Online Bible Commentary
We Must Pray
1 Timothy 2:1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-- 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 Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men--the testimony given in its 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 teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles. (NIV)
The Apostle Paul continues his letter to Timothy. Timothy is helping the church at Ephesus in the mid 60’s A.D. Paul, now in his early sixties, is in the process of entrusting his ministry to others, just as Christ entrusted the gospel to Paul. Paul thinks of young Timothy as a son, and one who can carry on the gospel after Paul is gone. In fact, Paul was beheaded in Rome by Nero in 67-68 A.D.
The phrase translated “I urge, then” (v.1a) in the literal Greek is “Therefore, I exhort”, meaning that this passage is referring to the previous passage. In the previous passage, Paul had referred to two elders in the church who were engaged in false teaching. Paul has discovered that there are other irregularities in the order of church worship that need to be addressed, in addition to the false teaching. He commanded Timothy to make corrections, in love. The first irregularity Paul addresses is the subject of prayer. His instructions here pertain to prayer in the church, but also apply to private prayer.
Paul mentions four different types of prayer: requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving (v. 1b). “Requests” (“petitions” in the literal Greek) would be a prayer of asking or seeking personal favor from God. “Prayers” would be prayer in general, covering a multitude of needs. “Intercession” would be prayer to meet the specific needs of others. “Thanksgiving” would be prayers giving thanks to God. Paul then writes that these prayers should be made for “everyone” (v.1c). The idea of this passage is that the church should be praying for all the needs of all the people, and not just a select few.
Paul specifically includes “Kings and all those in authority” in his prayer list (v. 2a). This was during the time of intense persecution of Christians by Nero, persecution which would soon take Paul’s life. This prayer was so that Christians would be able to peacefully worship (v. 2b). The reference to pray for “all those in authority” would also refer to those elders that were causing trouble in the church with their false teaching, disturbing the peaceful order of worship.
After digressing in verse two, Paul continues by writing that offering these prayers is “good”, and “pleases” the Lord (v. 3). It pleases the Lord to pray all things for all people because he wants all people to be saved (v.4a). Jesus died on the cross once, for all. He died for all people but only some will accept his sacrifice and be saved from the penalty of their sin. The Lord also wants all people “to come to a knowledge of the truth” (4b). Notice He said “the” truth, not “a” truth. Jesus also said “I am the way and ‘the’ truth and the life” (John 14:6). There is no such thing as the humanist phrase “you have your truth and I have my truth”. There is only one truth, and Jesus is that truth.
The Lord wants all people to be saved and know His truth because He is the only God and the only mediator between man and God (v.5). Jesus can be both God and mediator to God because he is both man and God, wholly man and wholly God. As man, He gave his life as “ransom” for all of mankind from their bondage to sin (v. 6a). As God, he sits at the right hand of God the Father in Heaven, acting as our lawyer, our mediator, before the Father. Now is the “proper time” for the “testimony” of Jesus (v. 6b). It is the time in history for salvation. It was for that very “purpose” of salvation, specifically saving Gentiles, that Paul was “appointed” by Jesus on the road to Damascus to be a “herald”, an “apostle”, one sent by God, and a “teacher” of the “true Faith” (v.7).
This passage teaches us to pray for all things for all people. This includes praying for our leaders. We can pray for our current leaders to be obedient to God. We can also pray that if they are not obedient to God that God will raise up new leaders that are obedient to Him. We can thank the Lord that government persecution of Christians today has not yet reached the level of severity it was during the rule of Nero. We can pray that it never will. But we must pray. It is our privilege, and our obligation, to go before the one and only God Almighty, Jesus Christ.