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.

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 i