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By Prayer

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

The desire of God is that all people will be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. The starting point for us is not in strategies, but in prayer and full dependence upon God as we labor with him in this great privilege.

Paul had just written of the wonderful grace of God exhibited in Christ who “came into the world to save sinners” (1:15), followed by remembrance of two men who had professed Christ (1:20), and yet whose faith became “shipwrecked.” It must have reminded him of the many people who still had not heard of Christ, and also of the dangers inherent in the life of faith. He told Timothy that the first order of the church is to pray for all people: that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority.

We need not make too much of the various words which Paul used: requests (entreaties), prayers (reverent, worshipful conversation), intercession (confident, familiar talk rather than the popular notion of speaking on behalf of another), and thanksgiving (often linked with holiness and therefore proper every time we bow before God). Paul labored the point in order to spread before us the comprehensive nature of prayer and also to underscore this serious command.

In our public worship, prayer should be our first order of concern and participation. Prayer is not to be a filler between hymns or a routine before the sermon. Paul wrote to the Philippians, “In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6). He urged the Colossians and us, “Devote yourselves to prayer” (Col. 4:2). Prayer is a uniting with God. It is to be entered into with awe and joy, with respect and a sense of responsibility. We are engaged in the worldwide mission of glorifying God, especially as demonstrated through the spread of the gospel as people come to salvation through Jesus Christ.

It should be remembered that God has instituted government for our benefit. When government operates well, it is a significant ally to the gospel. Knowing that the mission of the church is to reveal and disperse the truth of Jesus Christ, Paul emphasized the need to pray for those in authority. This was written during the reign of Nero as emperor of Rome. Even under his degenerate and harsh rule, the Roman Empire provided a useful structure for extending the reach of God’s truth.

In our own time, we must also recognize that corporate prayer is not only a central expression of worship, but a requirement. Regardless of political loyalties or persuasions, churches should pray for national and local governmental leaders, uniting the hearts of many for these influential people.

Governmental leaders and bureaucratic policies have a direct bearing on our freedom to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

Peaceful literally means “tranquil.” This word refers to the absence of outside disturbances. Quiet refers to a composed, discreet order. Certainly we desire our nation to be peaceful and quiet. Paul implied that God is willing to help us achieve this. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases” (Prov. 21:1).

The point of desiring a benign environment, however, is not for our own comfort. It is for the expression of godliness and holiness; it is for Christian witness. Paul still had in view the observing community and world, the spread of the gospel, the salvation of the lost. This became apparent as he continued.[1]

[1] Larson, K. (2000). I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Vol. 9, pp. 164–165). Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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