First of All: Pray!

1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-7)

I am so glad to continue with you through God’s Word, and particularly to begin chapter 2 of 1 Timothy. Paul in chapter 2 begins to instruct Timothy and each of us who are Christians how to live among people who may not be like us. What I mean by that is we live with people all around us who are not like us. You may say, “Nobody is like me!” In a sense you are correct. God is very creative, isn’t He? We are all different for sure. But what I mean by people being different all around us is people who do not share our faith, who do not share our view of how the world operates, how God has ordered things. People outside of the Christian faith live under different assumptions than we do, they do not share our worldview. And so we are called to sometimes live in difficult circumstances simply because our view of things is different than many other people’s views.

As we think about this, that is the Christian’s worldview being different than the non-Christian’s worldview, the reality is that we are the ones who have changed. We were all born with a sinful heart. We call this the sin nature of man. Our nature coming into this world was one of sin. We were bent toward sin. When Adam willingly sinned in the Garden of Eden we became the recipients of his new nature. We were not born holy, we were born sinful, I mean in our nature. This is true of all people since Adam except for Jesus Christ. So if our worldview has become more in line with what is pleasing to God, then somewhere along the road we were changed, because we weren’t born that way.

And so there are very significant differences in how Christians and non-Christians process all of what is going on around us. We have different ideas of what is good and what is evil, of what should be done in our world and what should be stopped. Our agenda is first and foremost the glory of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. We are here for Him, to live for Him. He died for us so that we who live no longer live for ourselves but for Him who for us died and rose again.

We saw from 1 Timothy 1 that Timothy was charged with standing up to false teachers with truth. His situation was likened to a battle or a war, and Timothy was to wage the good warfare, spiritually speaking, with those who would oppose the truth, God’s truth. This waging of the good war was not just to put down those false teachers but also to protect fellow believers and would-be believers from damning philosophies that would lead them astray.

If we are going to live for Christ in this world, our world, then we must be willing, able, and ready to fight the good fight, which is spiritual warfare that is around us. So how do we do that? What is included in spiritual warfare? Where do we start? How do we do battle, spiritually, in a world that so often opposes us? This is what Paul is now getting to with Timothy. Where do we start when we recognize troubles around us?

Here is where we begin: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people” We start with prayer. We start with a sincere acknowledgement that we are weak and He is strong. So we prepare for spiritual warfare by admitting our weakness. This may seem a bit counter intuitive. This is though an aspect of prayer. If we can do it all, if we are strong enough to make things happen, then why would we need to pray? Prayer takes the battle off of our shoulders and lays it at the feet of Jesus. I know for me, it is way too often that I skip the prayer and go into a situation that I think I can handle on my own, many times because it is a familiar situation, and arrogantly I step in only to find myself inadequate to do the job. 

I mean, why are we commanded to “pray without ceasing” in 1 Thessalonians 5:17? Or when Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” When Paul thinks of people around him who need resolve to do their good work, who need power and faith, when he thinks of people around him who need to walk with the Lord so that they can glorify Him, what does he do? He prays. He calls upon the Lord to be their strength, to sustain them, to carry them through their trials. 

This is a matter of seeing everyone involved in a realistic way. It is putting God at the center of all activity and not ourselves. It is seeing God as the one who can act perfectly, and not just act in a way that effects the outer, seen activities in a situation, but as the one who is able to penetrate even the hearts of those involved. 

I am afraid that too often in our feelings of desperation we act on our own to fix things instead of going to the Lord in prayer, acknowledging that He alone has the power for real change in people’s, including us, in all people’s inner man – the mind, the heart.

Prayer is hugely important. And so first of all Paul urges Timothy and us to pray. I love the image of prayer being done on one’s knees. The image of a person being down on their knees in prayer. It is similar to bowing in prayer, even just bowing our heads in prayer. The imagery is of one admitting their inferior status to one who is supremely superior. Kneeling, bowing before royalty, in our case to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, to the one who spoke the universe into being and who sustains all things. Our Lord is strong, He is able for and strong for any of our battles. He is the almighty King, our Lord. In Revelation 19 we get a picture of who He is and what He is capable of…

11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 19:11-16)

He is capable of battle, and He is the same God that we call upon in prayer, in our troubles. This is the God to whom we pray.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people (1 Timothy 1:1)

Paul urges prayer. He describes four types of prayer. The first three can be seen as synonymous, but there are subtle differences in them.

First, Paul urges supplications. This comes from a Greek word that means “to lack” or “to be without something.” So this kind of prayer recognizes needs. We are a needy people, in need of God and His provision. People around us are needy people also, in need of God’s gracious provision. For some the need is salvation, they are in need of grace, saving grace. For others there is a need for more of God and of His Spirit. As Christians, we are all to be going after God in a more meaningful, complete way. If we are going to grow up as believers then we are in great need of His Spirit to work in us.

Many times we may find ourselves praying for someone who does not think they have a need, those who have not recognized a need for Christ. But that is okay, I mean okay as far as what we do…we can pray. Again, this sets our minds right regarding God, ourselves, and others. God is the primary doer and can act and do as He pleases, we are His servants calling on Him, not on ourselves, calling on Him to supply a need, and other people, they may or may not be aware of their need, but that does not keep us from calling on God and desiring what is good in their life. Our hope is not based on what someone else wants or does not want, but our hope is in God who will work out His perfect will. We are to make supplications as we pray.

Paul next uses a word that is translated “prayers.” The word here is the most general type of prayer and it is used in the Bible as only in reference to God. The Greek word behind this English word is how we most often use the word prayer. Prayer for us is to God, always directed to God. We may talk to others, but we don’t pray to others. Prayer is uniquely directed to God.

Then Paul says “intercessions.” You could also say here “petitions.” This word is only used in 1 Timothy. Here in our passage today and also in chapter 4 verse 5. It is to speak to someone on behalf of someone else. It is like making a request for someone else, and often times to someone in authority. We may intercede for our children with their teacher or your boss may intercede for you where you work. This, in fact, is what the Holy Spirit does for us as God’s children. He goes to the Father for us! 

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)

And in Hebrews 7 we see Christ also interceding for us!

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)

I think this may be hard for many of us to grasp, that the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ are speaking to God the Father on our behalf. I mean, the Trinity speaks of each one of us, speaks about you and me! They know your name and talk about you! There is a holy intercession going on about you and about me. Think about this. Think about this truth of intercession. To intercede for someone we have to know them. We have to know their situation. We need to understand what is going on in his or her life, right? We are known by Jesus, we are known by the Holy Spirit and we are also known by God. They all know us well and therefore are in the best possible place to intercede for us.

And as we get to know each other and each other’s situations and needs, we too get to intercede, we too go to God in prayer and make our requests for each other. I am thankful for the many of you who intercede in prayer for me!

Paul then adds thanksgiving. All of our prayers to God should be given with a spirit of gratefulness. The fact that we can go before the Father in prayer, any prayer, should lead us to thanksgiving. We have access to God! Access to the one who can reach the lost, who can change hearts, who can move mountains, who can provide abundantly. We pray to the one who hears, who knows, who acts, and who loves us dearly. All of this is reason for gratefulness, reason to pray with a spirit of thanksgiving.

Now, all of this prayer that we are to do…for whom are we to pray? Paul says “for all people.”

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people (1 Timothy 1:1)

Paul says to pray for all people. This is such a great statement of truth from God, but it can also be a difficult one. We may tend to keep our circle of prayer rather small. Maybe the extent of our prayers deal with ourselves and our immediate family. Maybe it branches out a bit to our church family and some neighbors, co-workers perhaps. But I wonder if we are not neglecting the aspect of prayer when it comes to how broadly we pray for others in this world. Jesus even said in Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Our prayer life can be expanded! Let me give you some examples. Do we pray for the radical faction of Muslim terrorists around our world? They need Christ. They need a radical change in their hearts, they are on a road to destruction and have believed lies. Do we pray for them? What about those fleeing Syria? Some are fleeing real persecution, some, maybe we don’t know their motives. But either way do we pray for them? Do we pray for those who are suffering and do we pray for those who may have evil intent for leaving Syria? How about Assad who is in Syria? Do we pray for his salvation? What about all those who are pouring across our border to the South? Again, we don’t know all of their intentions, I am not making a statement here saying it is okay to enter our country illegaly, because it’s not, but I am saying these are people groups for whom we can pray. We can pray for their salvation. How about abortion providers? Do we pray for them, do we pray that they will repent and be a part of our family in Christ?

There are so many who need Christ…drug traffickers, gang members, human traffickers, all need Christ. And what about those who suffer under the hands of evil? We can pray for them. Our military personnel and emergency responders. They live stress-filled lives as God uses them to keep us safe. Are we praying for them?

There are groups of people all around facing tremendous challenges, some self-inflicted and others maybe not, but all need Christ. How can we help them? We can start by praying. Praying that God will open blind eyes to spiritual truth, praying for God’s mercy for their hard hearts, praying that God’s peace and protection will surround them and they will see God as the source of their lives and necessary for their well-being.

When Paul says to pray for all men, all people, let’s stretch our thinking and let our prayers go beyond even those that we know.

Within Paul’s call to prayer, he gets a little more specific with these words: “for kings and all who are in high positions,”

Out of all the different groups or categories of people, Paul chooses to mention kings and all who are in high positions. Maybe he does this because people may have a tendency not to pray for government leaders. And maybe the church in Ephesus neglected praying for those over them, those who ruled over them because of who was ruling over them. This was not a peaceful or easy time for Christians in Ephesus. The one ruling over them in their government was tyrannical and even evil. And since their leader was evil the people may have, rather than praying for him, they may have just complained about him. The emperor at this time was a man named Nero. Nero was cruel, he was a blasphemer, he hated Christians. He was also a persecutor of Christians. There may have even been some in the church who hated Nero so much that they perhaps didn’t even desire that Nero be saved. Maybe like Jonah who lamented over the fact that the people of Nineveh repented of their sins. Jonah wanted to see them judged rather than see them repent and turn to God. You know, we can get that way with people. We can become so angry with other people that we would rather they be cursed and judged and destroyed rather than see them turn to God in repentance. 

But the church was to move past those feelings of bitterness and anger and do what? Pray for Nero. Even to do good for him if they had opportunity. God is clear about how we should think about government officials and even that they are put there by God Himself.

1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. (Romans 13:1-5)

Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:17)

Our duty is to pray for those over us, pray for their salvation, pray for repentance.

Paul does mention a benefit of praying for our leaders, and it is more even than that they might be saved. He writes, “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” This is an interesting part of our passage. Paul is hoping that Christians will or can lead a peaceful and quiet life. Now remember, they were not in good favor with the government, and Paul of all people had many struggles with ruling authorities. He was no stranger to arrest and imprisonment. But when Paul says a quiet life, I don’t think this means an easy or sheltered life. Paul is not hoping for ease in the first century. He never avoided conflict by suppressing God’s truth. He knew, of all people, that persecution would happen for those who were serious about living godly lives. So what does he mean by praying that they may lead a peaceful and quiet life? What he seems to mean here is that they would enjoy a certain freedom from the turmoil that threatened to thwart gospel ministry. A quiet life for him would be a life where he was free from hindrances to gospel ministry. 

And then he adds, “godly and dignified in every way.” This godliness and a dignified life would be a life that reflected our Lord. A life that gave the world a real look into Christianity.

We are called to be different. Christians are called to be different. Our lives are to reflect our Savior. This means living in conflict in this world. We are not of the world. This conflict is to lead us to prayer. Sincere prayer in which we can call upon our God to save the lost who are His enemies, prayers that He will have mercy on them just as He has had mercy on us. Those prayers should be broad, should reach all kinds of people groups; everyone needs Christ. It should include our leaders in our country. And perhaps even more freedom to share and spread the truth. We can pray that the message of Christ will go out, will be allowed by those in charge, and will enable us to be vocal about our faith. And all the while, living lives, not just speaking, but living lives that are godly and are dignified and that rightly represent who we have become in Christ. Our fellow man needs to know and see truth, see the love of Christ in us and our concern for them. 

Fight the good fight, wage the good warfare with prayer!

1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)