apply to all of us because we are all soldiers for Christ. These are tools to help us pray on a daily basis. There are so many fabulous materials available on how to pray and every year or two I will pick up a new one in order to learn some new or fresh approach. We should never think we know everything about prayer. There will always be something new that we may have not considered concerning prayer that God may use in our lives.
Tool 1: Realize that God will usually change your heart before He changes your circumstances
If I continue to pray only for my circumstances, I am not going to see many answers to prayer. I need to pray first that He would change my heart about my circumstances. The way He did that for me was that as I got up in the morning and started to think about my day I would pray through the fruit of the Spirit. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control."
I would picture myself going through all my meetings of the day. I thought, "What would I look like if I walked into that room and looked at each person with love, with joy, with patience, with peace, with faithfulness?" You are forced to practice self-control when a lobbyist is staring you in the face and they are driving you nuts! At those times, you remind yourself that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. This helped me to see that though my circumstances at that point of the day had not changed, God had changed my heart about them.
In those times, God revealed a trigger point in my life that I did not anticipate. When I prayed in the Spirit I was better prepared to deal with whatever came my way. He was going to change my heart before He changed my circumstances. This does not mean God never changes circumstances. He is gracious. I may have a list of 12 things I want done and He may say, "Let me take numbers 10 and 11 off your list." He never seems to take numbers 1 and 2, but He will take numbers 10 and 11. He will work in my circumstances, but it is usually my heart He addresses first.
Tool 2: Desire God's wisdom and direction
We all want God's wisdom. Does God want me to press a green button or red button when voting on a bill? Does God want me to file or not file this bill? Does God want me to meet this person or not meet them? If I meet with this person, what am I supposed to say? How do I correct my friend? All of these issues require wisdom and direction.
Before I ran for office, God prompted me to start memorizing Scripture and hymns. When I starting running for office, I went to the Lord in prayer and inquired of Him, "Why am I running for office? What are You doing?" I prayed and prayed but did not receive a clear answer. Finally, the Lord pointed me to the verse I had been memorizing. The verse was out of the book of Acts where Paul as a Jew was called to reach the Gentiles and not the Jews. The verse reads,
"I am sending you to them to open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me." Acts 26:17-18
I had never thought about going into politics as an opportunity to reflect Christ. I always thought it was a way to get something done. That verse gave me comfort.
Scripture memory also equipped me as a tool. Elizabeth Elliot once wrote a paper on A. W. Tozer's, Five Vows for Spiritual Power. One of those vows was to never defend yourself. I had a habit of defending myself. My husband told me that I was usually right and in the times I was not right I would defend myself to prove I was right. So, I took that vow to never defend myself and filed for office. Anyone who has run for office knows that such a vow is crazy.
When I ran for office, my opponent decided to run a very personal campaign. It was the first time I had ever run in the town I grew up in and he was vicious. I remember one time in a restaurant his campaign consultant came up to me and said something to intimidate me. I became afraid and wanted to quit when this verse came to me:
"Do not fear. I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
I was so glad I had memorized that passage.
Later that day, I was at the doctor's office. I was still upset over that previous confrontation at the restaurant. While I waited for the doctor, I prayed to the Lord, "Lord, he is slandering me. He is saying all these things about me that I can't do anything about. Then a passage came to mind:
Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desire of your heart. Commit your way to Him. Trust in Him and He will do this. He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noon day sun. Psalm 37:4-3
I told myself that I was not to be afraid and that God would work all things out.
Yet, I then saw my opponent and watched as he spoke awful things about me. What was I supposed to say? How was I supposed to deal with this? A verse quickly arose in my mind:
In your heart, set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do so with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior and Christ will be ashamed of their slander. 1 Peter 3:15-16
This happened in March. The election was not until November. My opponent's smear campaign got worse. I remember seeing him on one occasion and he said to me, "I hope your not taking any of this personally." I responded, "And what part am I not to take personally?" It got so bad that his own party members confronted him. His slander of my reputation continued until the final week before the election. I had kept my vow. I had not defended myself. No one else had defended me either. I was scared because I had not run in an election before, but I believed that God would make all His Scripture passages come true.
In that final week, we were asked to appear and speak in a church. This congregation did a unique thing. They set up each competing pair in rooms for interviews and each candidate presents a three minute speech. My opponent is polite as we enter the room and I entertained hope that this would be a positive experience. I concluded my presentation and he then began his speech. Suddenly in mid speech, he began to personally attack me. I looked to the Lord and asked Him, "Okay, Lord. Can I NOW defend myself?" The Lord reminded me that I was not to defend myself.
My opponent had no sooner ceased speaking when three people I had never met stood up and blasted him at every single point. Remember, "He will make your righteousness shine like the sun and the justice of your cause like the noon day sun." This made him back off. More things happened during that last week prior to the election and God began to answer all those prayers I brought before Him.
Six months later, he came to me in a restaurant and apologized. Six months after that, he became very ill and almost died. I was the only Republican invited to come to the party he had when he had finished his term and to actually speak about the relationship we had developed. I do believe it was because of that prayer and the memorization of the Scripture that I had that avenue with him to be able to do what God had called me to do. I never would have done all that unless I had God's wisdom and direction through memorizing Scripture.
Scripture comes in handy when facing various situations. I recall one occasion when I first began as a new member in the minority. Someone said something on the house floor that was untrue and even blasphemous. I kindly went up to them afterward to correct them, but they did not respond well and began to strongly push back. At that point, I thought of the verse, "Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; Rebuke a wise man and he will love you." So, I apologized to that person for my forwardness and left. When you have that kind of direction from His Word in your heart and pray through it regularly, you will develop the ability to use it as a tool to draw upon whenever needed. God will bring it to mind to equip you with the wisdom and direction you seek.
Tool 3: Seek divine protection from enemies
We don't think about this too often. We wish that politics was more congenial and everyone got along, but the reality is that politics is civilized warfare. Looking at the world right now, warfare erupts when the political system fails. In our nation's history, Abigail Adams wrote about entering congressional meetings years after the Revolutionary War and watching congressmen beat each other up. We are in battle here. Scripture tells us all the time that we are involved in spiritual warfare.
Because of this, I began each day with a routine. I visualize my day, review my Bible verses, pray through the fruit of the Spirit, and then I would put on my spiritual armor. I remember when a friend told me about putting on spiritual armor. At first, I thought she was crazy. Then, I saw how important it was. I would review this passage:
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you may take your stand against the devil's schemes."
The belt of truth
The first part of our spiritual armor is the "belt of truth." I would mentally think about myself putting on the belt of truth. The reason the soldiers put on a belt was to gird themselves so that they would be prepared to run. They would be able to move things out of the way so they could move freely. The truth of God is like that. It shores you up to move freely.
The breastplate of righteousness
I do not have any righteousness of my own. The only righteousness I have to get me through each day is God's. So I put on His breastplate of righteousness.
The helmet of salvation
I would think of this aspect of my armor in this way. Every time someone starts messing with my brain, I would remember that my significance is in Christ, I am a child of God, and it really doesn't matter. I will not let that person rattle me. Put on your helmet of salvation.
The shield of faith
I used to picture myself using my shield to dodge all the arrows coming my way. The shields that the Romans used were actually very big. You could hide behind it. You did not have to know how to use it. This is helpful for me because I am not always sure how I am to use my shield of faith, or do I know where the arrows are coming from.
The sword of the Spirit
The sword not only defends me against my enemies, but it also enables me to be on the offensive. There were times when the Bible verses I had memorized gave me the offensive advantage.
Feet shod with the gospel of peace
Even though I am clothed for warfare, my intent is to bring peace. This has helped me a lot when I have debated controversial issues, like the "Women's Right to Know" bill. This was one of the hardest bills I have ever had to do. I remember putting on my spiritual armor before going out to sit on the House floor. On one occasion, we debated for two and half hours. Anyone looking at me would see me sitting in a funny posture because in my mind I was "clothed" with spiritual armor. I could feel the arrows coming at me. Military soldiers have told me that when their armor gets hit they can definitely feel it.
Plus, you can become tired. Fatigue can affect you. You may not be wounded, but you can be tired. I don’t know if I would have been able to maintain my composure after all that debating, much of which was directed at me, unless I was aware of having put on my spiritual armor.
The armor of God is helpful, but there is one piece missing. This is where other Christians become a factor. Even though the shield is big, it does not cover your back. Your back is always exposed. Thus, soldiers in Bible times used to fight in teams. They had what was called a sword brother. They fought side to side. One covered one's back while the other covered the other's back. They worked together.
One thing I learned when I lost a local election in 2004 was that I did not have anyone covering my back. That was part of my problem. I needed a prayer team. I made a resolve never to run for office again unless I had a prayer team. When God called me to come back to Capitol Hill, I assembled a prayer team of 8-10 women who promised to pray for me. I would communicate with them where I felt I would be attacked on any particular week. They would pray for me and I could tell they had my back. Sometimes, they would email me informing me that they felt led to pray in a particular way that I had not requested.
Anyone who is not a legislator can be a sword brother. A sword brother likewise requires spiritual armor. They should also pray for the fruit of the Spirit. Whether a legislator knows you are praying for them or not, they certainly cannot do this work without sword brothers covering their backs in prayer.
Sometimes, a sword brother can see things legislators cannot see. This may be due to the legislator being in the fog of battle. The person in the gallery may see clearer than the person in the middle of the battle. Prayer is a non negotiable in life for all of us. In my case, praying the fruit of the Spirit, memorizing Scripture, and putting on spiritual armor has been vital. Without it, I would have been slain and laying out on the floor a long time ago.