Day 22 I Timothy 2:1-7
For most people, prayer is a puzzle, a complicated pattern of activities which takes a lifetime to master, if you ever can master it. And yet, the Bible tells us that it is a fundamental part of the believer’s life. Paul, in his first letter to Timothy, is instructing this young disciple on how to live as a follower of Jesus Christ as well as how to lead others in the Church. In I Timothy chapter 2, Paul wrote:
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles. ~ I Timothy 2:1-7
“Top priority, Timothy – pray!” This seems to be the thrust of Paul’s words. Paul uses four different words to emphasize how we should pray: requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving.
Now, our aim is not to try and complicate prayer. It is not to over-analyze prayer and “theologize” about it. But we must be clear on how, as followers of Jesus, we are to pray. Make no mistake. Prayer is essential in the life of a Christian. I’ve discovered that my personal relationship with Christ is affected more by my prayer life than anything else.
Prayer is one of the key ways that we draw closer to God and Paul gives us a glimpse of how we are to approach prayer in our lives. We might ask, though, why does Paul include four different words or kinds of prayer in his letter to Timothy? Why doesn’t he just say pray? It would be easy but incorrect to assume that Paul just liked to talk and so he rambled a bit. Actually, Paul seems to have been very selective in his words so that he could communicate with Timothy in a very clear way. All four words were chosen for their distinctive meaning.
The first word Paul uses – requests or petitions – was unique in that it was used often when speaking of having an audience with the king and bringing requests personally to him. Paul urged Timothy to make requests for everyone, including “kings and those in authority.” What kind of requests? Whatever would make it possible “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (vs. 2). We might ask God to give them wisdom or help them be merciful or diplomatic. We may also pray for their salvation since God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (vs. 4).
Paul urged Timothy to offer prayers – to talk with the Lord – about and for everyone. He further said that intercession should be made for everyone. Intercession is standing in the gap for another person. In prayer, it is interceding to God for another person and their needs. Unlike a petition which is seeking to get someone’s support for a cause we believe in, intercession is solely concerned with the person for whom we are praying. In John 17, Jesus interceded for his disciples as well as all who would believe because of them. We can intercede for others when we lift their needs to God with no thought of ourselves or our concerns. It is a selfless act on our part.
The final kind of prayer Paul suggests Timothy offer for others is thanksgiving. To thank God for other people not only brings glory to God, but it can transform our perception of the person or people for whom we are praying. Thanksgiving opens our eyes to the good in others and softens our hearts before God should we have any issues with the other person.
Paul, in his instructions to Timothy, gives us all a new perspective on praying for others. There is so much that we can say in prayer and when we are focusing on the needs of others, we allow God access to our hearts to help us see others as He sees them. Perhaps you have never thought of prayer from these different perspectives. Take some time to think about the ways that you approach God in prayer and how, when you are praying for others, these ways may vary. Ask the Lord to broaden your prayer life and show you different ways that you can communicate with Him.