Summary: We need to remember that the man on the throne when Paul wrote this was none other than Nero, who was the most anti-Christian leader we can imagine. But Paul is urging Christians to pray for him, and Paul prayed for this man who would soon order the taking of his own life.

Paul was a man of authority who respected the authority of

others. In Acts 23 it is recorded that he was struck on the mouth,

and he began to rebuke the one who did it. Those who were near by

asked, "Would you revile God's high priest?" Paul answered, "I

did not know brethren that he was the high priest; for it is written,

you shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people." Paul was

patriotic, and we do not find him anywhere trying to stir up

opposition to those in authority. He loved his own people and their

government. He was a leader in it as a Pharisee, and he also had a

high respect for the Roman government. It's laws of protection for

its citizens saved him on several occasions.

In his letters he encourages believers to be the best possible

citizens, and to obey their rulers. We want to examine his advice to

Timothy along this line and see if can gain a new vision of how we

can be more patriotic, and have it be a spiritual exercise. Patriotism

is not good in itself, for one might be devoted to a very evil

government and be a party to its evil by being so devoted. Christian

patriotism, as brought out in this passage, is always good, even if one

is a Christian under an evil government. It consists in a devotion to

that government's highest well being by praying for its leaders. It is

being patriotic in prayer that has been characteristic of the church

in its relationship to the state.

In verse 1 Paul says that one of the first duties of believers is to

pray for all men. When our daughter was very young she began to

pray in her own words, and one of her most common prayers was,

"Make everybody grow up and be good." This seems a little too

comprehensive to be meaningful, and yet the attitude behind it is

basic, for that is what Paul is saying in this passage. Prayer is to be

comprehensive and all-inclusive. There is the concept of

universality that runs all through this passage. We have words like

all men, all in authority, and ransom for all. Prayer is to be

universal and for all men.

Paul breaks prayer down into 4different categories. First you

have supplications, which refers to a request for God's aid in

fulfilling a specific need, which is keenly felt. Then you have

prayers, which is more general, and is a requesting for those needs,

which are always present, such as the need for wisdom and

guidance. If I desperately need to know what to do in a specific

situation, it is supplication. If I simply ask God to guide me in His

will, it is prayer. The urgency of the need seems to be the main

distinction. Then you have intercessions. This is a pleading for

others, and it seems to imply that you are fulfilling a role, which they

cannot do for themselves. Finally you have thanksgiving, which is

an expression of gratitude for blessings already received. Paul feels

this is a vital part of the prayer life, and we need to make sure we do

not forget it by including it in all of our prayers.

Paul says that all these kinds of prayer are to be offered for all

men. It is obvious that we cannot be praying for everybody. We

would need the infinite mind of God for this. We cannot take this

literally, and yet we dare not dismiss the universality of Paul's

intention. He did not expect Timothy and the Christians he

shepherded to pray for all those living on the earth, but he certainly

meant that all people are included as objects of prayer, and objects

of God's love and concern. It is a paradox, but I take it both literally

and not literally at the same time. If you take it literally to mean all

people then that includes the dead, and so this has been a proof text

for prayers for the dead. It is obvious to the unbiased reader that

Paul had no such thing in mind. So I do not take Paul's language as

that inclusive, but I do take it to include all living people.

All people are to be prayed for, and none are to be excluded.

Even evil men are to be prayed for. Many evil men become godly

men because people have prayed for them. The leaders who oppose

all that is Christian are to be prayed for. They may repent and

become Christians, but even if they do not they can make decisions

that effect everyone, and they can make those that are of benefit to

everyone. We need to remember that the man on the throne when

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