Summary: We are the intercessors for the world. Here are 8 things we should be praying for.
A teacher came into a classroom one morning and saw a group of boys huddled over in the corners on their knees. She was quite concerned. And she asked them, "What are you doing over there?" And they said, "Don’t worry. We’re just shooting craps." And she said, "Oh, what a relief. I thought you might have been praying." Isn’t it funny? We have removed prayer from the public schools. And it’s easy for us to decry the removal of prayer from public schools. But it makes me wonder what’s stopping us from praying. We may say, "Oh, it’s not allowed in the public school system." But, it’s allowed in our houses, isn’t it? It’s allowed in our churches. It’s allowed in lots of places. And it’s even allowed in public schools. I’ve heard that as long as there are final exams, there will be prayer in public schools.
There are many programs, lots of plans, that are laid out for the Church today. There are many ways to make the Church explode. Lots of ways for the Church to do this or that or accomplish this or that. But I found it interesting this week, as I thought about prayer, that back in Acts 6 when the Church was first forming and there were a lot of things going on and there were people who needed help, notice what the Apostles said. "Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. And we will turn this responsibility [that is, the feeding of a certain group of widows] over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word." That’s a very instructive verse of Scripture, right there at the beginning of the Church as it first was getting off the ground.
These men, filled with the Holy Spirit and full of the wisdom of God knew that they could be distracted and gone out in all kinds of different directions, and those directions were important. It was important that those things be done. It’s important that the lights go on. It’s important that people are fed. But, at a foundational level, these elders said, "We want to make sure that we give appropriate and prioritized attention to two things: prayer and the ministry of the Word."
Now Paul, here in this passage he is writing and giving instructions for the activity of the church that this young man, Timothy, was the pastor of. And in doing so, he wasn’t exclusive, but there is a certain priority listed here. In verse 1 of chapter 2, he says, "I urge you first of all [and this isn’t just the first thing I’m going to talk to you about, but in terms of priority] the first thing that I want you to remember is that you should be praying."
I was in a church one time where the Pastor said, "I’m going to tell you the key to the Christian life." And people were all aquiver waiting for this wonderful thing. And he said, "Prayer." The air went out of that crowd like the air out of a balloon. Prayer? Yes, prayer. We have become so bored with prayer. Perhaps, it seems ineffective. Or perhaps it seems like doing nothing, compared with doing something. "Oh, let’s not just pray about it. Let’s do something about it." When are we going to learn that praying is doing something
Paul is going to expand our horizons this morning, as he calls us to pray, because he’s going to give us reasons – what we should be praying about. Normally, as you know, I preach three point sermons. Last week you might have been surprised to find I preached a five point sermon. This week it’s eight! I can’t tell you what next week is going to be, but I’m on some kind of a roll. Some of you may say, "Oh, here’s another sermon about prayer. It’s boring. I’ve heard it all before." Brothers and sisters, I’m going to tell you from experience of 45 years of being a believer, 25 years of being a Pastor, prayer is foundationally critical to an effective Christian life, and an effective church. Because what Paul is going to tell us here is that we have been called to something. We have been called to the great path of being intercessors for the greatest enterprise ever undertaken in the history of the world; the taking of the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a world lost in sin. That’s what we are. That’s what we’ve been called to do. And here we are called to pray, then, for certain things Paul says.
The first thing we are to do is to pray for everyone. When I was a kid, this was easy. Pray for all the missionaries. It was a very general prayer. It covered the whole waterfront in one short phrase. But that really isn’t what Paul is talking about here, just praying in a blanket way for everyone. But, he’s saying that, "I want you, with these four ways to pray (or these four statements) requests, prayers, intercession, thanksgiving. I want you to be doing that on a regular basis for everyone that you can think of, everyone who you can maybe call by name. I want you to be praying for people because there is no person who is to be outside of the sphere of your prayers." Everyone in the world is one of two types of person. He’s either a captive to the lies of Satan and the deeds of darkness, or he is a rescuer for those people. He is either one who is in chains or one who is bringing the bolt cutters to rescue someone from chains. And in that light, we can pray for everyone either to be an effective witness or to be freed from the chains that they are in.