Read 1 Timothy 2:1-7
1I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6who gave himself as a ransom for all men — the testimony given in its proper time. 7And 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. (NIV)
What is wonderful about this short passage is that it speaks to the universality of the Gospel. The Gospel is for everyone. No one is excluded. It is for both King and slave, and for rich and poor alike. Christ died for all and wants all to be saved. We need to remember that it is Christ’s desire for all people to come to a saving knowledge (verse 4).
We see in this passage that Paul uses four different words for prayer. The word translated “request” is a word used to request of someone a need one has. The sense of this prayer is our needs and so speaks to our inadequacy of meeting all our needs on our own. We need others and we need God. The second word translated “prayer” is different from the word translated “requests.” This word was never used to make a request of person. It was always reserved for speaking to God. It reminds us that there are things in our life that can be addressed to God. This can be our fears, our dreams, our hopes, our future, but anything that God alone can grant.
The third word translated “intercession” or “petition” in some bibles is an interesting word. It original meaning was simply to meet or fall in with a person. Later it developed to mean “to hold an intimate conversation” with someone. Finally it came to mean “enter into a king’s presence to offer a petition to him.” What we need to remember here is that God is open and available to us to hear our petitions. And the final word Paul uses translated “thanksgiving” reminds us that thanksgiving is an integral part of our prayer.
But this passage on prayer is also very hard for a lot of people. And in our present political divide, it is even harder for many Christians. Paul begins by saying that our requests, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving should be made for everyone. This sounds really wonderful. We want to be a praying people and we want to lift others up in prayer, both for their needs and for ours. But when you start including people who hate you and people who even persecute you, it starts to get real and it starts to get difficult.
But we need to pray for all people. Paul brings us the why in verses 5 and 6. There is only one mediator between God and humanity and that is Jesus, not us. And Jesus died for all people, not just those like us or who only like us. Christ died for all people so we need to pray for all people.
Paul brings up the kings and all those in authority as an example of praying for everyone. Tertullian, who was born around 160AD, wrote this about why we pray for rulers. He wrote that for the Emperor, the Christian prayed for “long life, secure dominion, a safe home, a faithful senate, a righteous people and a world at peace.” He wrote, “We pray for our ruler, for the state of the world, for the peace of all things and for the postponement of the end.” He added, “ the Christian is the enemy of no person, least of all the Emperor, for we know that , since he has been appointed by God, it is necessary hat we should love him, and reverence him and honor him and desire his safety, together with that of the whole Roman Empire.” The reason is that we desire, as Paul writes in verse 2, to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
So, the question one might ask oneself is who have I prayed for and who have I not prayed for? What do these two lists say about who I am as a follower of Jesus Christ? Who do I need to pray for today that I have not been praying for? Am I thankful in my prayers, regardless of the answer I might receive?
Blessings and Peace