First of All, Pray
Topic: Prayer Passage: 1 Timothy 2:1–2:4
The essential exhortation here is that we are to pray, with all kinds of prayer, for all people, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and dignity. Tranquility and quietness are essential parts of a godly life. There are several components to this passage but I want to start with this one.
Our culture worships celebrities. We worship success. The goal is to be somebody, to find significance, be a rock star. We tell our children they can literally be anything they want to be. Unwittingly we communicate, even in the church, that unless you do something big and grand, you are kind of a failure. We have celebrity churches, celebrity worship leaders and celebrity pastors. How strange Paul’s words sound, urging us to pray, and live a quiet, godly life!
The Bible teaches us to live, both with inward peace, and as much as possible, in outward peace. We are not to live with turmoil, frustration, or anxiety in our hearts. Outwardly we are not to live chaotic, disorderly, disruptive lives. 1 Cor. 14:33 “God is not a God of disorder but of peace”. 1 Thess. 4:11 says “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.”
Paul said, the God who desires all people to be saved, wants this! He urges us to prayer and quiet godly living, because it aligns with God’s desire for all to be saved. It is PART of how we participate in people being saved.
But you are probably already thinking of things going on all around you that do not make your life quiet or peaceful! Most of us have a boatload of personal problems and concerns. And more and more, we are aware that there ARE people “out there” who are not friendly or peaceable toward us, at all! The world is hostile to Christ and his followers. And we feel that!
Satan is using unbelievers, politicians, athletes, entertainers, teachers, virtually every part of our culture to force us to abandon truth and morality, and to accept wickedness as good. Our knee jerk reaction, if we are not careful, is to cave in to that force, and apologize for righteousness and truth.
But Paul’s solution is to pray! We are to stand firm and PRAY for these people who don’t like us, for all people, for those in authority! Nero was the Roman Emperor when Paul wrote this to Timothy. He hated Christians. Paul’s solution for the cultural and political antagonism of his day was prayer! Pray with all kinds of prayer for all people SO THAT we may lead quiet and peaceful lives.
One temptation is to seek peace, to seek a quieter life, through compromise with the world. Many Christians seek to remove conflict with the world by denying things the Bible clearly teaches. Many foolishly think we can make peace with the world, if we just compromise enough.
The other temptation, when we see the world coming against us, is to fight with weapons of the flesh, human anger, resistance, rebellion. There IS a time and place to go against governing authorities! BUT our primary responsibility is to pray for people, especially for kings and rulers.
Paul said, “I urge, then, FIRST OF ALL, (or most important of all) that prayers be made for all people. Prayer is of first importance for believers and for the church! He didn’t say, first singing, or teaching, although we are instructed to sing and to preach. He said “First of all, I urge that there be prayer and petitions, and intercession and thanksgiving for all people”. We are to be a praying people and a praying church.
Romans 12:12 says “be DEVOTED to prayer”. The word means to persist, to persevere, to show strength which prevails in a fixed direction. (Helps Word Studies) We are to persist and prevail in prayer. If a prayer time seems dry, or we don’t get much out of it, that should not keep us from praying or from coming to pray with others! Prayer is a spiritual battle and sometimes half the battle is getting to the prayer meeting, or actually starting to pray. If we feel uncomfortable praying with others, we press through that and learn to do that. The Holy Spirit has spoken! Be devoted to prayer! Prayer is of first importance! Our attitude should be, God said it, and I believe it, and that settles it!
*The church was born out of a prayer meeting! Right after Jesus went back up into heaven, the apostles returned to Jerusalem and went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Luke says, “They all joined together constantly in prayer.” The ESV says, “all these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers”. What happened next! The Holy Spirit was poured out upon them.
*Luke said the church devoted themselves to teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, AND to prayer! Praying together was one is to be one of the main things we do!
*When the church experienced opposition and problems and persecution, they prayed together! Acts 4:23 “On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.”
Samuel Chadwick wrote, “Satan dreads nothing but prayer. His one concern is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, he mocks our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.”
Paul urged that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving, be made for all people. We are to humbly ask, and make earnest requests; we are to intercede for people, and to give thanks for them.
*We are to do this for ALL people. You don’t know anyone who does not need prayer; you have never met anyone who does not need prayer. The checkout person at the grocery store, waitresses, the plumber who comes to work on your house, your mailman, the neighbor you run into on the sidewalk. You can give thanks to God for all these people, what would life be like without them. You can pray for their salvation.
Paul said, “Pray with all perseverance in your prayers for ALL the saints”. (Eph. 6:18) Pray for your brothers and sisters here in the church, for all the young people. Pray for the elders and deacons, pray for those who are sick or in trouble, but also for those who SEEM to be doing fine! Every Christian you know is wrestling with powers of darkness!
*Paul specifically then tells us to pray for “kings and all who are in high positions” or “positions of authority” (NASB) We are to be praying for everyone who has any kind of leadership position over us or anyone who has authority to impact our lives. We should be praying for those in government. We should have been praying for President Trump when he was in office, we should be praying for President Biden, now. Pray for governors, senators, employers, journalists on both networks. Pray for their salvation, to see the truth, that they would be restrained from evil plans and ideas, for wisdom.
Our most important role in politics is to pray for our politicians. Christians should vote and speak truth and be involved. BUT prayer is what makes the difference and leads to peaceful and quiet lives. Proverbs 21:1 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will. We need God to turn the tide, to move our leaders, change hearts and bring people to repentance.
Jeremiah 29:7 says, “Seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for (that city) it; for in its peace you will have peace.” If you pray for Babylon, you will have peace!
Part of our prayer for leaders and kings, is prayer for relief from government hindrance or intrusion in our circumstances, so that we may be left alone, or free to lead a tranquil life.
*Paul then emphasizes the goal of prayer: “SO THAT you may lead a tranquil life in quietness, in all godliness and dignity”. We are to be prepared for persecution but we are NOT to pray for persecution or suffering. It is dangerous or foolish to pray that way. Pray just the opposite, for peace!
Tranquil, quiet lives are an outcome of prayer but also a quality of life that we are to seek. We are not to passively wait for things to calm down. Paul said pray, so that you may LEAD a peaceful life”. Kings and rulers may give us the opportunity. But we must choose to lead a quiet life. We are NOT to lead a chaotic life, a disorderly or restless life. We are not to be excessively busy. Psalm 127 says, “It is futile for you to rise up early, To stay up late, To eat the bread of painful labor; for he gives sleep to those he loves.” We are not to live in frustration because of people, or the government, or the news. Psalm 46 says “Cease striving, and know that I am God!”
1 Thess. 4:11 “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands” ESV In the church in Thessalonica, there were those who Paul called busy bodies, not working, or providing for themselves, and causing trouble and being a burden to others. Paul said, “We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies.” (2 Thess 3:11 NIV) Stirring things up. In a bad way. “Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. (2 Thess 3:12)
This is not talking about a withdrawn, self focused life focused ONLY on my own personal peace, my own self protection, my own security. It is talking about a manner of life that glorifies God, by being at peace in your heart and ordering your life in quiet peaceful way. That includes living at peace with others, taking care of our own lives, working and living without commotion or stirring up trouble.
*Verses that confirm that this is God’s will:
Proverbs 17:1 says, “Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it, than a house full of feasting with strife.”
Isaiah 32:17 “The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.”
James 3:16-18 “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable.” Sinful attitudes and choices (such as jealousy, and selfish ambition) lead to upheaval and chaos. Following God’s wisdom (from above) leads to peace and order in your life! This does not mean there is freedom from trouble but, even in trouble, doing the right thing leads to peace, composure and quietness.
*We are to live “in godliness and dignity”. Godliness means to live in reverence for God and to seek to please God. The word translated dignity in the ESV means “honor, gravity”. It means to live in a way that inspires respect or reverence.
*Paul said, “This is good and pleasing to God”. If we know praying and leading quiet godly lives pleases God then that settles the direction of our lives! We know what to give our lives to!
*Paul ends his thought by describing the heart of God. “WHO desires all men to be saved and come to knowledge of the truth”. In Paul’s mind, praying for all people, and living peaceful lives in godliness, lines up with God’s desire for all men to be saved. If God desires men to be saved, then we want that. So in our prayers for all people and leaders we pray for them to be saved. “And come to knowledge of the truth”. Unsaved people are living in blindness. And need to come to the knowledge of the truth. That takes prayer.
But also leading peaceful, godly lives contributes to people being saved! We pray for people to be saved and understand truth. And then we witness to the world by our quiet and godly lives! Acts 9:31 says, “The church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace, AND was being built up. Walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” The church had peace and a godly fear of the Lord... and it multiplied!!
Paul told believers in Thessalonica to live quietly, “so that you may win the respect of outsiders” or “walk properly before” unbelievers, those outside the church. (1 Thess. 4:12 NIV) John MacArthur said, “when believers display diligent work attitudes and habits and live in a loving and tranquil manner that respects others’ privacy and does not intrude or gossip, it constitutes a powerful testimony to unbelievers and makes the gospel credible.”
People MUST hear the message of Christ to be saved. Faith comes from hearing...but Paul said, THIS is of first importance, that you pray for all people, and lead quiet godly lives. Without prayer people won’t get saved! And without people seeing us live in peace and in godliness, our message won’t be believed! Prayer accesses the power of God to open blind eyes, and peaceful godly living makes a powerful collective testimony to the unsaved.
Prayer can change people and a nation more than you think. Leading a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity can be a more powerful witness that you may imagine. Be encouraged! God can use your life through your prayers and living in a quiet, godly way!
Imagining that we must do grandiose things, I think is a problem in the church today. It goes back to this celebrity culture that we live in. It becomes like a false burden upon people to become something more than they are, or what God made you to be. The Lord told Jeremiah, “Do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them.” (Jeremiah 45:5)
How about devoting yourself to a life of prayer and living in a quiet and godly manner? How about teaching our kids to pray, and to lead a responsible, quiet, orderly life! That pleases God. And it’s good. It affects governments and leads to people getting saved. And those are the things that matter in life anyway.