For kings - As it is a positive maxim of Christianity to pray for all secular governors, so it has ever been the practice of Christians. When St. Cyprian defended himself before the Roman proconsul, he said: Hunc (Deum) deprecamur-pro nobis et pro omnibus hominibus; et pro incolumitate ipsorum Imperatorum. "We pray to God, not only for ourselves, but for all mankind, and particularly for the emperors." Tertullian, in his Apology, is more particular: Oramus pro omnibus Imperatoribus, vitam illis prolixam, imperium securum, domum tutam, exercitus fortes, senatum fidelem, populum probum, orbem quietum, et quaecunque hominis et Caesaris vota sunt. Apol., cap. 30. "We pray for all the emperors, that God may grant them long life, a secure government, a prosperous family, vigorous troops, a faithful senate, an obedient people; that the whole world may be in peace; and that God may grant, both to Caesar and to every man, the accomplishment of their just desires."
So Origen: Ευχομεθα τους βασιλεις και αρχοντας μετα της βασιλικης δυναμεως και σωφρονα τον λογισμον εχοντας εὑρεθηναι . Cont. Cels., lib. viii. "We pray for kings and rulers, that with their royal authority they may be found possessing a wise and prudent mind." Indeed they prayed even for those by whom they were persecuted. If the state be not in safety, the individual cannot be secure; self-preservation, therefore, should lead men to pray for the government under which they live. Rebellions and insurrections seldom terminate even in political good; and even where the government is radically bad, revolutions themselves are most precarious and hazardous. They who wish such commotions would not be quiet under the most mild and benevolent government.
That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life - We thus pray for the government that the public peace may be preserved. Good rulers have power to do much good; we pray that their authority may be ever preserved and well directed. Bad rulers have power to do much evil; we pray that they may be prevented from thus using their power. So that, whether the rulers be good or bad, prayer for them is the positive duty of all Christians; and the answer to their prayers, in either ease, will be the means of their being enabled to lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
For kings - On the respect due to rulers, see the notes on Romans 13:1-7. The meaning here is, that while all people should be the subjects of prayer, those should be particularly remembered before the throne of grace who are in authority. The reason is, that so much depends on their character and plans; that the security of life, liberty, and property, depends so much on them. God has power to influence their hearts, and to incline them to what is just and equal; and hence we should pray that a divine influence may descend upon them. The salvation of a king is of itself of no more importance than that of a peasant or a slave; but the welfare of thousands may depend on him, and hence he should be made the special subject of prayer.
All that are in authority - Margin, or, “eminent place.” This does not necessarily mean those who hold office, but refers to any of elevated rank. The happiness of all who are under their control depends greatly on them, and hence we should pray for them that they may be converted people, and inclined to do that which is right.
That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life - That their hearts may be so inclined to what is right that they may protect us in the enjoyment of religion, and that we may not be opposed or harassed by persecution. This does not mean that their protection would dispose us to lead quiet and peaceful lives, but that under their protection we may be saved from oppression on account of our religion. Christians are disposed of themselves to be peaceful and orderly; they ask of their rulers only that they may not be harassed in the enjoyment of their rights.
In all godliness and honesty - In the practice of all our duties toward God, and of all the duties which we owe to people. The word godliness here denotes piety - or the duty which we owe to God; the word honesty refers to our duties to our fellow-men. The Christian asks from civil rulers such protection that; he maybe enabled quietly to perform both these classes of duties.