Prayer is a marvelous privilege granted to the people of God (1 Pet. 3:12), and yet it is one of the more neglected tools in our spiritual toolbox. Every Christian should desire to learn more about prayer so that we may excel in this great spiritual discipline. First Timothy 2:1-7 is one of many passages that will help us in that endeavor. Consider five brief points concerning prayer from this context.
First, Paul emphasizes the importance of prayer in the life and worship of God’s people. The word “exhort” in this passage carries the idea of a command or an urging (cf. 1:3) and “first of all” speaks to emphasis or importance. The blessing of prayer must occupy a position of great priority in the life of every New Testament Christian. Jesus desires “that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). We must labor in prayer (Rom. 15:30; Col. 4:12). We must pray often (Ps. 55:17; 88:1; 1 Thess. 5:17). We must pray in faith (Heb. 4:16; Jas. 1:6). And, we must pray sincerely (Matt. 6:7-8). Just a casual study of the lives of great men and women of faith demonstrates prayer as a high priority, not to mention the emphasis that our Savior placed on prayer while He was on earth. Does prayer receive the emphasis it deserves in your life? What about the worship of the church? Do we pray as often and as fervently as we should?
Second, Paul describes the categories of prayer. The four terms used in the passage–supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks–are closely related but also nuanced. Supplication is an appeal to God to meet a need. The term “prayers” is the most general term for prayer used in the New Testament. It encompasses all kinds of prayer and brings to mind the idea of closeness and devotion to God. Intercession is the act of appealing to God on behalf of another. Thanksgiving is just that–an expression of gratitude to God. Paul identifies these four different kinds of prayer to further cement its importance in our minds.
Third, notice the object of prayer–“all men.” If we were to construct an inventory of our prayers over a week’s time and place a percentage on the quantity of prayer devoted to other people, what would be the number? It is natural for us to think of our needs and desires in prayer and that is not necessarily a bad thing (cf. 1 Pet. 5:7), but God also desires that we pray for other people, and especially those in positions of authority. Government leaders are under the Lord’s power (Ps. 22:28; Dan. 2:21; 4:17), and the Lord desires that we pray for them so that we may “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” Notice that the rationale further illustrates the need for selflessness in prayer. Instead of praying that our government make the decisions that we want, we are instructed to pray that our government make decisions that will be most advantageous for the sake of righteousness and the gospel of Christ (cf. Phil. 1:27-28).
Fourth, a reason for prayer is given. Why does God want His people to pray for “all men?” Because “this is good an acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” It is interesting to note here a possible connection back to chapter one. Paul wrote about the danger of false doctrine (1:3-11), and the false teachers who were producing speculation instead of salvation (1:4). He then described the goal of sound doctrine–the salvation of all who would possess an obedient faith, illustrated by the apostle Paul, himself (1:12-17). Christ came to save all sinners, not just some. The gospel is to be preached to all (1:12-17) and we are to pray for all (2:1) because God wants all to be saved (2:4). In both our private and public prayers, do we pray often that all men will hear and obey the gospel?
Finally, notice the basis of prayer. Prayer is possible because there is “one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” Prayer is to occupy a place of priority in our lives (v.1) and we are to pray for all men–especially those in authority–so that righteousness may prevail (v. 2). Such is good in the sight of God (v. 3) to whom we direct our prayers, through our “go-between,” Jesus Christ (v. 5). Thank God that we can approach Him with boldness through our great High Priest (Heb. 4:14-16)!
May we all consider these great truths carefully as we seek to improve our understanding and practice of prayer.