“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, or kings and all who are in high
positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified
in every way” (I Timothy 2:1-2).
One thing revealed in the apostle Paul’s writings is how broadly he desires believers to pray with respect to the various aspects of life in which they find themselves. Here in this text, Paul instructs his young son Timothy to urge the churches he served to be praying for all people—not literally everyone on the planet, but every class of people such as kings and those in positions of authority. They are to do (pray for good government) so that they might lead peaceful and quiet lives that are godly and dignified.
It is breathtaking when considering the breadth and scope of life the apostle Paul encourages believers to be praying about. For example, one version of Philippians 4:6 reads, “Don’t worry about anything but be praying about everything! For Paul, this is the antidote for the sin of worrying; bringing everything to God before our hearts have a chance to be weighted down with concern. Consider what life would be like if we obeyed this command and rolled all of our burdens on the Lord. We don’t need to wonder for the apostle tells us: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus: (Philippians 4:7).
In our text, the apostle instructs us to be praying for those in authority. How do we reconcile this instruction with the apostle’s clear teaching that Jesus Christ is the only Sovereign in the universe and that He “upholds all things by the word of his power?” (Hebrews 1:3). Some see this instruction as a contradiction to his clear statements about his sovereignty. But that is not the case at all. While God is totally in control of all that happens in the universe, he invites us to pray his will on earth as he reveals it to us. This is exactly what Jesus meant in the Lord’s Prayer when he tells us we should pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done.” In one sense, God’s kingdom and will are always done on earth. Yet he chooses to exercise his sovereignty through the means of the Church praying. He could certainly do it without us, but he invites us to cooperate with his purpose.
In I Timothy 2:3, the apostle teaches that God’s universal desire to save men and women through the Gospel is revealed as his people pray for all people. Paul encourages all the differing aspects of prayer: supplications, which are general entreaties, prayers, which are general requests, intercessions, which is praying on behalf of others and, thanksgivings, which have been described as the ‘general cheerfulness of a grateful heart.”
This direct instruction about praying for government is a challenge to us who often complain about those who serve in high office. The question is, “Are we regularly praying and lifting up our officials or have we fallen into the same trap as unbelievers of constantly complaining about those who are over us?” When Paul gives this instruction, he does so without any reference to how ungodly and oppressive many of the rulers of his day were. How much more should we in our nation be praying for those in authority rather than complaining about the way they treat us.
Are you adequately using the weapon of prayer to pray about all aspects of life and the people you encounter?