This quote from John Newton popped up in my twitter feed a couple of days ago.
People do their country more service by pleading for it in prayer than by finding fault with things they have no power to alter.
I was intrigued to find out where it came from, so I dropped the quotation into Google. It turns out that it comes from one of Newton’s letters entitled “Blemishes in Christian character.” The letter (which may be read in its entirety here) sketches pen portraits of different character traits that can be found in Christians but which fall short of the image of Christ. It’s well worth reading the letter and asking: “Which am I?”
One of the reasons that I like the quote from Newton is that coming from him we really need to hear what he is saying. Newton cannot be dimissed as a passive pietist who was mute in the face of institutional injustice. In fact Newton attracted opposition by composing a hymn which criticised England’s attempts to suppress American uprisings as the actions of a guilty land. Perhaps more famously he became a public campaigner for the abolition of the slave trade by publishing “Thoughts Upon the African Slave Trade.” and by encouraging Wilberforce.
Like Newton, Christians today need to be vocal and active in opposing some of the great injustices and horrors which plague society, but its not Christlike to regard our national leaders in government and opposition with grumbling or sneering contempt.
Paul writes these words to Timothy:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Tim 2:1-4 ESV
I recognise in myself a tendency to grumble rather than pray, and think the Newton quote is a helpful reminder that as we think about the issues of the day, we should be much less ready to grumble and much more ready to pray.