The Prayers That Always Please God

March 23, 2019 | Speaker: Pastor Jurem Ramos

1 Timothy 2:1-7

  In one of my readings as I prepared for this message I read this comment from John Stott:   Some years ago I attended public worship in a certain church. The pastor was absent on holiday, and a lay elder led the pastoral prayer. He prayed that the pastor might enjoy a good vacation (which was fine), and that two lady members of the congregation might be healed (which was also fine; we should pray for the sick). But that was all. The intercession can hardly have lasted thirty seconds. I came away saddened, sensing that this church worshiped a little village god of their own devising. There was no recognition of the needs of the world, and no attempt to embrace the world in prayer.   That comment made think of the kind of prayers we offer during our Sunday worship gatherings and our prayer meetings. When we pray, do we give the impression to our visitors that our God is just a village God of our making or do they feel that we have a great God who is concerned for the whole world. Could it be that some of our prayers are displeasing to God because they are self-centered, focused only on our own clique and shows no concern for others?   Today, want us to see Paul’s instruction here in 1 Timothy that mentions prayer. This will help us to evaluate our prayers, and give us the right motivation in widening the scope of our prayers to include all people without distinction of race, nationality, or social position.   It is common for readers of 1 Timothy to read chapters 2 and 3 as a manual of church organization. Many only see from these chapters general guidelines regarding prayer (2:1-7), the proper demeanor for prayer (2:8-15), and the qualifications for church leadership (3:1-13). While it is not wrong to see these guidelines, but we should not forget that they were laid down within a specific historical situation in Paul's lifetime.   There was a serious problem in the church of Ephesus that needed to be addressed urgently. False teaching was being promoted by some Ephesian church leaders themselves who by their conduct proved they did not deserve to be in church leadership. Most likely, because of their overemphasis on the Law of Moses and genealogies, they were are teaching an exclusive gospel that offers salvation to only a select few. This may have caused the men to get into unnecessary discussions that produced only bitterness and anger and to further controversies. Those who were influenced by the false teachers’ exclusivist views then practiced praying for only certain people. Their evangelism was also affected and perhaps because of the quarreling that were happening, some members were no longer attending their prayer meetings.   Perhaps some of the more intelligent women even meddled into the male discussions while the other women who got tired of all the church disorder found a diversion by focusing on external beauty and fashion. Because of this terrible condition in the Ephesian church, Paul sends Timothy and this letter to deal with the problems.   So, although we will find so many principles from chapters 2 and 3 that will guide the church, we should first interpret these chapters in light of the Ephesian situation.   Today, we are going to deal with the first specific issue that is about prayer. Although this section talks about prayer, it tells us more than that. Here we find an emphasis on the universal offer of salvation to all people. It seems that something is wrong regarding the content of their prayers. They were no longer praying for everybody. Perhaps they were not even praying for the Gentiles any more. Remember their overemphasis on the Law and the genealogies? This led to an exclusivist view that salvation is only for some people and of course restricted their prayers. That is why we see this emphasis in this section:  
  • Four times Paul uses "all”: "prayers . . . be made for all people" (v 1); "for kings and all who are in high positions" (v 2); "who desires all people to be saved" (v 4); "a ransom for all" (v 6).
  • Paul strongly emphasizes his call as a teacher of the Gentiles by saying, "I am telling the truth; I am not lying" in 2:7. Paul was trying to say that his call is proof that the offer of salvation is to be extended to all, Jews and Gentiles alike.
  Here is an outline I suggest for our study of this section, 2:1-7:  
  1. The Exhortation (v. 1-2):
Pray for all.
  1. The Reasons (vv. 3-6):
#1: Pray for all because God desires the salvation of all. #2: Pray for all because everyone is answerable to one God. #3: Pray for all because only Christ and His work can save.
  • The Implication (v. 7):
Preach to all.  

I.           The Exhortation (vv. 1-2): PRAY FOR ALL!

1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.   This new section opens with the phrase, “First of all, then.” I want you to focus your attention first on the word, “then.” This is a conjunction and it means that the following section has a connection with the previous section. The word then shows inference. It means that the following section is a direct consequence of what was said in chapter 1. You remember the problem in chapter 1 involved some elders who were teaching falsehood so that the Ephesian church soon began to hold wrong views about salvation and got involved in quarreling and controversies. The false teachers who focused on the Law of Moses promoted a false gospel that taught that salvation was only for Jews and Gentile proselytes to Judaism. This would have certainly restricted evangelistic praying. They only prayed for certain types of people, perhaps only for the Jews who were included in the genealogies.   This is why Paul begins this section by saying “First of all.” Paul is not giving a general guideline for a church worship service. He is not saying that the first activity that Christians should do when they are gathered on a Sunday service is to pray. No. What Paul is saying is that in light of the Ephesian problem the most important thing to do is to pray, but not just to pray but to pray for the salvation of all people. Make this a priority.   [While God can of course save people without our prayers, but he wants us to be in some way involved in the establishing of His kingdom on earth. And this involves praying. This is why we pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”   Paul now mentions four words for prayer to be used for all people. Most Bible teachers tell us that Paul’s intention in giving this list is not to define or to distinguish the kinds of prayer but to urge that prayers of all kinds be made for everyone, with the emphasis on every one.   supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,   What is the meaning of the four terms?  
  1. Supplications (δέησις) – Supplications is a specific term for prayer. It refers to personal petitions or humble requests offered to God in the light a pressing need in which God alone can provide the help that is needed. (E.g., One asks that this particular sickness may be healed or that this disturbing problem may be removed, etc.)
 
  1. Prayers (προσευχή) is the general term for prayer that may include “ACTS”: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication.
 
  1. Intercessions (ἐντευξις) probably denotes petitions offered to God for others. This meaning fits exactly what immediately follows: “be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions.”
 
  1. Thanksgiving (εὐχαριστία). This refers to expressions of gratitude to God in behalf of all men, including kings. This may include prayers of thanksgivings for the decisions made by secular rulers that solve problems, promote morality, bring order upon families, establish peace and order and facilitate the spread of Christianity.
  In this exhortation of Paul to Timothy we discover who we are to pray for.   First we are to pray for every kind of person. This is what Paul meant when he said that all kinds of prayers are to be made for all people.   The point is not that every Christian is commanded to pray for each individual person in the world. No, Paul was talking about all kinds of people. The false teachers in Ephesus were limiting salvation to a small group of religious elite and so their prayers were also becoming restricted to perhaps only the Jews. Paul says there is no category of person you should not pray for. We are to pray for “all men without distinction of race, nationality, or social position.” Maybe we feel animosity towards certain groups of people like the Chinese or the Communists or the Moslems of the drug lords, or LGBTQ community or the violators we see regularly on the streets. But we are to pray for everyone.]   Next Paul says that we are to pray for leaders in high positions. Within the larger category of all kinds of people, Paul mentioned specifically that the church at Ephesus was to pray for “for kings and all who are in high positions,” (v. 2).   Paul is referring to the authorities of the state including emperors, governors, and other local authorities.   MacArthur Study Bible: Because so many powerful and influential political rulers are hostile to God, they are often the targets of bitterness and animosity. But Paul urges believers to pray that these leaders might repent of their sins and embrace the gospel, which meant that the Ephesians were even to pray for the salvation of the Roman emperor, Nero, a cruel and vicious blasphemer and persecutor of the faith.   Prayers for the prosperity of secular leaders had a long history in Judaism. For example Jeremiah told the exiles to pray for Babylon’s peace and prosperity.
  • Jer 29:1,7 These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. … 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
  In Ezra 6, the edict of Cyrus, which ordered the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple, included a request to the Jews to ‘pray for the life of the king and his sons” (v.10).   Ideas from Bible Speaks Today:
  • Towards the end of the first century, we read of church leaders like Clement of Rome, including a prayer in his first letter to the Corinthian church for rulers and governors: ‘Grant them, Lord, health, peace, harmony and stability, so that they may give no offence in administering the government you have given them.’
  • Tertullian, another church leader in AD 200 wrote, ‘We pray also for the emperors, for their ministers and those in power, that their reign may continue, that the state may be at peace, and that the end of the world may be postponed.’
  So we ought to pray for the rulers we suffer under, for leaders we don’t agree with, and rulers we don’t approve of. This is God’s will. (CCEC).     Paul not only tells us whom we pray for but also what we pray for. Paul’s specific instruction was to pray for all and for leaders “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (v. 2).   What Paul is saying here are several aspects:  
  1. One goal of praying for all and specifically for national leaders is for a peaceful life.
 
  • We pray for national leaders so that they will govern properly and will enable the church to live peaceful lives, meaning freedom both from war and from civil strife. “Those in authority can provide an umbrella of peace for the church to thrive and proclaim the gospel freely” (CCEC). Paul had had many experiences of this blessing, when Roman officials had intervened on his behalf. One example is in what happened in Ephesus itself when ‘a great disturbance about the Way’ had arisen, and the city clerk had succeeded in putting an end to it. Prayer for peace is not to be dismissed as selfish. When the condition in society is peaceful, religion and morality can flourish, and evangelism go forward without interruption.
  • The goal of praying for peaceful lives may also include praying for the salvation of our leaders.
 
  • Another goal of praying for all is that we believers may lead a quiet life. Perhaps in saying “a quiet life” Paul had in mind something similar to the case in 1Th 4:11-12 where Paul urged the Thessalonian believers to aspire to live a quiet life so as to win the respect of unbelievers. Perhaps quarreling and division in the church caused outsiders to scoff at the religion of the Ephesian Christians. “Paul wanted his readers to live an orderly life free of strife and discord so as to convince unbelievers that Christianity was worthy of their attention.”
 
  • Paul adds another goal of praying and that is that we may have a godly life in every way. Godliness involves a proper respect for God. It means to be "totally consecrated to God, to his worship, and to the fulfillment of his will . . . and it places emphasis on the outward appearances of worship and piety in honor of God . . . [and denotes] an extreme devotion to accomplish the divine will. It includes obedience to His will which includes evangelism and discipleship.
 
  • One more goal of prayer is so that we will live in dignified Dignified refers especially to honorable conduct, a dignified attitude and behavior, and a high standard of morality." This kind of life will be a boost to our gospel sharing.
  • Tit 2 4-5 young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
  • Tit 2:7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
  • Tit 2:9-10 Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
  CCEC: In all of this, Paul is saying first and foremost to the church, “Pray.” For all kinds of people and for leaders in high positions. For the spread of the gospel through a peaceful, quiet, godly, and dignified church. This is the picture Paul was painting at the start of 1 Timothy 2, and it leads to this important implication: The progress of the gospel in the world is dependent on the prayers of God’s people in the church. While salvation ultimately belongs to God, and even our prayers are His work in us, God has chosen to use the prayers of His people to accomplish His will. We desperately need to hear this truth. We are surrounded by people—from our own city to the ends of the earth—who are lost, perishing, and on their way to everlasting suffering. But we want them to know eternal satisfaction in Christ. We’re on a life-saving mission, and the Bible is literally urging us here to pray.   Paul has told us whom and what to pray for, but what should motivate us to pray like this? This is where verses 3-6 come in.   Here, Paul gives three reasons why the Ephesian church should include all people in their prayers:

II.       The Reasons (vv. 3-6):

#1: Pray for all because God desires the salvation of all (vv. 3-4). #2: Pray for all because everyone is answerable to one God (v. 5a). #3: Pray for all because only Christ and His work can save (vv. 5b-6).  

A.  Reason #1: Pray for all because God desires the salvation of all (vv. 3-4).

  When Paul writes, “This good and pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,” he is referring to the prayers of all kinds that is made for all people. Paul is saying here that God is pleased to see believers earnestly concerned for the salvation of all humankind and not simply for a particular group as the Judaizing false teachers in Ephesus taught.   The prayer for all is good and pleasing in God’s sight because He is our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.   “To come to the knowledge of the truth” means to be saved or to become a genuine Christian, one who has received forgiveness from sins and experienced inward transformation of life because of the work of the Holy Spirit. But knowledge of the truth implies that intellectual knowledge. One must know certain facts before we can be saved. You cannot be saved without the truth. But, of course, there is more to knowing facts, one must have joyful recognition of the truth and deep spiritual discernment.   Now I want to clarify the statement of Paul. Paul is not saying that we are to pray for all men because all are going to be saved.   Idea from Christ Centered Expositional Commentary: Some people have used this passage as a support for the idea that all people will be saved. The reasoning runs like this: “Because God desires all people to be saved, and God always gets what He desires, then all people will be saved.” That’s definitely not what this passage, or Scripture as a whole, teaches. Scripture is clear that we are only saved by grace through faith in Christ (Eph 2:8-9), and only those who trust in His salvation will experience eternal life (John 3:36).   Theologians show us that there are two kinds of will of God found in Scripture. God has both a decreed will and a declared will. The decreed will involves what He ordains to take place in the world. Nothing can stop this. It is going to happen whether we want  or not. God’s declared will are his command that He has made known or declared in His Word. When God decreed that Jesus would be born of a virgin and that he would die by crucifixion through the hands of evil men, and then rise again on the third day—all of these are God’s decreed will. The fulfillment of thse things depend on God’s sovereignty. Nothing can stop it. But God also has declared his will in Scripture for example it is His will that we do not sin, that we pray, that we love God and our neighbor. The obedience to these declared will of God is our responsibility. It does not mean that when God declares his will that He is offended that we sin that we will no longer commit sin. This is not automatic.   Similarly, when God says it is His desire for all to be saved, this is his declared will and not his decreed will. What this simply means is that God loves all people and it is His “desire” that they be saved.   Now here is a mystery regarding our salvation.   Preaching The Word Commentary: Now it is a fact that the Scriptures, and Paul in particular, teach divine election. Paul says in various passages:
  • "But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved" (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
  • "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will" (Ephesians 1:4, 5).
  • "And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified" (Romans 8:30; cf. Matthew 11:25-27; John 6:37-44; Acts 13:48; 1 Peter 1:1, 2).
  But the Scriptures also teach the complementary truth so clearly stated in verse 4: God "wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." What we have here is an expression of the divine desire that brought about the Incarnation and Christ's death on the cross - "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). … This divine desire informed and drove Paul to engage in a worldwide mission. It is not our responsibility or capability to solve the puzzle of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. It is our task to preach the gospel universally - to every tongue and people regardless of class or rank. It is our mission to proclaim what God wants us to proclaim.     The second reason why we are to pray for all people is this:  

B.  Reason #2: Pray for all because everyone is answerable to one God (v. 5a, For there is one God)

 

1.   On the one hand, this addresses the wrong view of many gods.

  There is not one god for one group of people, and then another god for a different group of people, so that all kinds of people are accountable to different gods. Paul says, ”Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one (Rom. 3:29-30). Ultimately, we live and work and share the gospel and make disciples in our city and around the world because we know there is one God to whom we all are accountable.   Paul argues that because there is only one God, all people must be the object of prayer since all can be saved only through the one God.    

2.   On the other hand, this addresses the exclusivist view that “He is ours and not anyone else’s!” (PTW)

  UTB: This statement, [“For there is one God,”  has been used by Jews in an exclusivistic way: “He is our God and he looks out only for his own.” As a result of this narrow view, believers in Ephesus who were influenced by the Judaistic false teachers in Ephesus no longer prayed for Gentiles and for others groups. But what Paul is stressing here the idea not only that there were no other gods but that he is therefore the one God over all peoples.   Finally, there is a third reason why we are to pray for all people.  

C.  Reason #3: Pray for all because only Christ and His work can save (vv. 5b-6).

and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.   CCEC: We read in verse 5 that there is not only one God but also “one mediator between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, Himself human, who gave Himself—a ransom for all” (vv. 5-6).   This word “ransom” literally refers to the price that would be paid for the rescue, or release, of a prisoner. This is the gospel in a nutshell. God, the One who is completely holy in all His ways and completely just in all His judgments, stands over against us sinners, who are completely deserving of all His judgments. Therefore, we desperately need a mediator to pay our ransom. Enter Jesus.   Jesus is unique in who He is. He is the perfect mediator because He is uniquely able to identify with both parties. No one else is qualified to represent both God and mankind. He is fully able to identify with God because He is divine, fully God (Col 2:9). Yet, at the same time, He is fully able to identify with humanity since He is “Himself human” (emphasis added). Jesus was, and is, fully human, like us in every way “yet without sin” (Heb 4:15). He is uniquely qualified to stand in the middle in order to bring together both God and man.   Not only is He unique in who He is, but Jesus is also unique in what He did. He gave Himself as a ransom by dying for us, though He did not deserve death. Jesus had no sin (1 John 3:5). He died even though mankind alone owed the price. We are sinners, and we are the ones who deserve to die. But the reality is that we couldn’t pay the price that needed to be paid, the infinite wrath of a holy God.   God alone could pay this price. And how did He do that? In Christ! In Christ, God took the full payment of sin upon Himself, and in the process He rescued us from sin and death. The payment was paid and the rescue was made.   The implied idea here is the universal sinfulness of humanity that needs outside help in order to be rightly related to the one God whom it has offended. Another idea is that God himself has provided that help.   What did Paul mean when he added the words, "the testimony given in its proper time."   What Paul is saying is that, the death of Jesus as a ransom is a testimony to God’s saving work on behalf of all people, and it took place at just the right time.  

III.    The Implication (v. 7): PREACH TO all!

  We have learned from vv. 3-6 three important gospel truths: We learned that God desires the salvation of all people (v. 4), that He alone is God to whom all are accountable (v. 5), and that only the sacrifice of Christ can avail for sinners because of his unique position and work (v. 6). Now since these things are true this is why we are to pray for everyone. No group of people, or nationality or social status should be excluded in our prayers. But there is also an obvious implication here and that is we are to bring the gospel to all.   Paul says in v. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.   What Paul is saying is this: It is with reference to this (i.e., for the sake of bearing testimony to the all-inclusive redemptive work of Christ, vv. 5-6a) that I was appointed a herald and apostle—I am speaking the truth; I am not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth."   Even though Paul was talking specifically here about his own unique role as an apostle, what he said applies, in large part, to every follower of Christ. This should be the implication of the gospel to all believers. We are to bring the gospel to all people.   PTW: The fact that God appointed Paul, choosing him to preach the gospel to the Gentiles is proof that God desires His people to pray for everyone and to reach out to everyone with the gospel.   Ideas from Hendriksen:   In the ancient world a “herald” [which is another translation of “preacher”]  was the person who by order of a superior made a loud, public announcement. Thus, in public games it was his function to announce the name and country of each competitor, and also the name, country, and father of the victor. A herald announced the freedom of slaves and was active in the law courts. He announced the orders of the king and the king's arrival. Chrysostom comments, "for the excellence of a herald consists in proclaiming to all what has really happened, not in adding or taking away anything.” Paul is God’s herald and ambassador, proclaiming to the nations, “We beseech you, on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). That is the very heart of “preaching,” that is, of “heralding.” Paul had been appointed to be not only a herald (or preacher) but also an apostle, representing Christ, fully clothed with delegated authority over doctrine and conduct, an authority that extended over the entire church, wherever it existed on earth. It was in this broad capacity as apostle that Paul was a herald.   Paul also adds that he is not only a preacher and an apostle, he was also a teacher of the Gentiles. This again reminds us of the universal scope of the gospel. This is the reason why Paul suddenly inserted the words, “I am telling the truth, I am not lying.” His intention was to emphasize what follows, that he was a teacher of the Gentiles. This latter phrase in particular would seem to suggest some form of Jewish exclusivism as lying at the heart of the problem. Also, contrary to the false teachers who are teaching what is opposed to proper doctrine and what is false, Paul is teaching the Gentiles the true Christian faith. This is what Paul means when he says that he is a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. The two words faith and truth can be understood objectively as the content of Paul's teaching, i.e., the gospel.

Application:

  So in light of this study we see that the prayers that always please God are those that are in line with the Gospel. Paul's words challenge our prayer life in at least three ways.  
  1. First, they challenge us to pray for all people. Since the gospel teachers that God wants all people to be saved and that there is only one God to whom all are answerable and that there is only on Savior who died for our sins, this means that our prayers should not be limited to our merely concerns of our family and friends. Our prayers ought to include petitions, intercessions and thanksgivings, for all, friend or foe, without distinction of race, nationality, or social position. We are also to pray for “those in authority” instead of always criticizing them or ridiculing them. I did not say that we are to agree with them; I said we are to pray for them instead of always criticizing them.
 
  1. Second, Paul’s words remind us that the ultimate goal of our prayers is for people come to a personal knowledge of God's saving power and to become more like Christ. As we intercede for our national leaders and local officials, for our neighbors, office mates, school mates, the needy, the sick the suffering, we must not forget that our ultimate aim is that they experience divine saving power.
 
  1. Third, Paul’s words call us to remember that part of our prayers should include the idea of God using whatever He gives to us. For example, when we pray for our healing, what is its contribution for the kingdom of God. When we pray to pass an exam or for the success of our business, or to be granted a visa, or to have a vacation, have we even thought about its contribution to God’s kingdom. If Christ made the greatest sacrifice and the greatest act of love by becoming human and giving his life for us then this should also be foremost in our minds in all of our decisions and plans and purposes in life. This is the must be the most important thing of all and this is God’s main concern. It is not just to prosper us but for people to be saved and for His kingdom to be established here on earth. So let us not forget that.