Timothy was left in Ephesus to lead the church in Paul’s absence. It was apparently a temporary assignment. But no one knew when or if Paul would return. In 1 Timothy 3:14-15, Paul writes, “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.”
1 Timothy gives practical instruction to lead the church to be the church. But this letter is more than a ministry manual. There were bigger, larger, greater issues at stake. 1 Timothy 1:3-4 says, “As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.”
False teachers had infiltrated the church at Ephesus. It was Timothy’s pastoral task to protect and promote sound doctrine. He was not just to fight the wolves. He was also lead the sheep. In chapter, 2, Paul begins to instruct Timothy how to lead the church to fidelity of doctrine, holiness of lifestyle, and unity of fellowship. The first instruction Paul gives is to call the church to prayer.
Paul does not address prayer first because it is the spiritual thing to say. Prayer is addressed first because it is first. Prayer is the most important thing the church does. The church engages in many good things. But the good can become the enemy of the best. Then the church forgets what it is called to be and do. God forbid! The main thing is to make sure the main thing is the main thing. Prayer is the most important the church does.
What does it mean to be a praying church? 1 Timothy 2:1-4 teaches how to be a praying church.
Make Prayer a Top Priority.
In 1 Timothy 1:18, Paul writes, “This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child.” This is the typical way Paul gives instruction in this letter. The call to prayer is different. Verse 1 says, “I urge…” It means to entreat or exhort. It is the word Paul uses in Romans 12:1: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice.”
Paul does not instruct their behavior; he appeals to their consciences. It is not a command to obey; it is an opportunity to grasp. He doe snot speak as an apostle standing over the church; he speaks as a brother standing alongside the church. It is a heart-to-heart appeal. Paul urges Timothy to pray. Paul urges the saints at Ephesus to pray. This is the burden of this sermon. I urge you to pray.
Pray first of all. Verse 1 says the church should pray “first of all.” In the following passages, Paul will give instructions about women in ministry, elders and deacons, caring for widows, and many other important matters. But he appeals to the church to pray first of all. It is not first in time, order, or process. It is first in priority. Prayer is the most important thing the church does. This does not dismiss, downplay, or dishonor the centrality of God’s word.
The first chapter of this letter express Paul’s concern that the word of God be proclaimed and defended. But the church’s commitment to sound doctrine is rooted in the church commitment to believing prayer. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” We cannot fulfill our mission without prayer. Evangelistic prayer is critical to disciple-making. A going church is a praying church. In Matthew 9:37-38, Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Pray without ceasing. Verse1 says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” The verb “be Mae” is in the present tense, which denotes continual, habitual, perpetual activity. Prayer should not be reserved for special occasions. Prayer should be practice on every occasion. It should be the characteristic lifestyle of the church. Note the plural form of “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings.” Ongoing, advancing, and uninterrupted prayer should be the primary program of the church.
Luke 18:1 says, “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. Colossians 4:2 says, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful ini it with thanksgiving.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Prayer without ceasing.” This does not mean the church should do nothing but pray. It means the church should do nothing without prayer.
- There should be scheduled times of prayer.
- There should be spontaneous times of prayer.
- There should be strategic times of prayer.
Pray by Any Means Necessary.
There are seven different words for prayer in the New Testament. Four of those words are sed in 1 Timothy 2:1.
“Supplications” means to make a request. The word emphasizes the dependence of the petitioner and the generosity of the benefactor. It is the picture of one who is inferior petitioning one who is superior. This the key to prayer. You will not pray right without sensing your deep spiritual need. The most dangerous thing about the work of the church is that you can do it. You can lead, preach, teach, learn, sing, serve, and give without prayer. This is why the church should prioritize that which is doomed to fail without divine help. James 4:15-16 says, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills,’ we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”
“Prayers” is the most common and comprehensive word for prayer in the New Testament. It is communication and communion with God. This term only used in reference to which, which suggests that our prayers should be reverence. In prayer, you are talking to God not man. When I was a young pastor, two women insisted on speaking to me between services to bring me a word from the Lord. Their “prophetic” ramblings were ludicrous. Worse, they kept referring to God as “Sweet Daddy.” Romans 8:15 teaches we can address God intimately: “Abba! Father.” It does not teach us to address God irreverently. Prayer is worship. The first petition of prayer should always be, “Hallowed by your name.”
“Intercessions” is prayer on behalf of others. In Philippians 1:4, Paul says he is “always in every prayer of men for you all making my prayer with joy.” Intercession should be a delight, not just a duty. Hebrews 7:25 says, “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for us.” Jesus does not intercede for us casually. He intercedes for us purposefully, persistently, and passionately. This is how we should pray for one another.
- Intercession should not be like giving a reference for a colleague.
- Intercession should be like driving a love-one to an emergency room.
“Thanksgivings” means our prayers should not just consist of supplications and intercessions. Thank God for what he has already done. Philippians 4:6 reads: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Don’t wait to receive an answer to give thanks. Our petitions should be marked by thanksgiving. Thanksgiving looks back with appreciation for what God has done. Thanksgiving also looks forward in anticipation of what God will do. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
There is not a hard distinction between these four terms for prayer. They are meant to be read synonymously. Paul emphatically piles on words to urge the church to pray by any means necessary. Whatever it takes – supplication, intercession, thanksgiving, confession, or lamentation – by all means pray. Ephesians 6:20 exhorts the saints to be “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”
Believe that Prayer Changes People.
Prayer changes thing. Prayer also changes people. Prayer changes the one who prays. It also changes other people. The church is about changing lives. The lives of unbelievers are changed through salvation. The lives of believers are changed through sanctification. Our services, programs, or activities do not change lives. Jesus changes lives. A praying church is the spiritual channel through which the power of Christ changes lives.
Pray for the lost. Verse 1 says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” This is a call to evangelistic prayer. Janes 5:16 commands us to pray for one another. Prayer is a fundamental element of Christian fellowship. Fellowship is about praying together more than it is about playing together. But our text does not tell us to pray for one another. It tells us to pray for all people.
As Christians, we have needs, hurts, griefs, tasks, and goals that should be ministered to by the prayers of the saints. Unfortunately, our prayers often go no further than these personal matters. The way to contain a high-scoring team is to keep their defense on the field and their offense on the sideline. This is the scheme of the devil. He would have the church so consumed with what is going on in our lives that we neglect the world-changing power of prayer. When the church meetings, we should pray for all people.
- We ask, “Am I to pray for all 7.8 million people in the world?”
- We should ask, “Am I praying for as many people in the world as I can?”
You may not be able to pray for all people by number. But you should pray for all people without distinction. We should work to include as many people in our prayers as possible. We should exclude no one from our prayers. Most specifically, pray for lost people. In Romans 10:1, Paul says, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is the they may be saved.” We should pray for the salvation of our lost friends, relatives, neighbors, classmates, and coworkers. We should also pray for lost people in nations around the world have never heard the gospel of Christ.
Pray for leaders. The text challenges us to enlarge the focus of our prayers. Verse 2 says our prayers should be wide enough to encompass all people. Verse 3 says our prayers should be high enough to include those in authority. As we pray for all people, we should especially pray “for kings and all who are in high positions.”
Prayer influences thrones. You may never go to the Oval Office in the White House to advise the President. But you can go to the throne of grace and pray for the President. Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” We should pray with confidence that God controls kings, presidents, prime ministers, rulers, and dictators.
Verse 3 says we should pray for kings, not against them. It doe snot tell us to pray that they will be removed from office. It does not tell us to pray for the kings who agreed with our political agenda, party affiliation, and cultural values. It does not tell us to pray that Christians will be elected and take control. It says pray for whoever the king is. We are blessed to live in a nation where we can determine who governs us. But the church should not engage in any activity that suggests politics is more important than prayer. It is important to vote. It is more important to pray.
When Paul wrote this letter, the Roman Emperor was wicked Nero. Yet Paul tells the Ephesians to pray for him. In Matthew 5:44, Jesus says, “Pray for those who persecute you.” We are to pray for kings and “all who are in high positions.” Mayors, city council members, governors, congressmen, senators, judges, and all public officials need our prayers.
Why pray for our leaders? Verse 3 answers: “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” This is the practice and spiritual benefit of praying for our leaders. That we may lead peaceful lives, without external disturbance. And that we may live quiet lives, without internal disturbance.
We should pray for our leaders that we might be free to live our lives, raise our families, do our work, serve the Lord, and spread the gospel. For this to happen, we must be “godly and dignified in every way.” “Godly” is how we related to God. “Dignified” is how we relate to others. A praying church should be the best neighbors in the community. Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Pray God-Centered Prayers.
Verse 3 says, “This is good.” Something can be good by appearance. It looks good. The term here refers to what is good by nature. It is that which is intrinsically good. If you are looking for a church to join, do not look for a perfect church. There is no such thing. Look for and find a good church. A praying church is a good church. Paul says, “This is good, and is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior.” That which is good is that which is pleasing in the sight of God. It is not necessarily good just because it is good in the sight of man. A church may be engaged in many seemingly good things that are pleasing in the sight of man. A praying church is good and pleasing in the sight of God. Who are you trying to please?
Verse 3 calls God “God our Savior.” There are some who view God as an angry tyrant whose wrath is only pacified by the saving work of Jesus Christ. This is a gross misunderstanding of the gracious character of God. God is our Savior. Isaiah 45:21-22 says, “There is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is non besides me. Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” God declares himself to be a Savior, the only Savior, mighty to save the ends of the earth. Jonah states is succinctly: “Salvation belongs to the Lord!” In Luke 46-47, Mary sings, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
What does it mean for God to be our Savior? Verse 5 says God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. This verse does not affirm universalism. the Bible is clear that not everyone will go to heaven. The unsaved will spend eternity in hell. Yet God desires all people to be saved. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” God has provided a way of salvation for all people to be saved through the bloody cross and empty tomb of the Lord Jesus Christ. To receive salvation, however, people must come to the knowledge of the truth.
- Sincere ignorance cannot save you.
- Vain imagination cannot save you.
- Philosophical speculation cannot save you.
- Demonic lies cannot save you.
- Self-deception cannot save you.
Only the truth can save you. Not the definite article. It is not your truth. It is the truth. What is the truth that saves? 1 Timothy 2:5-6 says, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.” This is the truth that saves. But you must come to the knowledge of the truth to be saved. If you want to be saved, come to the knowledge of the truth. If you want to be sure of your salvation, come to the knowledge of the truth. If you want a loved-one to be saved, pray for them and help them to come to the knowledge of the ruth.