Thanks for the Queen; Prayers for the King
In this post I will comment on some reflections on the death of a Queen and the accession of a King. First, however, I offer the following prayer for your use personally and in churches (you may notice the words of 1 Timothy 2:2-3 in the later lines). I hope these words may help you know how to pray in these days.
Gracious God, Majesty in heaven, blessed and only Sovereign,
We give thanks for the public service of Queen Elizabeth.
In countless interactions she treated people of every station with honour and dignity.
We give thanks for her public profession of faith in your Son, our Lord Jesus.
In her coronation vows and Christmas messages she testified to dependence on Him.
We give thanks for her steadfast devotion to family, nation and commonwealth.
Through changing times and personal challenges, she was a faithful wife and matriarch.
We who knew her a little from afar pray for those who loved her dearly and nearly.
May her family, friends and servants find comfort in your love.
In their grief may they seek refuge in your Son and rest in your great promises.
We pray especially for the new king, Charles.
We give thanks for his expressed intention to serve with your help.
May he seek your kingdom and righteousness above all else.
May his advisors give wise counsel in accordance with your will.
May his influence be for good, that your people may lead peaceful and quiet lives,
Free to live in godliness and dignity in every way and to proclaim the gospel of Christ.
In the name of our Lord and eternal King Jesus,
I am neither a passionate royalist nor a convinced republican. I wrote earlier this year, at the time of the Queen’s platinum jubilee about my mixed feelings and confusion about her role. I won’t repeat any of that here. Whatever our thoughts about the monarchy as an institution, in this moment of national mourning for the UK, international commemoration, and personal grief for the royal family, we should surely pause and reflect. In this past I will comment on three reflections – two concerning responses to the death of Queen Elizabeth II and one relating to the accession of her son as King Charles III.
My first observation is the strength of feeling at the Queen’s death not only in the countries of which she was head of state but also in countries that are now republics, having done away with monarchy long since. It was especially notable in France and the USA. Similarly striking is the fact that Spain, which has its own constitutional monarchy, will have three days of mourning. It is clear that Elizabeth was widely respected. Her constancy and longevity were undoubtedly a large part of the reason. For nations with elected presidents, there is no figure of comparably stabilising duration. But the respect is also rooted in the fact that she carried herself with such dignity and propriety. Unlike elected leaders, she was above political intrigue or financial interest. And she was clearly motivated by a sense of solemn duty to the nation under God. She was professional, dedicated and, by most accounts, she served with good humour and gentleness. Who could not admire the fact that just two days before her death she fulfilled the duty of an audience with the new Prime Minister, photographs showing how her body was failing (note her weight loss in recent months and her bruised hand suggestive of recent withdrawal of blood or infusion of fluids) but how her soul remained beautiful (see her broad smile with her customary warmth). The world saw it and admired her. She was, as several people have commented, like a mother or grandmother figure to all of us. Her loss feels destabilising. We can pray that in this time of shock and loss people may look to the one true constant, the Lord Jesus.
The second thing that has struck me is the frequency with which the Queen’s personal faith has been mentioned in reporting and commentating. It was clear that she believed herself to be accountable to her Creator. She looked to Jesus Christ as her example in servanthood. She drew great strength and consolation from her belief in Him. I cannot say exactly what she believed beyond this, and it’s not clear that the commentators care much about what exactly she believed, but it is certainly refreshing to hear people mentioning Christian faith in a public figure in a positive way. The comment that I have appreciated most in tribute to the Queen came from former Prime Minister Theresa May, who grew up the daughter of an Anglican minister. I am not referring to her hilarious anecdote about cheese at a Balmoral picnic but her closing comment: “May she rest in peace and rise in glory”. I had heard several MPs wishing that the Queen would rest in peace – this hope in life beyond death sounded out of place in the parliament of a country as secular as the UK – but May was the only one I heard expressing the full Christian hope of resurrection. The Queen, we assume, would have approved. In this is our hope for queen and commoner alike and we can pray that people may discover it.
Thirdly, I have one observation about Charles as king. It has been strange over this past week to see mourning for the deceased Queen intermingled with proclamations of the accession of the new King Charles III. It must be challenging for Charles, especially with the public eye constantly upon him. I think he has made a strong start. I do not know the degree to which he shares his mother’s faith. In his first speech as king to the nation, he spoke of his “own faith” which is “deeply rooted” in the Church of England, saying: “In that faith, and the values it inspires, I have been brought up to cherish a sense of duty to others, and to hold in the greatest respect the precious traditions, freedoms and responsibilities of our unique history and our system of parliamentary government”. He spoke too of serving “throughout the remaining time God grants me”. There was, however, no mention of Jesus, the One who increasingly featured in his mother’s Christmas addresses in recent years. Charles has spoken in the past of wanting to be defender of faiths (plural), not merely defender of the faith (singular). He later clarified this comment, explaining his intention to protect freedom of religion much as his mother did. I have no idea what that means about his own beliefs. He is not known for commenting on religion so much as on architecture and the environment. He needs our prayers as he walks through grief and assumes his royal responsibilities.