Much of Paul’s letters to Timothy are filled with practical instruction to his student and son in the faith on how to minister to the churches. Here in 1 Timothy chapter 2, we see Paul as he begins to lean into that teaching. Verses 1-4 state, “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.”
Paul’s very first instruction to his student is to pray for all people. Let’s allow that to sink in. Right out of the gate, Paul isn’t concerned with raising money for the ministry, or what the worship is going to sound like, or how many people are in attendance. He says, first of all, pray for all people. Pray for everyone. He says “ask God to help them, and give thanks for them.”
It’s easy and, I think it’s our go-to, to pray for those closest to us and those we care about. It’s easy for me to pray for my family. They are the most important to me. It’s easy to pray for people and situations that I’m directly involved in because they affect me the most. But Paul encourages us to pray for all people.
He even takes it a step further when he instructs in verse two, “Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quite lives.” We need to reach outside ourselves and outside our inner circle and challenge ourselves to pray for those in authority. Not that God would change their politics, or convict them of their evil deeds, or make them do all the things we want them to do. Nope. Paul says to ask God to help them and give thanks for them.
That’s right, when we pray for those in authority, we’re supposed to thank God for them and ask Him to help them. So, why does Paul want us to pray for all people, including those in authority?
Christians often fall into the trap of thinking that we can transform our culture through political means and we often put our trust in politicians and televangelists and church leaders to change things rather than in the Lord. God’s plan is not dependent on who is in authority, so let’s not pray as if they are the enemy. It is made clear to us in Ephesians 6:12 that we are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against rulers of the unseen world.
When Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, the Roman government was in authority. Remember that this was a monarchy, with a king that was often hostile to christians. But Paul still tells Timothy, FIRST of all, pray for them.
In verse 2 he says, “so we can have peaceful and quiet lives.” When times are peaceful, the gospel is able to advance without hindrance. When authority figures are peaceful, they are much less likely to enforce unfair or unjust rules.
So I want to challenge us today. Let’s pray for our authority figures, whether it’s pastors, teachers, governors, senators, bosses. Let’s pray for God to help them, and let’s give thanks for them. Let’s do everything we can to offer peace to the world in such a way that the gospel is able to advance. Be encouraged that God’s timeline doesn’t change and he loves all of us the same. Show godly love to everyone and gently tell others about the grace of God. Verses 3 and 4 of this chapter say “This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.”
Let’s do a self evaluation. Are we praying for all people? Are we asking God to help our leaders? Are we giving thanks for them? Are we living in a peaceful way that draws people to God? I know these are areas I need to work on. Let’s each pray today that the Holy Spirit will show us which areas we need to grow in.