Sermon Title: The Priority of Prayer
Sermon Text: 1 Timothy 2:1-8
Sunday Evening, July 2, 2000
Scripture Introduction: 1 Timothy 2:1-8
Before we begin this evening let’s take a look at what the purpose of this letter by Paul to his beloved Timothy was. Timothy was a favorite pupil of Paul. Anyone who has any experience with teaching knows, and by that I mean two things. First, there are those that have been gifted by God with the ability to lovingly instruct those that are not even flesh and blood. Secondly there are those who have been fortunate enough to have had such wonderful instructors in their lives, it becomes difficult to let go. Sometimes the most difficult part of a teacher’s job is to let the student go and make their way in the world. Paul was anxious in this letter to Timothy.
Timothy had accompanied Paul for many years and was his liaison to many churches. Paul taught Timothy the essentials of Christianity and was his model of Christian leadership. Paul was now handing over the leadership of the church at Ephesus. This letter written by Paul from Macedonia was meant to encourage his son in the faith. This letter is Timothy’s commission; this letter was Paul’s orders as a concerned teacher.
Please join me in the reading of God’s Holy Scripture!
Scripture Reading: 1 Timothy 2:1-8 [NASB 95]
1 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. 8 Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.
Each and every day that we listen to the news, whether it be on the radio or on the nightly news on the television, we are just inundated with things that depress us. It depresses some to the point of giving up. What are the things that make the headlines of today? We have the leaders of other nations oppressing the people whom they were appointed or even self-appointed to lead. There are wars, famines, and widespread disease on every single corner of the earth. We hear about the murders, rapes and drug dealings on our city streets, and I may remind you that it is no longer in the alleys in the cover of darkness. We read and hear about the high cost of medicine and health care.
We see the elderly living with such a small amount of money available that they are becoming homeless in alarming numbers, they are doing without heat in the winter and cooling in the summer. They cut corners on the medication that they need to live healthier, productive, and longer lives. Some have been reduced to buying dog and cat food at the grocery stores. Is this what we have to look forward to?
We have our nation’s President doing things that are directly against the commandments that God gave Moses. Imagine that the office of President of a nation that was founded on many Christian principles. What happened to the different nations in the Old Testament went they blatantly opposed the commands of our God Almighty? Is the mass destruction and total ruination that they experienced the same fate that we have to look forward to?
The quality of life that the wildly, ever-increasing technology boom has pledged to improve has declined with every new product that claims to make our life better and easier. Our quality of life has been in a steady decline for a great many years, some say that the Second World War and the need for women to work caused the decline. Yes, it is without a doubt that when the family unit that God has ordained was dismembered and it continues on to this day, this has had a tremendous impact on our quality of living. But, I think we could probably trace the decline to the Garden of Eden - Amen?
We have single parent families on the increase and it is not caused by death or divorce, in many times it is by choice. The only two parent homes that seem to be on the rise are those with same sex parents. This obviously goes against what the Bible teaches but the school system teaches our kids the need to be tolerant. They are of course not tolerant of our stand to obey God’s commandments. Is this the world that we have to live in?
This is a pretty grim picture isn’t it? Everything that the Christian faith stands for, the world goes against. The only things that we hear about on the news are so terrible that we only wish that the Lord would return immediately and put an end to all of this misery. We have leaders in our own country that set an example that tells our youth that you are only guilty of the things that you are caught doing. And our society asks how can things be morally wrong if a majority of people are doing it? Why a loving God wouldn’t send millions and millions of people to hell would He? There are just a few of us Christians against all of them heathens. What else can we do but curl up in our churches and wait for the Lord’s return.
Paul, in this letter to his student in an effort to boost up his confidence and give him some final instructions, tells what needs to be done. We need to pray. We read in another one of Paul’s letters, 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18 the suggestions of what to do with those that go against God, those that are reluctant, unable and how we should carry ourselves as well
14 We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.
16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. We need to pray without ceasing. As we look at what Paul has written to Timothy we need to ask ourselves three very important questions:
Who are we to pray for?
Why are we to pray?
How are we to pray?
Let us take a moment and go to the Lord for a moment of prayer!
POINT 1: Who are we to pray for? In the very first verse of this second chapter of Paul’s first letter to Timothy we read; First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,
Who should we pray for?
First of all, for all men. Now maybe for some this goes without saying but Paul feels it is important enough to mention in this letter to Timothy. When we think about lifting others up in prayer, whom do we think of? We have our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, friends, neighbors and co-workers. This is the list that immediately comes to mind, and it includes people that we truly need to lift up in prayer.
This Scripture takes us even further however, and this is an area that makes most of us very uncomfortable. How about the people, who have unfairly taken advantage of you, the people who have unduly caused a blemish to your reputation, or the people who have either knowingly or unknowingly cheated you or taken something from you? This is an area that stretches my faith from time to time. I think back to the story of Jonah, sitting under the shade of a plant that the Lord provided for him for the purpose of his comfort, he had a front row seat to the destruction of Ninevah, or so he thought. Maybe at times we wish destruction on others. Are we judge and jury? Are we any better when we don’t pray for them?
Secondly, for the kings and all who are in authority, as it is written in the very first part of verse two.
Now we just read Paul telling Timothy that we need to pray for all men, and then in the very next verse we are specifically told to pray for the kings and those in authority. There needs to be a special reminder for us to lift those in authority over us up in prayer. We need to remember that although it is God who is ultimately responsible for all the blessings that we receive, He uses those in authority as a vehicle for many of our blessings.
Now what I’m about to say is something that I personally need to work on myself. We look at the track record of our present administration, we throw up our arms in defeat and then proceed to list all of the faults of the past and the present, and then we use those as indications of all the future disappointments to come. Let’s be honest, how many of us have participated in a Clinton bashing conversation lately? Now this doesn’t even need to be a bashing of character but of accomplishments. How much did that really accomplish? How much different would the situations perhaps turn out if every single person that uttered a negative observation instead interceded for that person with a plea for their conversion instead? How many people that bash fail to vote? Like I’ve mentioned, I am equally guilty of focusing on the negative instead of using those same exact circumstances as the focus of a time of prayer? We look at our list of those that we pray for and we need to ensure that we include our Pastor, our boss, our mayor, governor, state and federal senators and representatives, and of course our president. When we think of praying for all men we too often overlook the leadership that is appointed over us.
[Paul makes it quite clear to Timothy, that prayer for everyone, regardless of what they have done or who they are or perhaps their position, is of the utmost importance and needs to be stressed across the board. Now besides the fact that the Scripture tells us that this is something that we must do, there are also some distinct advantages for the situations that we may find ourselves in.]
POINT 2: Why are we to pray?
First, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
Isn’t this what we are desiring to begin with? We look at the situations going on around us and the direction our society is going and in a defeated attitude we throw our arms up in disgust. We feel as though there is no solution to our dilemma, and lo and behold the solution is right before us in the Scripture, the second half of the second verse clearly tells the possibility of prayer in the evil world in which we live
Secondly, This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.
Not only is there the possibility of affecting some type of change, this is something that God desires us to do. It is good and acceptable to our Savior, and therefore in an effort to become more and more like Him each day, this is something that we must do. I don’t believe it is written in this letter to Timothy as a possibility or a suggestion, this is nothing less than a mandate for prayer for all, and in this case the all is ALL – INCLUSIVE. We have these situations where things are definitely contrary to the way we know that we are supposed to live and conduct our daily business and God’s Word gives the solution and then tells us that the solution is good and acceptable in His sight.
Thirdly, in the last half of the second verse, this Scripture tells us why it is good and acceptable in God’s eyes for us to pray for ALL men. GOD desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
What happened to the different wrongs in our lives as we accepted the forgiveness through our Lord and Savior Jesus? What happened to the way we looked at things once we learned the truth? Once we were forgiven and learned not only what we did wrong but why it was wrong, our direction in life changed and we walked from the wrongs and focused on the truth. Does that change the effect that we have on the direction our society is going?
Imagine for a moment if you will the possibilities of change that could occur if several key leaders in our government went to their knees and prayed for that forgiveness and sought only the truth that is in the Word of God. You may charge me with dreaming or an overactive imagination but the possibilities would be awesome and they are certainly through not outside the realm of God’s power. How many of us, through the power of the prayer of others, found that gift of grace at the altar? If there are any that haven’t yet received that beautiful peace having Jesus as Lord and Savior, we will pray for that as well at the close of this service.
[We read that the target of our prayers should be all inclusive, and actually when we look at things, how hard would it be to include the names of those whose decisions affect our everyday lives? What do we have to loose in this time of prayer when the Scripture makes it so clear the advantages that we might bring to our own lives? God sees it as good an acceptable, so therefore is something we must do. We are so fortunate to have a God who not only shows us who to pray for but gives us a glimpse of the rewards that we may reap in following His will for us as well. Paul then goes on to fill in the last blank, how are we to accomplish His will in this particular command.]
POINT 3: How are we to pray?
I consulted a commentary by John Wesley and following are the comments on the last verse of this particular section of Scripture, in verse 8 Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.
Therefore I want the men in every place to pray – We are to pray in both Public and private settings. Wherever men are, there prayer should be.
There is a ministry not only in the fact that we pray for others but also that others see our commitment to pray. I think one of the most prevalent examples is saying grace in a public restaurant. I’ve noticed many different styles of saying grace at the restaurant; there is the slyly looking from side to side and quickly and quietly blurting a perfunctory blessing that fulfills our duty in a way as to not arouse the suspicion of fellow patrons that we might be a Christian. There is the whispering under the breath so quietly that you can effectively fool even those that sit at our own table. There is the bowing of the head so quickly that it could pass as a nervous tick. And of course there are those that abandon the practice all together with the driving force behind it being, when in Rome do as the Romans. For those that are bold enough to go forth with what the Lord has laid upon their hearts, hold hands and without shame thank the Lord publicly and audibly.
Lifting up holy hands- John Wesley said that we should be Pure from all known sin. We can communicate the Gospel through the living testimonies that we project. This goes along with the public prayer as well as our private time of prayer.
Without wrath - Wesley tells us that we shouldn’t exhibit wrath in any kind, against any creature. And every temper or motion of our soul that is not according to love is wrath. Everything that our person exhibits should be an example of what the Lord wants us to model.
And finishing the last verse of this selection of Scripture, John Wesley explains his thoughts of what he thought without dissension meant - Which is contrary to faith. And wrath, or unholy actions, or want of faith in him we call upon, are the three grand hindrances of God’s hearing our petitions. Christianity consists of faith and love, embracing truth and grace: therefore the sum of our wishes should be, to pray, and live, and die, without any wrath or doubt.
We need to be totally dependent on God for all of our needs, desires and look only to God for all of our instructions, and those we find in His Holy Scriptures. If we have any questions we can find them on our needs asking Him in prayer.
The letter that Paul writes is to Timothy, but was also written for us as well. Just as these were instructions by Paul for his student, these words from God are instructions that we must follow as well. How would we answer the following three questions?
Who are we to pray for?
Why are we to pray?
How are we to pray?
The Scripture directs us to ask ourselves the questions and then guides us to the answers. How do you answer?
Who do you pray for? I find myself saying ouch in response to this as at times I often don’t raise those up in prayer that have hurt me the most. We at times struggle to forgive as we are directed by our Lord and then to pray for them on top of that seems almost like we are driven to rub salt in our own wounds. We read that we are to pray for all men. As a Christian we haven’t cornered the market on God’s love, He loves those that are struggling with sin as well.
Why are we to pray? What is our motivation to pray? There are many selfish reasons to pray and each and every one of us has probably been guilty at one time or another. There are probably even accounts where our prayers, though selfish have even been answered by God. We are told in this Scripture that our conditions would improve through the lifting of those in power up to the Lord in prayer. Just as certain jobs in our employment histories have perks, we see a perk in our prayers here as well.
And just how are we to pray? We read in James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Let’s look at that last statement again - The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
We hear so often at the conclusion of a message that the altar is open, and the first thing that comes to mind is Who closed it to begin with? The altar is a place to meet with the Lord for an intimate time of prayer, but is by no means the only place and the end of the service isn’t the only time. Have you felt the Holy Spirit dealing with you over some of these issues? Has the Spirit been dealing with you over other issues? There is no point in running any longer.
Where are you in your prayer life? Are you spending enough time with the Lord in prayer? Are you exclusive on your prayer list?
Then there is the most important question of all, Do you know Jesus? Let us stand for a closing hymn and if there are any that have a decision to make let there be no delay.