Welcome back to our study of 1 Timothy. Today, we will be looking at chapter 2, where Paul gives instructions for public worship, emphasizing the importance of prayer and order in church meetings.
“Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (1 Cor. 14:40) is a basic principle for the conduct of the ministry of the church. Apparently, young Timothy was having some problems applying this principle to the assemblies in Ephesus. The public worship services were losing their order and effectiveness because both the men and the women members of the church were disobeying God’s Word.
“The church is an organism,” a pastor told me, “so we shouldn’t put too much emphasis on organization. We should allow the Spirit to have freedom.”
“But if an organism is disorganized,” I quickly reminded him, “it will die. Yes, I agree we must permit the Spirit to have freedom, but even the Holy Spirit is not free to disobey the Word of God.”
Often, what we think is the “freedom of the Spirit” are the carnal ideas of some Christian who is not walking in the Spirit. Eventually, this “freedom” becomes anarchy and the Spirit grieves as a church gradually moves away from the standards of God’s Word. To counteract this tendency, Paul exhorts the men and women in the church and reminds them of their spiritual responsibilities.
The Men—Praying (2:1–8)
I urge, then, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—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 people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the 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 true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles. Therefore, I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.
The priority of prayer (v. 1a). “First of all” indicates prayer is most important in the public worship of the church. It is sad to see how prayer has lost importance in many churches. “If I announce a banquet,” a pastor said, “people will come out of the woodwork to attend. But if I announce a prayer meeting, I’m lucky if the ushers show up!” Not only have the special meetings for prayer lost stature in most local churches, but even prayer in the public services is greatly minimized. Many pastors spend more time on the announcements than they do in prayer!
Much prayer, much power! No prayer, no power! Prayer was as much a part of the apostolic ministry as preaching the Word (Acts 6:4). Yet, some pastors spend hours preparing their sermons, but rarely pray. Consequently, their prayers are routine, humdrum, and repetitious. I am not suggesting a pastor write out every word and read it, but that he think through what he will pray about. This will keep “the pastoral prayer” from becoming dull and a mere repetition of what was “prayed” the previous week.
Church members also need to be prepared to pray. Our hearts must be right with God and with each other. We must really want to pray and not pray simply to please people (as did the Pharisees, Matt. 6:5) or to fulfill a religious duty. When a local church ceases to depend on prayer, God ceases to bless its ministry.
The variety of prayer (v. 1b). There are at least seven different Greek nouns for “prayer” and four of them are used here. Prayer is the most common term for this sacred activity. We are praying to God; prayer is an act of worship, not just an expression of our wants and needs. There should be reverence in our hearts as we pray to God.
Intercession is the same word translated “prayer” in 1 Timothy 4:5, where it refers to blessing the food we eat. (It is rather obvious we do not intercede for our food in the usual sense of that word.) The basic meaning is “to draw near to a person and converse confidently with him.” It suggests we enjoy fellowship with God, so we may have confidence in Him as we pray.
Thanksgiving is definitely a part of worship and prayer. We not only give thanks for answers to prayer, but for who God is and what He does for us in His grace. We should not simply add our thanksgiving to the end of a selfish prayer! Thanksgiving should be an important ingredient in all of our prayers. In fact, sometimes we need to imitate David and present to God only thanksgiving with no petitions at all! (see Ps. 103)
“Prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” are a part of Paul’s formula for God’s peace in our hearts (Phil. 4:6). It is worth noting Daniel, the great prayer-warrior, practiced this kind of praying (Dan. 6:10–11).
The objects of prayer (vv. 1c–2). “All people” makes it clear that no person on earth is outside the influence of believing prayer. This means we should pray for the unsaved and the saved, for people near us and people far away, for enemies as well as friends. While we cannot pray for everybody in the world by name, we certainly ought to pray for those we know and know about. Unfortunately, the Pharisees did not have this universal outlook in their prayers, for they centered their attention primarily on Israel.
Paul urged the church to especially pray for those in authority. Godless Emperor Nero was on the throne at that time and yet the believers were supposed to pray for him! Even when we cannot respect men or women in authority, we must respect their offices and pray for them. In fact, it is for our own good we do so: “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (2:2b). The early church was always subject to opposition and persecution, so it was wise to pray for those in authority. “Quiet” refers to circumstances around us, while “peaceful” refers to a calm attitude within us. The results should be lives that are godly and honorable.
The reasons for prayer (vv. 3–4). The word “good” is a key word in Paul’s pastoral epistles. The Greek word emphasizes the idea of something being intrinsically good, not just good in its effects. “Fair” and “beautiful” are synonyms. Certainly, prayer of itself is a good practice and brings with it many good benefits.
Prayer is also pleasing to the Lord. It pleases the Father when His children pray as He has commanded them to. The Pharisees prayed in order to be praised by men (Matt. 6:5) or to impress other worshipers (Luke 18:9–14). True Christians pray in order to please God. This suggests we must pray in the will of God because it certainly does not please the Father when we pray selfishly (James 4:1–10; 1 John 5:14–15). It is often said the purpose of prayer is not to get man’s will done in heaven, but to get God’s will done on earth.
What is God’s will? The salvation of lost souls, for one thing. We can pray for “all people” because it is God’s will that “all people” come to the knowledge of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. God loved the world (John 3:16) and Christ died for the whole world (1 John 2:2; 4:14). Jesus died on the cross, so He might draw “all people” to salvation (John 12:32). This does not mean all people without exception, for certainly the whole world is not going to be saved. It means all people without distinction—Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, religious and pagan.
If God does not want anyone to perish, then why are so many lost? God is long-suffering with lost sinners, even delaying His judgment, so they might come to Christ (2 Peter 3:9). Salvation depends on “knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Not everyone has heard the truth of the Gospel and many who have heard have rejected it. We cannot explain the mystery of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility (John 6:37), but realize both are taught in the Bible and are harmonized in God’s great plan of salvation. We do know prayer is an important part of God’s program for reaching a lost world. We have the responsibility of praying for lost souls (Rom. 10:1) and making ourselves available to share the Gospel with others.
The basis for prayer (vv. 5–7). Many believers do not realize prayer is based on the work of Jesus Christ as Savior and Mediator. As the God-Man, Jesus Christ is the perfect Mediator between the holy God and His failing children. One of Job’s complaints had to do with the absence of a mediator who could take his message to the throne of God: “If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together” (Job 9:33).
Since there is only one God, there is only need for one Mediator; and that Mediator is Jesus Christ. No other person can qualify. Jesus Christ is both God and man, and He is the Mediator between God and man. In His perfect life and substitutionary death, He met the just demands of God’s holy law. He was the “ransom for all.” The word ransom means “a price paid to free a slave.” His death was “on behalf of all.” Though the death of Christ is efficient only for those who trust Him, it is sufficient for the sins of the whole world. Jesus said He came “to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).
Christ died for “all men” and God is willing for “all men to be saved.” How does this Good News get out to a sinful world? God calls and ordains messengers who take the Gospel to lost sinners. Paul was such a messenger: he was a preacher (the herald of the King), an apostle (one sent with a special commission), and a teacher. The same God who ordains the end (the salvation of the lost) also ordains the means to the end: prayer and preaching of the Word. This Good News is not only for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles.
If the basis for prayer is the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ on the cross, then prayer is a most important activity in a church. Not to pray is to slight the cross! To pray only for ourselves is to deny the worldwide outreach of the cross. To ignore lost souls is to ignore the cross. “All people” is the key to this paragraph: We pray for “all” because Christ died for “all” and it is God’s will that “all” be saved. We must give ourselves to God to be a part of His worldwide program to reach people before it is too late.
The attitude in prayer (v. 8). Paul stated definitely that “men” should pray in the local assembly. Both men and women prayed in the early church (1 Cor. 11:4–5), but the emphasis here is on the men. It is common to find women’s prayer meetings, but not often do we find men’s prayer meetings. If the men do not pray the local church will not have dedicated leaders to oversee its ministry.
It was customary for Jewish men to pray with their arms extended and their hands open to heaven. Our traditional posture of bowing the head, folding the hands, and closing the eyes is nowhere found or commanded in Scripture. Actually, there are many prayer postures found in the Bible: standing with outstretched hands (1 Kings 8:22); kneeling (Dan. 6:10); standing (Luke 18:11); sitting (2 Sam. 7:18); bowing the head (Gen. 24:26); lifting the eyes (John 17:1); falling on the ground (Gen. 17:3). The important thing is not the posture of the body, but the posture of the heart.
Paul states three essentials for effective prayer. The first is “holy hands.” Obviously this means a holy life. “Clean hands” was symbolic of a blameless life (2 Sam. 22:21; Ps. 24:4). If we have sin in our lives, we cannot pray and expect God to answer (Ps. 66:18).
“Without anger” is the second essential and requires we be on good terms with one another. A person who is constantly having trouble with other believers, who is a troublemaker rather than a peacemaker, cannot pray and get answers from God.
“Without disputing” (doubting) is the third essential and suggests we must pray in faith. When we have anger in the heart, we often have open disagreements with others. Christians should learn to disagree without being disagreeable. We should “do all things without grumbling or arguing” (Phil. 2:14).
Effective praying, then, demands that I be in a right relationship with God (“holy hands”) and with my fellow believers (“without grumbling or arguing”). Jesus taught the same truth (Mark 11:24–26). If we spent more time preparing to pray and getting our hearts right before God, our prayers would be more effective.
Praying is one of the spiritual responsibilities of men in church. What other responsibilities would you say men have?
In Part 2, we will look at a spiritual responsibility of women.