Paul wrote to Timothy to give him instructions about teaching the church how to properly worship God. As the book of First Timothy opens, we find these words from Paul to Timothy:
To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:2-5 NASB)
Paul had traveled with Timothy through several regions and Paul had been detained in Rome for a couple of years (Acts 28:30). Upon his release, he returned to Ephesus to find that the church where he had labored for three years had some issues that needed to be corrected. So, rather than taking Timothy with him as he left for Macedonia, he urged Timothy to remain in Ephesus.
The problems are alluded to but are beyond the scope of today’s message. It is sufficient to say that within the church in Ephesus, as elsewhere, people often get caught up in arguing over speculations and this causes divisions. Timothy is left to help the church regain its focus growing the church in love. The love that comes from God.
Once we read through the first chapter, we arrive the heart of the instruction Paul wants Timothy to share. It is a message that we all need to understand. It is the message of prayer and a follower of Christ.
Let’s open our Bibles to the second chapter of 1st Timothy and begin with the first verse.
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. (1 Timothy 2:1-2 NASB)
First, we are greeted by these words: entreaties, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings. In the King James, we find similar words: supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks. Obviously, these are types of prayers so let’s break them down so we may better understand what Paul is urging. (I know that some of you really like it when we examine the Greek words) We will look at the Greek words used and find the similarities and differences. (In the interest of time, all definitions are taken from Thayer’s Greek Lexicon.)
First, we look at entreaties or supplications. The Greek word is δέησις or deésis (deh'-ay-sis). The meaning is a seeking, asking, entreating, entreaty, or supplication.
Second, we find prayers. The Greek word is προσευχή or proseuché (pros-yoo-khay') which means a prayer addressed to God (as in worship) or a place of prayer.
Third, we come to petitions or intercessions. The Greek word is ἔντευξις or enteuxis (ent'-yook-sis) and means a falling in with, meeting with, coming together, a petition or supplication. Here we find the idea that there is a common sharing of the concern that brings people together in their request.
Fourth, and finally, we look at thanksgiving or giving of thanks. The Greek wording is literally giving of thanks and the words are δόσις or dosis (dos'-is) which means giving and εὐχαριστία or eucharistia (yoo-w
This is not an exhaustive list of prayers mentioned in the Bible. However, Paul tells Timothy that all of these prayers should be lifted up for all people.
He then extends the list to include kings and all who are in authority. The last time I read this in worship, several people accused me of being political. Trust me, when I am in front of you in worship or any other setting where we meet for study or worship, my only goal is to point to the Bible and the message revealed from scripture. Praying for our leaders is not political. The leader may or may not be someone whom you voted for or support in any way. God, through the Holy Spirit, gives us clear unmistakable directions to pray for our leaders.
We are not left without the reasoning for these prayers. At the time Paul wrote this to Timothy, Roman tyrants were not helping the church to grow. In fact, Paul had just been released from house-arrest. So, why should we pray for people who lead? Let’s read on: so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. God does not want us to live in chaos and torment. Those leaders, whom we are told to lift in prayer, are the ones who determine how peaceful or chaotic our life will be. So, whether you voted for the leader or not lift them in prayer. (This is not me being political. It is me pointing to what the Bible clearly says.)
Let’s return to our passage and continue to read.
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3-4 NASB)
Our prayers, both corporate and private, are to be extended to all people including leaders. God loves for us to pray. It is good and acceptable. This passage shines a light on something that any of us may not have ever considered. We often pray for people who are sick, injured, suffering, of grieved. Are we praying for someone to be saved? God desires that all people be saved through the knowledge of the truth.
Even in the days before Jesus, God has never wanted to exclude people. Consider this message we find in Ezekiel.
“But if the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall not die. All his transgressions which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live. Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord God, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live? (Ezekiel 18:21-23 NASB)
The apostle Peter tells us that God is waiting to give us plenty of time to be saved and he writes: The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 NASB)
Yes, God want to reach out and give salvation. After all, He sent His son to pay that price for us (John 3:16).
Paul now reiterates the oneness of God and the only path to come to God.
For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. (1 Timothy 2:5-7 NASB)
The world in which Paul was sending Timothy was filled with multiple gods. There were gods on top of gods. For example, there was a god of water. Then there were gods of water when there was a storm and when the waters were calm. There were gods for every occasion and gods lest they should offend a god that had been over looked.
Today, we are so enlightened that we don’t have multiple gods who rule over various aspects of nature. Our gods take on a different look. Every philosophy, every cultural belief, and even belief that exclude any supernatural being; becomes an allowed path to happiness and we accept. Paul does not try to calm the waters and appease the gods but asserts clearly and without apology; there is one God. He then strikes at the heart of many modern believers. There is only one way to reach that One God; and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
This Christ "gave himself as a ransom for all men." The word "ransom" means that which is given in exchange for another as the price of redemption. In the first century, it applied especially to the price paid to free a slave. So, Christ paid the ransom to free us from the slavery of sin. Because of this we are rightfully his possession. Jesus gave his life as a ransom "for all men." The Greek word translated "for" means "on behalf of." Christ died on behalf of all people, but only those who accept his sacrifice are set free from the shackles of sin.
This message of Christ's redemptive death was the distinctive apostolic witness—"the testimony given in its proper time." Christ's sacrifice for sin took place at God's appointed hour.
A brief study of the history of Paul tells us that initially, Paul was trying to stop the teaching of Jesus. Now, he is a preacher for the message of salvation through Jesus the Christ.
Paul now returns to the theme of prayer.
Therefore, I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension. (1 Timothy 2:8 NASB)
Getting back specifically to the matter of public worship, Paul wants men in every place to pray. There are several positions mentioned for prayers. Some pray lying flat or prone, some bow in humility, and some stand and lift up their hands. The significance Paul mentions is holy hands. When we pray (regardless of our position) we are to be holy. Holy denotes we are devout, pious, and pleasing to God. Holy hands should indicate that we have purged sin from our life and are morally ready to come into the presence of God.
We cannot pray effectively unless our lives are clean and committed to our Lord Jesus Christ.
The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. (James 5:16b NASB)
When we come together to worship, we should come in harmony and unity. There is no place in worship for factions or anger. We remember the words of Jesus in His sermon on the mount: Therefore, if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. (Matthew 5:23-24 NASB)
If we have something that is causing anger or division, we need to address the problem before we go to God in prayer. Nothing does more to alienate the mind from sincere prayer than an attitude of anger and a quarrelsome spirit.
Our life as a Christian should always be one filled with prayer. Today, we have only considered a few facets of our prayer life as recorded in Paul’s letter to Timothy. It affords us a better understanding of how we are to worship and pray to God.