The Worship Service:  How to Pray in Public, 1 Timothy 2:1—8

Beginning with chapter two, Paul comes to the question which had prompted him to write to Timothy, namely his concern for proper church order in Ephesus (Gould).   In chapter one, Paul made it clear that he wanted Timothy to stay put in Ephesus to put the church there in order.  Timothy was young, he had been “trained on the job” by the Apostle, and Paul was the “senior statesman” of the early Church; it naturally fell on him to give the young pastor his advice on the subject.

1.  The primacy of prayer in worship, verse 1

According to Paul, the most essential part of public worship is prayer.  In the 21st century,  we are so eager to be entertained and we seem to be driven more by our senses and feelings than by objective truth and reality, it is, therefore, little wonder modern Christians think worship is all about music and singing, thereby ginning up the feeling of the Lord’s presence.  The way verse 1 is phrased; there is a certain fitness that must characterize the public worship service.

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone.  (verse 1)

Paul “urged” Timothy about this.  The word Greek word for “urge” is parakaleo, and can be translated as “beseech” or “exhort.”  Clearly, what Paul is about say regarding the primacy of prayer in the public worship service is of the utmost importance.   If churches are to grow and flourish spiritually, public worship is not only desirable, but a key ingredient.  However, public worship ought never to be “me” centered; it must always be centered on the exaltation of God, carried on in order, without disturbance, understanding that the Church is to be a “light shining in the darkness.”  Therefore, even the public worship of God, while focusing on Him, can also be used to win others for Christ and His kingdom.  How does this happen?  Will sinners be attracted to our worship services be seeing and hearing us worshiping?  That’s not at all likely, though not unheard of.  Public prayer, as part of the public worship service, may be key in winning sinners for Christ and shaping the community in which that church is located when all the components of public prayer are present.  Fortunately for us, Paul lists them.

2.  Components of effective public prayer, verses 1, 2

In the New Testament, there are a total seven different Greek words used for “prayer.”  Four of them are used here, as the components of effective prayer (Earle).

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession 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.

  • Requests, or supplications (KJV).  The Greek is deeseis, and occurs 19 times in the New Testament.  It means expressing your desire or need.  When a person is fully aware of their complete dependence on God, this should come as natural breathing.  There is nothing selfish about praying for your needs and desires; it shows that you acknowledge God as the Source of all that is good in your life.  But all our requests and supplications should be done in a spirit of humility, not with a sense of entitlement or arrogance.
  • The second word Paul used is proseuche, and it is probably the most commonly used word for prayer in the New Testament, seen 37 times.  It means, broadly, speaking to God.  Whether we pray quietly in the back pew or loudly “lay hold of God” around the altar, whether we are confessing our sins or giving words of thanks, we are praying.   There is no “form” in prayer for when one speaks to God, they need to be sincere and honest, not putting on any airs.
  • The next word Paul used is very rare, seen only here and 4:5; it is enteuxis, translated as “intercession.”  This is an odd word to put into English and does not mean what most people think it does.  To engage in “intercession” as it relates to prayer usually is thought to mean praying for or on behalf of others.  But that is not necessarily what the word really means.  In fact, another version of this word, a verb, actually means to pray “against,” rather than “in behalf of” (Romans 11:2)!   So what does Paul mean when he speaks of prayer as “intercession?”

The basic idea of enteuxis is that of “falling in with,” or “meeting with in order to converse freely.”  It carries with it the thought of “freedom of access.”  That is a very powerful thought as it relates to holding a conversation with the God of the universe!  We have been granted full and free access to hold a conversation with Him!   Origin, a Bible scholar of the early Church, taught that enteuxis was “boldness of access to the presence of God.”  The implications are staggering, for the creature to be granted an audience with his Creator in the inner chambers of Heaven is almost unbelievable, yet this is what happens each time we bow in prayer with a right spirit and a true heart.  Is anything impossible when we are that close to almighty God?  When we enter into that kind of close communion, in full confidence and assurance, and we hold a holy conversation with Him, are able to pray for others and pray in public.

  • Finally, Paul adds this component to prayer:  eucharistia, from which we get our word for The Lord’s Supper, “eucharist.”  It actually means “thanksgiving” or “great thanksgiving.”  The Communion service should always be a time of great thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving must be a vital part of our pray life.  We must always thank God for His past, present and even future blessings.

This is a marvelous way to look at prayer:  a privilege we are afforded because we are God’s children.  Yet this privilege also carries with it a burden or a responsibility:  all our public prayers must be “made for everyone.”   There are some scholars who suggest that “everyone” be taken literally; that when we meet together as a church family, we should pray for every single man, woman, and child on the earth.  That might be a little too literal; what Paul likely had in mind was that our prayers should be indiscriminate; we should be willing to pray for anybody.  This makes sense, since God’s offer of mercy in Jesus Christ is made to all alike; there are no “special individuals” to whom God is more interested in saving than others.   Nobody is beyond the reach of God, therefore we should be willing pray for anybody.

3.  Those we should be praying for, verses 2—4

[F]or 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 Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Paul gets explicit, stating expressly that prayer should be made for political leaders and those in authority.   How important it is to understand this admonition and to practice it today!   In its historical context, the word translated “kings” is basileus, and it applied to all civil rulers of the day, including the Emperor of Rome, who during Paul’s day was the monstrous Nero—the man that later put both Peter and Paul to death.   It is difficult to imagine Paul suggesting that Christians pray for God to bless their civil authorities if those same authorities are hostile to them!   Or to pray for their civil authorities to prosper when those same authorities are causing more harm than good to the citizenry.  There is, in fact, no mystery as to what we should pray for in regards to our civil authorities: that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all goodness and holiness. Now that makes prefect sense, doesn’t it?    The very fact that Christians are able to gather together and worship publicly in the first place depends on our civil authorities upholding the laws that govern us.  No wonder we need to pray for them; we need to pray that God would cause them prosper if they are upholding the laws that keep us free and safe.  And we need to pray that God would frustrate their attempts to stifle our freedoms.  In either case, we are praying for our “kings and all those in authority.”

When Paul uses the words “peaceful” and “quiet” to describe the kind of lives we should be free to live, he does not mean a life of ease or a life free from a care and burdens.  He does not mean that we should be praying for leaders that will transform our nation into a Utopian state.  His idea is this:  the life of the Christian should be free from any kind of disturbance that would cause their work in spreading the Gospel to be hindered.   Not only that, we should be able to live lives marked by “goodness” and “holiness.”  Taken all together, our prayers as far as our civil authorities are concerned, should be such that they would govern in such a way as to permit the Church maximum freedom in executing the Great Commission.   That this is what Paul had in mind is attested to in verse 4—

…who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

That won’t happen unless we are free to evangelize and take the Gospel to those who need to hear it.  That is why we need to pray for our government; it might well be the most urgent need of our day!  When was the last time you prayed that our governing authorities would be kindly disposed to the work of the Church?  I bet if Christians of the last generation had been doing that, Wal-Mart would be closed on Sunday.  We are very good at praying for the recession to end, or that the government would change abortion laws or pass some law we think is so important.  Our obligation, though, is to pray that we would have the freedom to preach and teach the Word of God; to travel places, bringing hope to the lost.  Ask yourself this:  are we freer to-day in terms of our ability to preach than we were a generation ago?   I think if we were honest, the answer has to be “no.”

4.  A glorious digression, verses 5, 6

For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time.

Verse 5 is one of the most important verses in the New Testament.  It makes the definitive theological statement:  there is ONE God, which is an affirmation of the Old Testament.  However, Paul goes a step further, for not only does he affirm the basic tenet of Judaism, he states that there is one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ.  This is the basic tenet of Christianity; the deity of Jesus Christ. But, this declaration does not occur in a vacuum.  By upholding both Judaism and Christianity in a church made up of some Jews and some Greeks, Paul makes it clear that there is not one God for this nation and another one for that nation.  There is not one God for slaves and one God for free men.

Christ is called a “mediator” between God and men.  The Greek word is mesites, and it occurs only one other time in the Septuagint, which is an early Greek translation of the Bible.  The reference is Job 9:33, where we read of Job’s utter frustration that there is no one who is able to plead his case before God—

If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both.

A mediator, a mesites, is a person who intervenes between two parties, to restore peace and friendship between the two, or to establish a covenant or ratify one.  Jesus Christ is referred to as a mediator between God and man “since he interposed by his death and restored the harmony between God and man which human sin had broken”  (Thayer).  In other words, Jesus Christ functions like a bridge, over which the two estranged partied may cross, meet, and shake hands.

Did you know that Jesus Christ was the perfect mediator?  For a bridge to of use, it must be firmly anchored on both sides of the chasm.  Jesus Christ bridged that gap perfectly, the gap between God and man, between heaven and earth, between sin and forgiveness, between death and eternal life; with one foot planted in eternity and the other planted in time.  Jesus Christ, the Son of God became the Son of Man, and across His bridge, we may cross over into the very presence of God knowing that we are accepted because we have a Mediator (Earle).

Not only a mediator, but also “a ransom” describes our Savior.   “Ransom,” antilytron, literally “a substitute-ransom,” is seen only here in the whole New Testament, so it is a significant word.  It means “something given in exchange for another as the price of his redemption” (Thayer).   This perfectly describes Christ’s vicarious death; He sacrificed Himself in the place of others.  The way these verses are written, there is a clear link between Christ’s office as a Mediator and His self-giving on the Cross, and together they form one magnificent initiative with one end-goal in sight described succinctly in Hebrews 2:20—

In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.

From Heaven’s perspective, the Almighty God’s grace and mercy revealed in Christ’s work as Mediator and substitute sacrifice was one huge spectacle, at the very center of which was God Himself.  The yearning to forgive and reconcile, devising the means, the provision of the victim as it were from His bosom were all of God.   The entire plan for the rescue of the human race is part of God’s very life and Person.  The plain teaching of the New Testament is this:

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  (2 Corinthians 5:19)

Both the Priest and Victim were none other than God Himself.  And according to Paul, God’s glorious plan of redemption was put into play at the exactly the right time to benefit the maximum number of sinners.  Everything God does is for our benefit, so boundless is His care, concern, and love for us.

God’s church, done God’s will boldly proclaim that message; that message will form the basis of all it does.  God’s church, done God’s way will never preach or teach any doctrine that dethrones Jesus Christ or de-emphasizes His Work on the Cross.   God’s church, populated by God’s people must always acknowledge the fact of God’s plan of redemption through Christ, the necessity of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, and will never be afraid or ashamed to publicly testify to the greatness of God through its corporate worship and public prayer.

©  2010, WitzEnd

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