We continue looking at some principles of prayer. We have looked at persistence and humility in prayer. Today we look at outward prayer. Praying for people in various positions. We turn to 1 Timothy. Paul, the aged man, writing his personal letter to his beloved spiritual son, Timothy (1 Tim 1:1-2). Timothy was the apprentice to Paul, like Obi-Wan Kenobi to Qui-Gon Jinn. This indeed was a beautiful spiritual bond between these two faithful servants of Christ. Paul met Timothy in Acts 16:1-5 and continued to the death of Paul as he writes his last letter to his spiritual son Timothy (2 Timothy). Paul writes this letter to the young pastor left in Ephesus, charging certain persons not to teach any other doctrine (1 Tim 1:3-4). His first advice is prayer (1 Tim 2:1). Often this advice is not given to the graduates of seminary stepping into ministry, but this is Paul’s advice to Timothy. We will be looking at this in three parts.
Prayer is Important (Verse 1-2)
I will bring it up again, the first piece of advice that Paul gives Timothy beginning his ministry is to pray. Johnathan Edwards says, “Prayer is as natural expression of faith as breathing is to life.” Prayer is to faith as breathing to life. If you come across the body of someone lying on the ground, it would be a dire situation if they were not breathing. How often in our Christian pilgrimage we see it as challenge to see how long you can hold your breath? Prayer would not be on the number one essential things Christians should do. How upset would we get if the church stopped its prayer meetings? In all my years of working in church leadership, I have had interesting conversations about what people think the church should be doing. Never have I had someone come and say, our church is not praying enough.
However, this is Paul’s advice to Timothy, pray. Advice is not strong enough a word. Paul implores Timothy to pray. The same word is used in Matt 8:31 when the demons begged Jesus not to cast them out but sent to the pigs. This is not advice the demons were requesting politely but pleaded Jesus not to cast them out. Paul lists four different words for prayer, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving. You could break down the nuances and differences of these four words, but I believe Paul is using repetition to emphasize his call for prayer. Paul implores Timothy to pray, pray, pray, and pray. Charles Spurgeon said, “a pray less soul is a Christ, less soul.”
The second point Paul makes is for Timothy to pray for all people. Paul is not requesting Timothy to look up everybody’s name in a phone book and begin praying for each person (I’m not sure of a modern-day equivalent). Paul is telling Timothy to pray for all without any distinction rather than all without exception. Paul is instructing Timothy to pray for all types of people, every nation, tribe, and tongue. Paul then gives two explains of people we should pray for, kings and people in high positions. The time of this writing politics were not nice to Christians. Paul would spend time in prison due to being a Christian. One of the strangest promises of the Bible is that Christians WILL be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12). Paul tells Timothy to pray for them so that Christians can lead a peaceful, quiet, godly, and dignified life. We are commanded to pray for our leaders. We should pray for our local, municipal, state, federal, and foreign leaders. We should pray for all leaders without distinction, whether they align with your political views or not.
Prayer is inclusive (Verses 3-4)
These prayers are good and pleasing Paul writes. The flip side is that some prayer would not be good and displeasing, something to consider. Samuel Chadwick said, “Satan dreads nothing but prayer. His one concern is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, he mocks our wisdom, but he trembled when we pray.” Praying is good and pleasing to God. John Bunyan said, “prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God and a scourge for Satan.” How often we do not see prayer as a good thing, a pleasing sacrifice to God.
Paul then instructs the desired outcome of this type of prayer, that all people would be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. One commentator, Kent Hughs, said, “This divine desire informed and drove Paul to engage in a worldwide mission. It is not our responsibility or capability to solve the puzzle of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. It is our task to preach the gospel universally.” We pray because prayer is a powerful means of grace God ordinarily uses to bring about the work of his holy providence. We should pray fervently for all people, without distinction. We should pray that all people from every tribe, nation, and tongue may hear, believe, and obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. We pray this in the Lord’s prayer when we pray, “Your kingdom come.”
Prayer is instructive (Verses 5-7)
Finally, Paul cannot help but spring forth into this truth that the gospel teaches us. Firstly, one God, this simple reality of God is one (Deut 6:4; Gal 3:2). When we think about the various religions practiced throughout the globe, what a unifying existence that comes from one true God, our prayer should be that they might come to the knowledge of the truth. The Second point that Paul makes is that there is one mediator between God and Man. Many people want to say, “You have your truth, and I have mine.” However, the promise of the gospel is rooted in the idea of one God, one way, one truth, and one life. The only hope is in the man Jesus Christ, who is the perfect mediator between God and man because he is the God-Man. Our prayer should be that all people might come to this knowledge of the saving grace of this exclusive promise, whoever believes will have eternal life (John 3:16). The final statement Paul explains is the sacrificial gift that Christ gave for his people. What a glorious truth for us as hell-bound sinners. That while we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly (Rom 5:6).
Paul continues in his thought for praying for all people but explaining that he was appointed as a preacher, apostle, and teacher to the gentiles. This further illustrates the point when Paul is teaching all people in verses two and four. He has in mind unreached people groups rather than individuals. Paul is expressing that God desires all people from various nations, tribes, and tongues to be saved. This concept can be difficult, but we must turn to other scriptures to help us understand what the whole counsel of God has to teach us about difficult passages of scripture. A few bible verses to study would be John 6; Romans 8-9; John 17.