It's Prayer Time!

By Rev. Heidi L. Barham |  September 18, 2022

Click here to listen to the service 
Read 1 Timothy 2:1 – 7
The Lectionary directs our attention this morning to a passage of Scripture that comes from Paul’s letter to his young protégé, Timothy.  It is a passage I preached from a few years ago in a sermon entitled, “It’s Time to Pray.” 
Now, I must admit that I was a little bit hesitant about visiting this particular text again but as I look at the state of our world today… as I look around at what is happening in our country… and as I reflect on what we are seeing taking place in our local communities… this is a text that is still quite relevant for us today.
So, this morning, I want to invite our attention to these verses that are found in 1 Timothy 2 once again as we consider the subject:

Just to give us a little background and context, this letter was written by Paul to a young man named, Timothy, who was a leader in the Christian church.  He was someone that Paul considered to be a son and he was one of Paul’s closest companions.
In this letter to his beloved son, Paul offered words of encouragement and provided words of instruction for Timothy to share with the church at Ephesus… words that still speak to us as the church today… with a particular emphasis on the importance of prayer. 
It seems fair to say that as individuals and as a church, we have had our own experiences with prayer… as we have prayed with and for one another, our families, our friends, our communities, our nation and even our world. 
And this passage from 1 Timothy provides us with a biblical foundation for doing what we do on a regular basis… and perhaps will encourage us to even take it a step further.
As we look at the text, Paul first offered words of encouragement that we should pray for everyone
This serves as a gentle reminder to us that God’s love is for everybody… It is also a reminder that the gift of eternal life is made available to all of us through Jesus’ death on the cross because… “God so loved the WORLD that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
God’s invitation to salvation is extended to everyone… everywhere.  It is not reserved simply for select groups of people.  The world that God loves is a world defined by inclusivity…
That is why Paul added a word of clarification to help ensure that no one was excluded from being part of the “everyone” that he spoke of… so he specifically said to pray, “for kings and all those in authority.”
How interesting that our attention has been directed to this passage in the week just after the late Queen Elizabeth II’s son, Charles, assumed his new role as the King of England… an event which the world was able to watch live on television for the first time in history.  An event which took place only four days after Britain’s new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, was appointed by Queen Elizabeth II in what became her last official act in just the two days preceding her death.
Clearly this encouragement to pray for “kings and all those in authority,” has great relevance for the world today.
Now, giving consideration to the time and place when Paul originally wrote this letter… we find that it was a time when Christians were being persecuted for their faith.  Paul, himself, had already been imprisoned once in Rome for preaching the gospel and would be imprisoned again, just a short time after writing this letter to Timothy.
So, it might seem a little surprising to read Paul’s encouragement to pray “for kings and all those in authority” with the ultimate goal being “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
Paul was living in a day and time when the “kings and all those in authority” were not exactly on friendly terms with Christians.  The fact that they had already crucified Jesus, notwithstanding… Emperor Nero had made it his personal mission to try to eliminate Christianity altogether. 
And yet, Paul’s word of instruction was to pray for those same rulers who were out to stop his mission to spread the good news about Jesus… because even those rulers were part of the “everyone” that was to be included in the church’s prayers. 
These words of instruction were more than a little reminiscent of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:44).   Although, I will be the first to admit, that is often a lot easier said than done.
Now, if you are anything like me, you may have been watching or listening to the news over the past few days, weeks, months and years and seen and heard more than a few things that seem to defy logic and understanding… not just here in this country, but around the world as well. 
So, perhaps, we can agree that this is an opportune time for us to take a page out of Paul’s playbook and pray “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” 
Because, I don’t know about you, but it is feels like this world is perpetually poised on the brink of one global crisis after another that poses a serious threat to our peaceful and quiet lives… everything from the war in Ukraine to global warming to using immigrants as political pawns… not to mention yet another potential pandemic.
So, it seems safe to say: IT’S PRAYER TIME!
Looking at what is happening in our country and in the world around us… we are seeing how the decisions of persons in power can have devastating and long-lasting consequences.
And that is the place from which Paul made his appeal to Timothy… and that still applies to us today.
The church, then and now, needs to pray for kings and leaders that God will open their hearts and minds… and that the societies where they govern, both here at home and abroad, will be receptive to the Gospel.
Because as we see when we explore the text further, “God our Savior wants all people to be saved...” 
And that word ALL means without exception… without regard to one’s age, race, socioeconomic status, religious preference, sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, and yes… even political affiliation… without concern for one’s position or level of power and authority… God’s Word says and it means just that – ALL
And yet, far too often, we find people trying to put qualifiers and quantifiers on who should be the beneficiaries of God’s grace and mercy.  But the fact is that no one is outside of God’s grace and no one is beyond the reach of the salvation that God offers to us through Jesus.
And whether we like it or not… whether we agree with it or not… God’s grace extends to even the worst of the worst.  As I have shared with us before, even people like Jeffrey Dahmer and other mass murderers are not beyond God’s reach…
And that is actually good news if we think about it… because that means NONE of us is beyond God’s reach, either.
Let’s just think about the two criminals who were crucified alongside Jesus for just a moment… given that crucifixion was reserved for only the most heinous of criminals, they, too, would have been considered to be the worst of the worst…
Yet, in spite of all that he had likely done, the one who said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,” was not beyond the grip of God’s grace.  Because that most heinous of criminals received the greatest gift he could have ever imagined when Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43).
Talk about an effective prayer, if ever there was one! 
And that criminal probably had no idea what he was actually asking and would likely have never been able to imagine the amazing way in which his prayer would be answered… and the good news is that God is still answering prayers in amazing and unimaginable ways.
Now, as we look back at the text, we find that God not only wants all to be saved but to also “come to a knowledge of the truth.”
And what is that truth… some might ask.
Well, according to the next verses of the text… the truth is that, “… there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.”
Here again, Paul was drawing directly from the words of Jesus who said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
But just what does that mean… that Jesus would give His life as a ransom for many? 
In essence, what it means is that Jesus paid a debt He did not owe because we owe a debt we can never ever repay.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote, “…the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23a).  In other words, Jesus paid the ultimate ransom for us so that we could be set free from the punishment that our sins truly deserve. 
And that is by far the greatest demonstration of grace we will ever find. 
Now you have probably heard me say that grace is frequently defined as God’s unmerited favor… getting what we do not deserve.  Some have also described grace as – God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense.
The truth is that there has never been, nor will there ever be, anyone except Jesus who is willing or able to love us to that extreme degree and lavish grace upon us in such great measure. 
As we read in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  Oh, what a friend we have in Jesus!
Now, in this letter to Timothy, Paul wanted to be sure that there was no doubt about the only way that we can have eternal life. 
There is, there was, and there will always be just One who was willing and able to bridge the gap between us and God… a gap that was created as a result of our sin.  
There is only One who was willing to give His life in exchange for ours… to pay the price our sin deserved… rather than face eternal damnation. 
And there is only One who has made it possible for us to spend eternity with God.
Over in John 14 (1-6), we find Jesus speaking to His disciples… telling them about the place that He was preparing for them… letting them know that He would be coming back for them… to take them to that place.  Jesus gave them words of assurance that they knew the way to where He was going.
But Thomas, the one we often refer to as “Doubting Thomas,” said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”  And that is when Jesus told him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Now, because we are living in a day and time when people would rather believe that all roads lead to God than commit to accepting the truth that has been revealed to us through God’s Word that Jesus is THE Way… the only way – let me just say IT’S PRAYER TIME!
And we need to pray like never before… as Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church, we need to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
So let me say it again:
We need to pray for rulers and leaders and those in positions of authority; like Paul said so they will make the right decisions that result in us ALL being able to live peaceful and quiet lives in godliness and holiness.
Which means we need to pray like never before that people’s hearts and minds will be open to the truth of God’s Word so that everyone will “be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.”
And we need to pray like Jesus did in John 17 (20-23) when He said:

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Let me say that again…

… that they may be one as we are one …so that they may be brought to complete unity.

We really need to pray HARD that we may be one… even as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are One.  Because the fact of the matter is that this world and this country are more divided than ever and we are more in need of unity than we have ever been.
Now, in recent years, as we have watched as one tragic event has occurred after another… one mass shooting after mass shooting another… we have heard declarations made that “thoughts and prayers” are just not enough… that we need to put feet on our faith and respond to these situations with a call to action.  And I agree wholeheartedly… and have even said as much myself when speaking at prayer vigils and other events.
However, before we can begin to step out in faith… before we can start respond to those calls to action… we need to remember that Jesus, Himself, took the time to pray. 
In Matthew 26 (36), we read that Jesus told His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”  While in Mark 1 (35), we read, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”  And in Luke 5 (16), we read, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
Now, add to that these words found in 2 Chronicles 7:14, where we read:

“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
If we pull all that together, perhaps [just perhaps] we can agree with Jesus and with Paul that IT’S PRAYER TIME!  
Hymn of Discipleship: Sweet Hour of Prayer! #570