Julia Roberts and George Clooney have been good friends since they filmed Ocean’s Eleven 13 years ago. When asked what advice she would give Clooney now that he is married, the married mother of three replied: “Well, the only advice for that is finding your person—and he’s found his person.”
Roberts may be giving Clooney advice, but most Americans aren’t praying for him to take it. A recent study shows that 82 percent of Americans who pray do so for family or friends; 74 percent pray about their own problems; 13 percent pray for sports teams. Only five percent of us pray for celebrities. While Scripture tells us to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2), only 12 percent of us pray for government leaders.
Our prayers reflect our priorities. Faith in our leaders continues to falter after last year’s government shutdown, the troubled Healthcare.gov rollout, intelligence failures with ISIS, the veterans health care scandal, and the Secret Service’s failure to protect the White House. Only 19 percent of us trust the government to do the right thing “just about always/most of the time.” How do you feel about your elected officials?
With such animosity toward government, it’s not surprising that survival has become the new definition of political success. And that’s deeply troubling. I just finished Adrian Goldsworthy’s exceptional How Rome Fell. The historian describes Rome’s decline in remarkable detail, concluding that the greatest empire known to humanity fell victim to its own internal crises. In brief, he states, Rome’s leaders “had forgotten what the empire was for.” As rulers grew increasingly self-centered, their neglect of the people fostered rebellions that threatened their lives and futures. So they became even more self-protective, further antagonizing the people they were meant to serve.
According to Goldsworthy, “The Roman experience suggests that imperial decline is likely to start at the top. In their case the fatal decline of the empire came from internal problems. If governments or agencies forget what they are really for, then decline will occur, however slowly. . . . Bureaucracies are stubborn, they tend to expand on their own and develop their own agendas. This is not inevitable, but it is always likely.”
Does this feel familiar to you?
Influencers change culture, for better or for worse. George Clooney says, “I don’t know if I believe in God”—what impact would his conversion make on our culture? Imagine a nation where citizens prayed for their leaders as God directs and leaders consequently governed according to biblical principles. As we pray for the spiritual awakening our society needs so desperately, let’s intercede specifically for influencers whose commitment to Christ would impact us all.
I’ll begin with George Clooney. For whom will you pray today?