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.Thus the apostle.
In directing the believers to pray for those in authority, Paul makes clear that the sphere of political leadership is not one of divine disinterest. The fact that Jesus' kingdom is not of this world does not mean that the kingdoms of this world are beneath his notice. Admittedly, Paul's expectations and goals when it comes to praying for kings and all in high positions seem to be very limited, but there is engagement.
Our situation is rather different from Paul's. Unlike him, we are periodically asked to help decide who exactly will be "in high positions", through the mechanism of electing our representatives. We approach that as believers who know the King, but nevertheless are called to take an interest in who will exercise temporal authority over us. Unlike Paul, we are called not only to pray but to act, to take a degree of responsibility (albeit a small and limited one) for the powers that be. The emperor did not ask for Paul's input in how he ran his empire, but we are asked for input, and it is important that our input be decisively shaped by the recognition that Jesus has died and risen, and is now ascended and enthroned. We vote, just as we live, as witnesses to that decisive fact. Our priorities ought to be different as a result. Can I suggest a few particular areas to think through?
In 2015, 191,014 human beings were legally killed in England and Wales. They were, of course, killed in the womb, but killed they nonetheless were. If you're a taxpayer, you helped to pay for it. We are called to bear witness to the fact that in Christ no human life is superfluous, hopeless, or without value. If one of the candidates for your parliamentary seat is consistently pro-life, and shows some willingness to act on their convictions, can I suggest that this might trump a whole load of other considerations? I know that lots of Christians in the UK have been dismayed at the 'single-issue' voting across the pond, and I'm not saying that you should ignore everything else. But if you did have to pick a single issue, saving the lives of unborn children wouldn't be a bad one.
In a similar, but less extreme, vein, there are numerous people in the UK who, through ill health or disability, are unable to support themselves. On this issue, we look for representatives who first of all have compassion - who actually show some signs of caring - and then secondly who have a plan. I don't think we need to be or ought to be particularly attached to any one plan, but we want representatives who will prioritise taking action in this area. We live as those who believe in the God of compassion when we vote with compassion - and note that the God of compassion did not sit in heaven feeling sorry for us in our brokenness, but acted to help!
A third area would be around freedom of expression, and especially freedom of religion. This has two aspects to it: domestic and international. Internationally, we want representatives who will support the spread of religious liberty around the world. Domestically, we want representatives who will protect the right of people of all faiths and none to act according to conscience and to speak according to their conviction. We should stand for religious liberty for all, not just ourselves or those like us. This is, I will confess, partly out of a self-interested application of what might be termed the Niemöller principle - if we don't speak out when they come for the Muslims, who will speak out when they come for us? But there is also something more principled about it. We believe in the Christ who rules by his sovereign word, and wherever that word is given liberty he will extend his reign - we are not, or ought not to be, afraid of other ideas or beliefs.
And then there is a whole load of other stuff. It's legitimate to think about economics, although we ought to resist the appeals to our own economic self-interest as much as we are able. We can take a step back and ask what sort of system seems likely to work best, whether that's in economics or governance. It's reasonable to think about security and international relations. On most of these things. Christians will be able to reasonably and faithfully disagree, because they're inevitably based on uncertain assessments of the world and our place in it. But that doesn't mean they don't matter, or that our choices ought not to be shaped by the reality of the gospel.
When we're done thinking all this through, I think we'll wind up back with Paul. How huge these issues are! How complex is the world in which we live! What confusion there is around even the apparently simplest things! How entrenched are some of the atrocities of our society! How desperate is the situation of the voiceless! And how pathetically small is our influence, our ability to shape things.
And so, pray for kings and all who are in high positions. One way we can witness is to keep calm and know that Christ is on the throne. It is, despite appearances, in his hands - all of it. So vote and pray. And pray and pray and pray.