Worship in the church. 2:1-8
The passage before us serves as an exhortation to pray for the salvation of all people. It is part of a larger section where Paul deals with organizational matters in the church.
v1. Paul opens by encouraging Timothy to offer prayers for all members of the human family during church services; prayer in the terms of: petitions (general requests to God), Intercessions (requests for those in need), supplications (requests for ourselves) and thanksgivings.
v2. Paul particularly asks for prayers to be offered for "kings" (the emperor) and the government. Such prayer seeks to restrain the powers of evil and so encourage peace and security. When society is in a state of peace, believers can freely serve both God and mankind.
v3. Such prayer, says Paul, is acceptable to God (better than "pleasing" to God).
v4. Paul gives the reason behind this prayer for "everyone", for all kinds of people, particularly those in authority. God desires that the powers of darkness be limited in their effect upon society so that in peace and security the gospel may have ease of access, allowing all kinds of people (Gentiles, slaves, kings, etc., as well as Jews) to come to a knowledge of the truth.
v5. At this point Paul actually gives us a summary creed, v5-6a. There is one God, and this fact supports the idea that the gospel is offered to all kinds of people (given that pagan gods can't help anyone). And there is one mediator between God and humanity, the person Christ Jesus. It is this person who gains salvation for all kinds of people.
v6. Paul now defines the mediating role of Christ. Christ offered his own person as a ransom price of infinite value for a captive humanity. "A testimony" says Paul, "in its proper time". This is a very compressed phrase, but its meaning is something along the following lines: "this truth of God's redemption offered to the whole of mankind, rather than just Israel, was a mystery hidden in past ages, but is now revealed and realized in Christ and thus is a message which should be proclaimed openly to the ends of the earth."
v7. Paul reminds Timothy that it was for this purpose that he, Paul, was called to declare this truth to the Gentiles.
v8. So, says Paul, in gatherings for worship, let there be prayer. This prayer should be offered with outstretched arms and without controversy. Outstretched arms was the normal posture of prayer at the time. Paul's emphasis is on "holy", an inward purity of intention and devotion that is "without anger or disputing" - free from bitterness and controversy.
1. In praying for the government, what should we pray for and why?
2. Why aren't our prayers for government always answered?
Prayer for public welfare
An observer once suggested that the overwhelming evidence is that prayer doesn't work. The evidence he used to support his argument was that in the Church of England, prayers are always offered for the monarch, but that there is no evidence that the monarchs had "health", or were "long to live", in comparison to any other person in England over the last thousand years. A good point, that is of course if prayers for health and a long life are promised blessings of the kingdom.
We can ask God for anything. He is a loving father and wants us to place all our cares with him. Yet, a prayer that seeks to prompt the hand of God must be based on the will of God. The prayer that works is the prayer that taps into God's intentions.
The Bible encourages us to respect the authority of government (Rom.13:1, 1 Pet.2:17), and in the passage before us, prompts us to pray for the government. We are encouraged to pray for the political process such that it provides an environment where "we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness", 2:2. This verse actually contains a clue to the content of our prayer for government. We are to pray for "peace", but what kind of peace? Is it peace in the sense of freedom from war, social and industrial strife and revolution?
Most often our prayers for peace concern our own personal well-being. When society is at peace, life can go well for us and we can build that extra barn. Yet, the peace Paul has in mind is a positive environment for the proclamation and hearing of the gospel. Note what Paul says in verse 4. God "wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." The realization of the kingdom of God can be either encouraged or undermined by the political environment. So then, when we pray for government we can confidently pray that their be peace for the maximizing of gospel ministry. Mind you, this prayer may be answered in a way we would least expect. For example, we may end up in a time of persecution - great for gospel peace, but not so peaceful!
So then, the evidence is that prayers for the English monarch, who represents the parliamentary democratic institutions of England, have indeed worked. The gospel has had a favored place within English society and this through the prayers for the monarch and his/her government. So, let us always pray for the government of the day, that there be a positive environment for the communication of the gospel.
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