Day 20 I Timothy 1:18 – 2:8
Annoyed, I shut the door a little harder. Okay, I practically slammed it! This was the third person that day knocking on our door asking us to sign a petition. I mean, what was going on? Was there a contest to see who could gather the most names going on or something? Why couldn’t they just leave me alone and stop asking for “my help” with their cause!
That is what a petition is. It is requesting someone’s help with a cause that you feel passionate about. It is the first form of prayer that Paul urged Timothy to use. He wrote, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone” [I Timothy 2:1] Other translations use the word petitions rather than requests. It had to do with personally felt needs that a person could not meet for themselves.
That was the basic meaning of the word, but Paul’s usage painted an even greater picture for Timothy. The Greek word Paul used was used to describe having an audience with the king in order to present a personal petition or request. Paul, by using this term to describe prayer, was indicating how a Christian enters the very throne room of God with his or her petitions. He was putting prayer in the proper perspective. How many of us, if given the opportunity to come before royalty – or, perhaps, before the President – with a personal request would take it lightly? We would probably sit down and write out what we wanted to say. Then, we would review what we wrote, prioritize it, and probably make several changes before we met with them.
Now, stop and think again what prayer means. We are invited into the presence of royalty - the King of Kings, the Lord Almighty - to share our needs and requests with Him. In Paul and Timothy’s day, no one would even consider entering the King’s presence unprepared nor would anyone dare turn down the King’s invitation! Yet, you and I are invited to enter the presence of God through prayer and bring our “petitions” – our requests – to Him.
In Philippians 4:6, we are told, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” In Ephesians 6:18, Paul urges the Church to, “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep praying for all the saints.”
Here we are, invited into the presence of the One who created us, who rules over every king and kingdom ever established, who is the final Authority. How will we respond to His invitation to prayer? How will we conduct ourselves in the His presence? It seems that if we are entering into the presence of the King when we pray, there must be a proper way to do so. What way that is, however, is a matter of much debate. Some prefer to kneel when they pray. Others stand and some sit. So, is there one proper posture for prayer?
In a word – NO! Scripture lists many postures and ways that men and women pray. In the Old Testament, Daniel would kneel in prayer three times a day. According to Jeremiah 18:20, Jeremiah followed the Jewish custom of standing before the Lord with his petitions. Hezekiah’s prayer in 2 Kings 20 was offered while he was lying on his bed. Paul, in I Timothy 2:8, encourages men to pray with uplifted hands. So, as you can see, there is not one specified posture or way to pray.
When we pray, it is not the position of the body that matters as much as the condition of the heart. If our heart is full of pride, it is hard for us to properly address the Lord. If we are so full of ourselves, there is no room for Him in our lives. That is why in prayer, we bring our petitions – our needs and our requests – to the Lord with humble hearts.
Sometimes, when we feel very passionate about something we are praying about, we may present our petition to the Lord with a less-than-humble attitude. We may not mean to, but our deep desire for an answer might overshadow how we approach God. (I know some of the petitioners that have come to my door have been a little overbearing.) Perhaps that’s why Paul didn’t just use this one word in his instructions on prayer for Timothy. He wanted Timothy to understand that, as he was addressing the Lord, he needed to remember Who he was addressing and not just what he was requesting.
What petitions do you have to bring to the Lord today? Come humbly before the King and share your requests.