Summary: Prayer is essential in creating a cultural climate in which the Gospel can flourish.
Title: The Accents of Prayer
Text: I Timothy 2:1-7
Thesis: Prayer is essential in creating a cultural climate in which the Gospel can flourish.
I am not an expert in linguistics but I can tell if someone has an accent and I can often guess where a person is from based on that accent. In the English speaking world there are many different variations of the way English is spoken.
We readily identify those from the east coast or the south. Even within regions there are variations of accents. I’m told that south Texas English different from say, Mississippi southern English. We can pretty easily tell if someone is from Minnesota or Wisconsin by their accents. I’m told I have an Iowan accent. Every region seems to have unique and identifiable variations in pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar.
And accents of non-native English speakers tend to carry over intonal and phonetic influences in the way they speak English. We readily recognize a German accent or a Scandinavian accent or an Asian accent or an English accent or an Aussie accent or an Hispanic accent or an accent from the islands.
Accents have to do with the way we emphasize or accentuate letters or words… Pecan or pecan? Potato or potato? Tomato or tomato? Louisiana or Louisiana? Wisconsin or Wisconsin? In a similar way we accentuate ideas or points of emphasis and our text today accentuates not a manner of speech but the manner of speaking a prayer. Specifically the text speaks to what we should accent or accentuate or focus on when we pray.
Specifically, what are we to accentuate when we pray?
I. Prayer is most effective in a Christian culture that is inclusive
I urge, then first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone, kings and all those in authority… I Timothy 2:1-2
Our text specifically uses four words, all of which describe an aspect of prayer. Commentator William Barclay gives us some insight into how each of the words used in this verse have distinct inferences:
The first word is requests.
A. Requests – A request begins with a sense of need or an understanding that we cannot deal with something ourselves. A request stems from need.
The French film The Intouchables is the story of a quadriplegic who must ask his friend and companion for a drink. He recognizes he is thirsty and knows that he cannot get the drink himself so he requests a sip of water.
The second word is prayers.
B. Prayers – A prayer identifies who is being addressed. We may make a request to another person, as in, “will you get me a drink?” However what makes a request a prayer is that it is addressed to God, recognizing that there are some things only God can do.
It is the sinner’s prayer, “Lord, has mercy on me for I am a sinner.” It is the prayer that while grateful for all the medical advancements we enjoy prays, “Lord we ask you to do what no nurse or doctor or surgeon or psychiatrist or prescription drug or medication can do… divinely intervene with healing.”
The third word used is intercession or petitions.
C. Intercession (Petitions) – A prayer becomes petition when the person praying seeks to enter into an intimate conversation with a person with the intent of asking for something. It becomes intercession when the petition being submitted to the person of power or authority is in behalf of or for another person.
When Bonnie and I were about to become engaged I asked for a sit-down with Bonnie’s father, drove Farmington, Michigan and had a face-to-face conversation asking him and Mom Payne for their blessing. I know it was old-school but it’s what you do if you wish to ask for something really, really important. In the context of intimacy, as if face-to-face, we come into the presence of the one whose favor we are seeking, i.e., an audience with the King, so to speak.
Yesterday Dr. Ren Whittaker posted on Facebook a prayer request for his son, Rohm. Rohm was in the Rockies on horseback with his pack mule hunting elk and was caught in a snowstorm. They had not heard from him and the family was concerned so they asked us to pray, interceding in his behalf, for his safety. Prayer becomes intercession when it is behalf of others.
There is a passage in Scripture that speaks of how, because of Christ, who is now in heaven and inexplicably understands the nature of our humanness, we now come boldly to the throne of our gracious God where we will receive his mercy and find grace to help when we need it most. Hebrews 4:16
And the fourth word is thanksgiving.
D. Thanksgiving – Thanksgiving is the aspect of prayer that recognizes that while we have the right to bring our needs, desires and requests to God, we also have a duty to bring our expressions of gratitude to God as well.