Prayers of the People

Sermon, Pentecost 15th C, Sunday September 22, 2019.

1 Timothy 2:1-7I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. 7 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.https://stpetri.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/20190922_message.mp3

We again join Paul in his encouragement to Timothy at Ephesus. Paul began with a reminder of two foundations of being pastor and people in mission:

  1. Everything in the church depends on the sound teaching, or ‘healthy words’ or, The Word of God – Jesus’ word, and

  2. Jesus wants all people to be in his gracious community of love and is immensely patient with the lost, the found and those who are called to lead the found.

On those foundations, Paul now gets into the nitty-gritty of encouragement to a Pastor and his church. Guess where he goes first – prayer! Obvious in theory, not so easy in practice!

“….first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made         for all people.”

Paul urges prayer – prayer for everything and for everyone – the Jesus followers and those not yet following.

‘First of all” suggests that this is the first thing in a list of what is crucial for being church. But if you read on after this text, you will find no ‘second’ or ‘third’. This is not ‘first of all’ in the sense of first in a list, but ‘first of all’ in the sense that this is PRIMARY – a thing of utmost, primary importance across all aspects of being church, being leaders, being a people in gospel mission.

So, whatever we do, we pray a lot, pray often, pray everywhere, all the time in all kinds of ways.

Paul describes four kinds of prayer that are primary in all we do:

  1. Petitions: This is specific appeal for a particular need.

  2. Prayers: This is general prayer for many things in a place of prayer – in worship, when we are together somewhere.

  3. Intercessions: A more urgent ‘coming together’; a bold request for another.

  4. Thanksgivings: Words of thanks to God for anything and everything.

So, prayer of all kinds is crucial for all things all the time.

And who for? Interesting that Paul begins at the top here.

“….for kings and all those in authority…”

Why pray for those in civic authority?

In 510 BC, Rome had been a republic governed by two consuls who were elected to their positions. This system was in effect for five hundred years. But it was then changed in two significant ways. Under Julius Caesar, the republic became the Empire ruled by him alone! And then gradually Rome introduced the deification of the emperor. The emperor was now a god.

After his assassination in 27 BC, Julius Caesar was soon proclaimed divine and accepted among the gods of the state. He was now able to be publicly worshiped throughout the vast Roman empire (including in Ephesus). At the time of the New Testament writing Emperor worship was a general custom everywhere.

Here comes Paul to Pastor Timothy serving in the important Roman city of Ephesus saying that he and the people should pray for kings. Note that he does not say pray TO kings but FOR kings. Christians don’t pray to anyone except God, Father, Son and Spirit, and yet, we do pray FOR leaders of all kinds.

This prayer is based on the truth that even self-declared god-kings only ‘rule’ because the Lord calls them or allows them to and that even their authority is dependent on the Lord, whether they acknowledge this or not (Romans 13:1 – Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God”).

And why does Paul urge this prayer for governments and leaders of all kinds first? Is it to uphold someone’s power or stroke someone’s ego or keep in place some corrupt rule? Never.

The whole point of Christians praying for all leaders is not just for the leader him or her, but for the whole community, the whole country and for the whole church that everyone gets to

“…. live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness”.

Friends, we pray all the time in all kinds of ways and we pray for pastors, mayors, local, state and federal leaders, leaders of our schools, our health services and every other leader – even our boss, even other world leaders not to keep them in power or to manipulate them or to have power over government or leadership but so there is peace and the possibility of godliness in relationships, business, education, commerce, care for the vulnerable and the like but even more for the gospel to run free…. Because;

This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. 

We pray for our country and our community and its leaders for the sake of the well-being of all people but also for “holiness”; for the free reign of the good news of Jesus. That is way we pray and that is what we pray.

As a community of Christians, we pray every Sunday in this public gathering in the public space. It is here that we do our ‘public service’ in God’s world. We are ‘public servants’ as we pray the Prayer of the Church. We even symbolize this by having other people lead our prayers with the pastor. This is a prayer of the whole church, not only the Pastor!

When the first Christians tried to find words in their language that could teach others what Jesus’ resurrection really had done, They borrowed words they knew and filled them with Jesus. So, the word ‘ekklesia’ was a word used for what often happened when the Mayor called a meeting down at the Institute and the whole town came. The word ekklesia was used for ‘church’ – a public gathering in Jesus’ presence. When we gather here in Jesus’ presence, we are doing a public meeting in the town square on behalf of the town.

So the ekklesia gathered in public for the public. They gathered to do work on behalf of the community. This ‘work’ was called’ ‘liturgia’ – ‘Liturgy”. The Christians gathered in public  to do their public work for the public prayer or “Liturgy”.

Can you see how everything we Christians do when we gather is never only for us, but for the community. What we do here as ekklesia (church) is our public work, our public service, our liturgy in Jesus’ presence for all the world to see.

Friends we don’t just come here to get something. We come here to do some work – some prayer for others. We pray for the world and its leaders for the gospel – that it may run freely as we carry it into Monday in our words and actions.

Just in case you don’t think you have any part in this, think again, friend. You are automatically involved in this pubic work. No matter who we are and what we have been, we are public servants of the good news of life in Jesus. If you need proof, Paul gives that….

“….for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle…”

Paul, a violent, angry, harmful lost man was called to his part in this mission. He says that he was called to be an announcer (Herald) and a sent person of God (Apostle).

If it is good enough for a bloke like that, it is good enough for you who think you may be too bad for the job or too good for the job. One thing is for sure, now you cannot be indifferent about the job!

Friends, let’s keep praying. Let’s never gather here just for me or us but for them!

Pray together. Pray alone. Pray for everything, be bold and get specific when needed. Let the gospel run free in this community because

“….there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the human, Messiah Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people”.

May we praise him as we pray for them.

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#1Timothy217 #Intercession #PrayerPetitions

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