1 Timothy 2:1-7 CEB (Contemporary English Bible)
First of all, then, I ask that requests, prayers, petitions, and thanksgiving be made for all people. 2 Pray for kings and everyone who is in authority so that we can live a quiet and peaceful life in complete godliness and dignity. 3 This is right and it pleases God our savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 There is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the human Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a payment to set all people free. This was a testimony that was given at the right time. 7 I was appointed to be a preacher and apostle of this testimony—I’m telling the truth and I’m not lying! I’m a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
“A Life outlined with prayer is less likely to unravel.” This was a counted cross stitch I received from my sister-in-law many, many years ago. It has formed a framework for my life.
Our passage this morning is a call to prayer. Paul is asking, through his letter to Timothy, that all who read this letter enter into intentional prayer for all people. Chapter 2 begins with one of Paul’s famous lists. The list is of four types of prayer – four emphases in prayer. As the list closes, he qualifies the list with the phrase, “for all people.” So, first, what does this list of four “types” of prayer mean? And second, who are the “all?”
Verse One is packed. “First of all, then, I ask that requests, prayers, petitions, and thanksgiving be made for all people.” This list really is a pattern for prayer that helps us “cover the bases” so to speak. The faithful are called to pray. First, we are to make earnest requests for help amid personal needs (supplications). An awareness of our own needs and how God can supply those needs is essential to stretching into the other three areas of prayer. As in Jesus statement of the Great Commandment, we are to love others as we love ourselves. We have to take care of ourselves if we are going to be any good at all to someone else. It is when we observe God’s mighty hand in our lives that our faith gains strength. Our strong faith can then be am encouragement for others. The second area of prayer is to make humble entreaties for whatever is beneficial, offered to God, the divine care giver. Often, we come with a clearly crafted list along with our hoped-for outcomes. An important facet of our prayer life is coming to God with what I refer to as open hands. This is an approach where we ask God what God wants for our lives and the world around us. It is open ended and generalized. What we are doing is allowing God time and space to lead us in life. This area of prayer recognizes our limited perspective and invited God to speak into our lives. Third, we are to offer petitions (or intercessions) for each other as needs are perceived. This is that amazing time where we lift each other in prayer. Our Sunday prayer time is a wonderful example of that. We find ourselves celebrating good things in each other’s lives, as well as seeking God’s intervention in those places where we are broken. This really is that list I mentioned earlier, however, I hope we can be “open-handed” enough to invite God to answer prayers from his great wisdom and not just from our limited perspective. Finally, we are to give thanks for blessings received. We give thanks for answered prayer, those expected blessings we have asked for. That is a crucial part of our relationship with God. Without a healthy recognition of what God has done in our life and in the lives of those around us we not much more that spoiled children – taking our blessings of granted. We also give thanks for those unexpected blessings, where God has known and met a need we have even before we were aware of our need. This is one of those places where God has put into our “open hands” what is best for us. There are even those blessings in disguise, where God has taken a circumstance first identified as negative and turned it around as a blessing. Along the lines of this last one, my ministry career had been characterized by long pastorates. I served in my first two churches for seven years each. The third church I pastored lasted eight years. In each of the churches I had been able to lead well before choosing to move on. God had truly blessed my ministry. When I went to my last church I assumed that my gifts and talents would yield similar results. After only 15 months I was asked to leave. I was told that I was ineffective in leading staff, as well as administration. I was devastated. My first response was to quietly move on. But God used Janna and my District Superintendent to give me the confidence to fight for my position. That process affirmed that I was truly an effective instrument for God’s church. I found greater strength in my abilities and in what God could do through me. Oh, yes, and I served that church for fourteen years!
I don’t believe these four areas of prayer are intended to be done in any rigid order. In fact, you may find yourself circulating among the four several times in prayer. The idea is to be sure to touch all the bases – cover all the terrain – in order to let God fully participate in our lives.
So, what about that statement Paul makes at the end of verse 1? “[these prayers] be made for all people.” At one point Paul wants us to think and pray with a global perspective. Like the ripples in a calm lake when one throws a pebble into it, we are to let our prayers reach out in ripples to the world around us – clear to the farthest shores.
I also believe Paul wants us to be generous in our prayer, not excluding any. Often it means lifting our “enemies” in prayer- the unjust, even the evil. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. We need to be praying for the lost as well. Even beyond this, we are to take the people we struggle with the most, and lift them into God’s hands, praying for their hearts and minds. Have you noticed; it is hard to be angry with someone when you are earnestly praying for them! Again, “life outlined with prayer is less likely to unravel.”
With a global scope and a global inclusion, Paul next lifts a specific group: “Kings and everyone who is in authority.” I believe it is our duty to bless our leaders with our prayers. Within our own community leadership, our state leadership and our national leadership, we need to be lifting them in prayer. I’m sure that Mike Chimenti appreciates prayer for his administration. Likewise, Senator Dr. John Barasso would appreciate our prayer support. Why do we as the church pray for civil peace with justice? Thomas Oden says, “That it [the church] may be enabled to lead a life of tranquility (lacking inward disturbance) and serenity (lacking outward disturbance) in all godliness (a life that properly reverences God) and dignity (proper conduct, honorable and worthy of respect). Whether rulers were Christian or not (none were at this date), the good magistrate would be seeking to restrain violence, encourage peace, provide a political order in which virtue and religion were possible, and to maintain public decency and respect for law.” That’s just common sense. Even if a ruler is unjust, the church prays to God to “make the bad man [or woman] good,” in the words of John Calvin.
I find the next turn in this passage especially powerful. Our prayers need to have roots in our very salvation and in the salvation of the world. Verses 3-4 “This is right and pleases God our Savior…” We pray for the salvation of all. We pray that all come to knowledge of the truth. When we put prayer in a salvation context, we are reminded that it is not my truth or your truth but God’s truth we are seeking. I’m certainly not in possession of all God’s truth, but God will reveal truth to those who seek it. This sets us free in spirit and in prayer.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I catch ,myself going through the motions of prayer. Sometimes my heart and passion seem to be somewhere else. Paul would agree that we are to be passionate in our prayer. We are to invest our whole selves in the process of connecting with God in prayer. Look at Jeremiah 8:21-9:1. “Because my people are crushed, I am crushed; darkness and despair overwhelm me. 22 Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then have my people not been restored to health? If only my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, I would weep day and night for the wounds of my people.” There is a passion as Jeremiah looks at the plight of a people judged and scattered. Jeremiah wants to pull the people back into communion with the one God, to build them up in hope. He is seeking their welfare through his tears. While we all know it happens from time to time, let us be on our guard against passionless prayer. Build a fire in our prayer life as we lift all to God in prayer.
Let’s begin this process of “Prayers for All” by entering into prayer together. This is a “bidding style” prayer where I will offer a prompt, and in your silent prayer you fill in the details as God inspires you.
Let us Pray
God of power and majesty:
With the rising of the sun you have raised Jesus Christ
and delivered him and us from death’s destruction
We praise you on this bright new day for all your gifts of new life.
Especially we thank you
for all victories over sin and evil in our lives …
for loyalty and love of family and friends …
for the newborn, the newly baptized, and those now in your eternal home …
for the renewal of nature, seasons and beauty …
for the continuing witness of the church of Jesus Christ …
God of eternity:
You are present with us because of Christ’s raising from the dead,
and you persist in lifting us to new life in him.
Especially we pray
for nations and peoples in strife …
for friend and foe, for the goodness of humanity, for the peace of the world …
for leaders in our community, state, and nation …
for the poor and impoverished, at home and abroad …
for those we know in particular circumstances of distress …
for the diseased and the dying …
for all who follow the risen Christ …,
through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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Pastor Paul Grossman