Workday Prayers: When Leaders are Wrong

By Mark D. Roberts

April 15, 2021

Scripture – Psalm 58:1-2 (NRSV)

Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods?
+++Do you judge people fairly?
No, in your hearts you devise wrongs;
+++your hands deal out violence on earth.


The NRSV of Psalm 58 begins, “Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods?” The Hebrew word translated here as “gods” (’elem) is not the ordinary word for “gods.” It has a variety of possible meanings. Given the rest of Psalm 58, it’s most likely that ’elem refers to human rulers, even if they are being addressed ironically as “gods.” The NIV prefers “Do you rulers indeed speak justly?” using “rulers” to translate ’elem. The following prayer takes ’elem as if referring to human leaders.


Psalm 58 laments the evil ways of leaders in ancient Israel. Sadly, this psalm is all too relevant in our own day, as we watch so many leaders do and say what is wrong. But even as we cry out to God for mercy, we must also scrutinize our own leadership. Are we honoring God in every decision we make? Every word we speak? Or are we also caught up in the spirit of this age, seeking to win at all costs, augmenting our power and influence even when we hurt others in the process?


Gracious God, I watch as people in authority ignore your revelation of right and wrong. So many these days do not speak truthfully, choosing instead to say anything that augments their power or wealth. They make decisions that hurt others, taking advantage of those who are weak and voiceless. So many leaders are motivated by self-interest and act in ways that hurt others. O God, have mercy on us! Give us leaders of integrity, people who seek your ways.

As I lament the sorry state of so many leaders in business, government, media, and even the church, I pause to reflect on my own leadership. Am I committed to knowing what is right? Or am I satisfied with what’s best for me? Do I speak the truth, even when it’s costly? Or am I one who says whatever profits me and those in my tribe? Does wrong rise up in my heart? Do I make plans without considering your kingdom? Do I treat people harshly? Does the fruit of my work serve others? Or does it hurt them?

O God, “I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3). So I ask you to “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me” (51:10). “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain me in a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways” (51:12-13). Then, Lord, as you are at work within me, then I will lead in ways that honor you. Then my work will serve well those you have entrusted to my care. Then I will seek first your kingdom, justice, and righteousness. Then you will be glorified through me. Amen.

Ponder Throughout the Day

Am I leading today in a way that truly honors God?

For Further Reflection

You may wish to read all of Psalm 58.

This prayer has also been shaped in light of Psalm 51, which you might also read.

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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Best of Daily Reflections: What Can You Offer to God?

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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