Friday, March 10, 2006


1Timothy 2 The Primacy of Prayer


1 Timothy 2:1-3 "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercessions 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 Saviour"

Paul in our text is writing to Timothy about something which in his list of priorities he puts "first of all." It is important to divide our Christian lives up into essentials and incidentals. The essentials are those things we experience with the whole church throughout time and space: the Lord Christ with us, the miraculous presence of the Word of God in our services, prayer, preaching, baptism and the Lord's Supper, praise in the heart and on the lips, leadership, righteous and loving living, family life, discipleship, giving a reason for our hope to any who asks us, an abundance of good works. Our priorities must always be to set before us what the New Testament puts first. The Lord Jesus himself has told us to get our priorities right: "Seek first God's kingdom," said Jesus (Matt.6:33). Don't waste your life. There are lots of good things out there, even in the church. We have to choose between them. Don't fritter away the resources of the congregation on activities that are not all that strategic. Paul is telling Timothy here, first things first: "I urge you, then, first of all..." What does he start with? Timothy and the church as praying people. Prayer is a Christian essential. To justify that we can simply appeal to the New Testament and the fact that the words 'pray' or 'prayer' are found in the New Testament 163 times, whereas the word 'music', for example, is found just once, in the parable of the Prodigal Son when the older brother returns home and hears the sound of music. That is the solitary mention of 'music' in the KJV. So music is incidental to Christianity. We could say that prayer is 163 times more important

1 Prayer is Good, and it Pleases God our Saviour. (v.3)

"This is good, and pleases God our Saviour:"

It is futile marching the troops onto the parade ground and make them all address God as their Saviour and then repeat the disciples' prayer, "Our Father which art in heaven..." Such praying is not good and pleasing to God our Saviour. To be their Father he must first become their Saviour. To be their Saviour they must first see they are sinners and need him. Before we talk to people about speaking to God we have to address them about why they don't speak to him. The issue of their alienation from God has to be first dealt with. Some people use prayer like they use a fireman. They only use it when it is necessary. The issue of our alienation from God must be first dealt with. The Lord in his mercy has provided a means by which sinners can we washed, and that is only through his Son Jesus Christ. We must come to know him as "God our Saviour."

A. Prayer Is Good for us because it makes us acknowledge that we are insignificant and utterly dependent upon him. He is the Author and the Fountain of every good and perfect gift, and acknowledging that in prayer is pleasing to him because it is true.

Prayer is good because God has appointed prayer for our blessing as a means by which we grow. We learn things in the presence of the Lord that we can learn nowhere else.

Why should we pray if God is sovereign and works all things after the counsel of his own will? One answer is what Paul says here, because it is pleasing to God and good for us.

B. Prayer Is Good for us because it involves requests, This means petitions which arise “from a sense of need” - from δέομαι deomai - “to want, to need; This is a specific term that indicates an entreaty for some particular benefit or need. To pray in a manner that pleases God we don't turn over on our pillows and mumble, "Bless them all, the long and the short and the tall," and then go to sleep. Christians are always precise because they serve a precise God. There are particular people to pray for. We should pray for specific people to be saved.

Prayer Is Good for us because it involves prayers, “worship.” Appearing thirty-seven times, it is the most frequently used word for prayer in the New Testament, and it means “to worship God.” Now, when we are worshiping God in prayer, we’re not asking Him to meet our needs, we’re focused on worshiping Him. We are praising Him for who He is, for His attributes and His character, and we’re thanking Him for being our God. Paul is telling Timothy that before he ministers in the name of the Lord, before he serves the Lord, before he does anything else, he needs to pray – to worship God in prayer.

Prayer Is Good for us because it involves intercessions Conversational prayer is as different from that kind of one-way praying as a letter is from a conversation. A letter is flat, one-dimensional, and one-way, but conversation has emotion, gestures, voice inflection, and it is, as one person put it, a two-way street. G.H. Morling would walk all over the gardens praying., waving his arms in the air, and his eyes weren’t even closed. I couldn’t believe it because I’d never seen anyone pray like that.

I was talking with another pastor who uses his daily walk as a prayer time. Intercessory prayer is having a conversation with God. He is our Friend and Father, and He is interested in His children. We can talk to Him in a conversational way, sharing our heart and expressing our emotions. Another thing we must not forget is that conversation implies…listening.

This refers to the urgency and boldness with which these specific prayers are brought. Think of Christ Jesus in Gethsemane. If anyone had no need to pray it was him. Here is the Lord Omnipotent enfleshed so that winds and the waves obeyed him. Here is one who walked every second of his life with God. Why did he need to spend so much of that Passover night alone in prayer? And in such an agony of prayer, even unto blood? There were no sins of his youth coming back on him in the Garden. He wasn't trying to get over twenty years of neglect of God and man. The intensity of his intercession wasn't an attempt to get through to an offended Father. Rather it was that his vision was concentrated on what lay before him that next day, the awesomeness of that unrepeatable task that no other would ever be able to do again. Only by the strength of God could he get through it. This was his very last submission, and his very last surrender, and his very last obedience in his state of humiliation. He was entering upon uncharted territory and he had to drag his human heart to God's feet, with all his might, until his sweat was blood, in the most awesome agony, pleading "Could there be another cup?" If not, may God's will be done.

In intercession there is urgency and boldness.

There was that great missionary to the South Seas Islands, John G.Paton, and he was seriously ill with a fever. Living in the Mission House with his wife and children was Kowia who had once been a cannibal chief. One of the other missionaries, Mr Johnston was to die and then his wife, while John Paton was drifting in and out of unconsciousness. You understand what cannibalism was. Men were captured in battle and then kept alive until the fire was prepared and ready, and then they were clubbed to death, their bodies cut up, roasted and eaten. Kowia had been involved in this barbarism since coming of age. But through the gospel of Jesus Christ he had become a new creation. All those old sins had gone and now he loved the living God, and the Bible, and the people of God. He too had contracted this virulent fever that had already killed the others, yet he summoned enough energy to dry Paton's brow and bathe his lips. Above all he prayed, and Paton was never to forget his prayers. As he came out of a semi-coma he could hear Kowia cry, "O Lord Jesus, Mr Johnston is dead; Thou hast taken him away from this land. The woman and Mr Paton are very ill; I am sick, and Thy servants the Aneityumese are all sick and dying. O Lord, our Father in Heaven, art Thou going to take away all Thy servants and Thy worship from this dark land? What meanest thou to do, O Lord? The Tannese hate Thee and Thy worship and Thy servants; but surely, O Lord, Thou canst not forsake Tanna and leave our people to die in the darkness! O, make the hearts of this people soft to Thy Word and sweet to Thy worship; teach them to fear and love Jesus; and O, restore and spare dear Mr Paton that Tanna may be saved." The former cannibal was bringing specific people right before God.

Prayer Is Good for us because it involves thanksgiving

Here are some other ways Paul said it: Romans 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you because the news of your faith is being reported in all the world.

Ephesians 1:15-16] This is why, since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I never stop giving thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.

It is the most beautifully simple way to come to God. We can't stop thanking him. At every meal, sitting down with those we love, while green pastures and still waters have been our experience for years, we come with gratitude to the Father. And at those other times, "when sorrows like sea billows roll," then too God has taught us in everything to give thanks.

I urge you to go back and remember the spiritual markers in your life. Remember the blessings of God that you’ve forgotten or taken for granted. We don’t have to live in a desert. We can take yesterday’s living water into today and the future – “forget not all His benefits.” The God who provided for our yesterdays will provide for us today and tomorrow. Pray with thanksgiving, remembering the manifold blessings of God.

2. Prayer is Good So That All Sorts of People may be saved

Romans 10:1 "Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved."

Paul says prayer is also of primary importance, not secondary. It is not just the sermon that is important. And the prayer time is not just a time to pray for our own needs as a church but a time to ask God for his will to be done in and through everyone and in particular in and through kings and all those in authority. All kinds of prayer, says Paul, should be made for all kinds of people, whether they are Christians or not and especially for the Queen, the Prime Minister, the national and local government and all in authority.

ometimes we can get discouraged when we see the way the country is going but Jesus tells us to pray and never give up in Luke 18. You know I sometimes wonder whether the comparatively slow progress towards peace and justice in the world, and towards world evangelization, is due more than anything else to the prayerlessness of the people of God. What might not happen if God's people throughout the world learned to wait upon him in believing, persevering prayer?
If you look at the history of revivals around the world – what happens first? - Christians meeting together to pray and often to fast. As the Lord God himself said in 2 Chronicles 7:14-15:

“If my people will humble themselves and pray, and search for me, and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear them from heaven and forgive their sins and heal their land. I will listen, wide awake, to every prayer made in this place.”

Prayer is vital for changing Australia and the world. It would be exciting to see intercessory prayer groups and prayer triplets starting up and getting together to pray for the church, the nation and the world. Will you consider being a part of that?
And prayer does change situations. A former Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, once said:

When I stop praying, coincidences stop happening!

Someone else once wrote: To clasp hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.

Yet we can be guilty of prayerlessness. As another commentator asks: I sometimes wonder whether the comparatively slow progress towards peace and justice in the world, and towards world evangelization, is due more than anything else to the prayerlessness of the people of God.

When President Marcos of the Philippines was toppled in 1986, Filipino Christians attributed his downfall 'not to people power but to prayer power'. The churches in Roumania did the same when their Communist leader Ceaucescu fell from power as did the churches in South Africa when apartheid ended. What might not happen if God's people throughout the world learned to wait on him in believing, persevering prayer? As the famous poet Lord Tennyson put it in his poem 'In Memoriam':

More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of".
3. Prayer is Good So That Rulers May Be Saved

Those in authority are there by the will of God and will remove them as He sees fit to accomplish His ultimate plan.

Daniel 2:21 "And he changes the times and the seasons: he removes kings, and sets up kings: he gives wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:" Romans 13:1 "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God." We are to realize that the hearts of our leaders are in God’s hands.

Proverbs 21:1 "The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turns it whither so ever he will."

Ezra 6:21-22 "… The children of Israel, which were come again out of captivity, and all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek the LORD God of Israel, did eat, and kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy. For the LORD had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel."

Ryle says, "Consider in whose hands the government of the world lay at the time when the Epistle to Timothy was written. Think what a monster of iniquity wore the imperial purple at Rome - Nero - whose very name is a proverb. Think of such rulers of provinces as Felix and Festus, Herod Agrippa and Gallio. Think of the ecclesiastical heads of the Jewish Church - Annas and Caiaphas. Yet these were the men for whom St. Paul says Christians were to pray! Their personal characters might be bad. But they were persons ordained by God to keep some outward order in this sin-burdened world. As such, for their office' sake, they were to be prayed for" Jeremiah told the exiles to pray for Babylon's peace and prosperity (Jer.29:7). The edict of Cyrus, which ordered the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple, included a request to the Jews to "pray for the well-being of the king and his sons" (Ezr.6:10).

But Paul is careful to add, "and all those in authority." Most Third World states are run by the IMF, the World Bank and assorted transnational corporations. For the most part they are run badly.

There are three things that essentially Government must do! They are external defence, internal order and the maintenance of honest currency. Those three things must be done by government because nobody else can do them. If these are neglected, as hyperactive governments do because they have taken on too many other tasks, then it is the poor, the weak and the old who always suffer most.

We are to consider three enormous difficulties kings have: the temptations that surround them, the countless knots they have to untie, and the immense responsibility of a king's office. So pray for them.

Mary, Queen of Scots, is reputed to have said, "I fear the prayers of John Knox more than an army of 20,000 men."

The life of the church depends upon it. It is fascinating to read of the response of the Dutch churches to the German invasion of their nation in 1940. They had prayed for their own leaders and for Hitler, and now the unthinkable had occurred, Germany had bombed their way into a swift conquest of the Netherlands.

The oppression began on Friday May 10, 1940, and on the Sunday the Spirit of God stirred the hearts of preachers throughout Holland to speak words of comfort to the people. One pastor preached about the confrontation between Esther and Haman and he mentioned that Haman, while looking for ways to get Mordecai killed, dug his own grave. Suddenly he stopped preaching and he said to the congregation, "Let's sing about that," and announced Psalm 7 and the final two verses

He made a pit, and digged it deep, Another there to take;
And he is fallen in the ditch Which he himself did make.

On his own head shall be returned The mischief he hath wrought;
The violence that he hath done Shall on his crown be brought.

And through those devastating Maydays and throughout the five years of Nazi oppression Dutch Christians did not cease to pray for those in authority, that they might be saved, that their evil designs might be thwarted, and that they might fall into the ditch which they themselves had dug for others.

But let us end positively and read a few sentences of Ryle: "It is easy to criticise and find fault with the conduct of kings, and write furious articles against them in newspapers, or make violent speeches about them on platforms. Any fool can rip and rend a costly garment, but not every man can cut out and make one. To expect perfection in kings, prime ministers, or rulers of any kind, is senseless and unreasonable. We should exhibit more wisdom if we prayed for them more, and criticised less" (p.461).

4. Prayer is Good So That We May Led Quiet Lives

D. Karl Barth said, “To clasp hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.” [Prayer. Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 4] Anna L. Waring (1820-1910) sings,

I would not have the restless will That hurries to and from,
Seeking for some great thing to do, Or secret thing to know;
I would be treated as a child, And guided where I go.

I ask Thee for the daily strength, To none that ask denied,
A mind to blend with outward life, While keeping at Thy side,
Content to fill a little space, If Thou be glorified.

Tyndale said that if we look externally, "there is a difference between washing dishes and preaching the word of God; but as touching pleasing God, none at all." Williams Perkins agrees, saying, "The action of a shepherd in keeping sheep is as good a work before God as is the action of a judge in giving sentence, or a magistrate in ruling, or a minister in preaching." So the Christian believes that every task had its own intrinsic value and he integrates every vocation into his life of devotion. In every task he performs he considers the possibility of glorifying God and expressing his love for his neighbour in that work. Latimer could say, "This is a wonderful thing, that the Saviour of the world, and the King above all kings, was not ashamed to labour, yes and to use so simple an occupation. In this he sanctified all manner of occupations." Perkins again said that Christians can serve God "in any kind of calling, though it be but to sweep the house or keep sheep." It is that conviction which lies at the basis of the Christian living a peaceful and quiet life. The simplest actions, such as a man loving his wife and children, eating and drinking at the family table, Monday's washing and changing the sheets become acts of obedience and are of great account in God's eyes. All of life is the Lord's. In every activity we may confidently expect the presence and blessing of God. We live our vocation by faithful obedience to God our Saviour, not in our prayers alone, but in common tasks we spend our days trusting and loving the Son of God.

5. Prayer is Good So That We May Live In Peace

This benefit of peace is implied in v3&4. “This is good”, Paul goes on (meaning prayer that those in authority will maintain peace), “and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved…” Certainly the pax romana (the peace of the Roman Empire) was a factor in the early spread of the gospel. So we are to pray for national leaders to preserve peace and all that goes with that such as preserving law and order without oppressing the population, to punish evil and promote good, as Paul puts it in Romans 13:4, so that true religion and morality can flourish and evangelism go forward without interruption. Here in Britain the danger is that the authorities are beginning to promote evil and punish good, certainly in the area of morality: with cloning happening right here in Newcastle, immoral sex education etc
The single most important action contributing to whatever health and strength there is in our land is prayer. Proverbs 11:11 "By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked." Any revitalization of faith in this country will have to start with prayer, in which we gain a sense of the living presence of God. (George Gallup Jr.)

Following America’s war for independence, the country went into a moral and spiritual tailspin. Alcoholism was a major problem as nearly 8% of the population could be classified as confirmed drunkards. Crime was on the rise. The churches were in decline. One Massachusetts minister reported that in 16 years not one young person had joined his church. John Marshall, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court wrote that the church was too far gone to be revived." A survey of the Harvard student body found that not even one student claimed to be a believer. The influence of Christianity and the church was definitely on the wane. Then God intervened. He did it through a concert of prayer. Jonathan Edwards, inspired by a Scottish minister’s effort to rally that nation’s Christians to pray for revival, issued a little book entitled "An Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of God’s People in Extraordinary Prayer for the Revival of Religion and the Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth." The spiritual awakening that swept Great Britain after John Wesley’s death also motivated another New England pastor to send out a plea for prayer. There developed a network of prayer meetings that involved churches all over the country. In 1795 they designated the first Tuesday of every quarter as a day of prayer. Soon revival broke out in pockets here and there. Then came the great camp meetings of the summer of 1800. That revival launched the missionary movement and played a big part in the abolition of slavery. By the middle of that century, however, things had gotten bad again. One man who was grieved by all the materialism and strife, called a prayer meeting in New York City. Only six showed up, but the following week there were 40. Within a few months a number of churches and public buildings in downtown New York were filled with people praying. It wasn’t long until a Chicago shoe salesman felt God’s call on his life and began a 40 year ministry that resulted in a million conversions. His name was D. L. Moody. It all started with prayer and was sustained by prayer. Then again in the early years of the current century, Christian people sensed a need for awakening and began to pray. One of them was a praying young man named Evan Roberts of Wales. One night he asked his pastor for permission to speak after a prayer meeting. Only 17 people heard his plea for confession and obedience, but they responded and within days people were flocking to that church from other towns. The great Welsh revival was beginning and would eventually sweep over the rest of Britain as well as many European countries and others overseas. It began with prayer meetings and culminated in a great spiritual harvest.

Revival grows out of prayer, especially the "extraordinary prayer" Jonathan Edwards talked about. That’s what happens when people get up an hour early in the morning just to pray or skip their noon mean to spend the time in prayer. When we pray, God will send revival. [J. Edwin Orr, "A landslide of prayer" Decision, Jan 1992. Pages 29-30.]

So the church is to pray for the state, that its leaders may administer justice, promote good and pursue peace just as they should in their God given role. And in Australia the church must make the most of the opportunity of the peaceful conditions we still have to evangelise and to grow and plant churches. Why? Because…God desires all people to be saved (v3-4)

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