"Then they answered Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses.” Joshua 1:16, 17
The Israelites lost their beloved leader Moses just when they were arriving at the border of the land promised to them by God after decades of wandering in the wilderness. They might have been overwhelmed with uncertainty had the Lord not already chosen Moses’ successor Joshua, someone they knew and trusted. The people unanimously accepted his leadership and swore unconditional obedience to him. More importantly, they prayed that the Lord would be with him just as he had been with Moses.
It seems an easy task to ask the Lord to be with leaders who are trusted and have proven themselves godly men and women. The challenge comes when they are not, yet 1 Timothy 2:1-4 instructs us to pray for all men, including (maybe especially) our leaders: “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
The reason we are to pray is not to bend them to our political will but rather that they will be saved and know truth. We pray because when they (and we) are obedient to God, it goes well for us as a nation as God promises in Deuteronomy 28:1-3: “If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God: You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.”
It's sobering to read through portions of 2 Kings to see what happened when a king turned away from God, and the blessings the nation received when he was obedient. When those in authority do what is right in their own eyes, refusing to recognize the holiness and sovereignty of God, the nation will suffer. Likewise, when a leader is obedient to the Lord the people are at peace, much like the children of Israel were as they prepared to enter the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership.
When we pray for God to be with our leaders we acknowledge that the Lord is ultimately in control and can follow in obedience. This is a prayer that pleases Him.