Today’s text in 1 Timothy focuses on prayer. I know, not another one. You’ve heard sermons and messages before on prayer. “It’s not that complicated,” you’re thinking. And, you are correct – prayer isn’t complicated. But have you stopped to think about: Why we pray? Are there different ways we can pray and when should we use them? Or even, do our prayers really matter in the long run?
Our 1 Timothy text answers these questions. Sometimes it’s good to slow down, come back to the basics, and review them once again. So, let’s do that.
If someone just learning bout Christianity and the basic practices that are part of our faith came to you with these questions about prayer, how would you answer them:
Prayer is one of the building blocks of our faith. In fact, our 1st Timothy text in Eugene Peterson’s transliteration, The Message, spells it out in easy, plain language – “The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know.”
The writer of 1 Timothy, who is presumably Paul, tells us that Prayer is the most important thing that we can do in our lives. It is so important that we should pray all the time, and not just for ourselves and for our loved ones and friends, but for everyone – we know and even those we don’t know. For those we “like” and even for those we don’t like. For Paul – everyone means everyone in the world – no exceptions!
So, we try and do that, right? Okay, maybe we aren’t as good at it as we would like to be, or that God would like us to be. But, we try and hold all of those we know in prayer – especially when they are going through a tough time.
So, how do you understand prayer? Is “praying” passive or action-oriented? WHY?
So, why doesn’t this feel like it’s very action oriented?
Because we want – maybe even feel the need – to do something, to make things better, easier, to “fix” the situation for those we care about. But in reality, can we do that? Maybe – but not too often.
Too often there is nothing that we can humanly do to “fix” or make a situation better. So then, all we really can do is pray, to offer them up to God, and ask that God be with them, care for them, help them with their current situation. Prayer is an action we choose to take.
This text is also a lesson in discerning what is truly called for us to do in response to a situation. First and foremost, we can and should offer a prayer to God about the situation, the person; to ask for God’s guidance, wisdom, and direction; and then move to do something more physical if appropriate. And maybe the only next appropriate action we can take is to be present with them – sit with them, listen to them, hold their hand, etc. so that they know that they are not alone.
Paul tells Timothy in v8 that he recognizes this is difficult for all of us. He knows how much we want to physically act first then, and only after we have exhausted all possible physical actions, resort to prayer and words if the physical doesn’t “fix” things.
As Christians, we must remember to do the opposite. We must first pray and invite God into each and every situation, then and only then move to do more physical things – if appropriate, if necessary. Only by doing that, will we be able to respond in the way that is needed most. Sometimes we move to physical action too quickly, out of a sense of our own anxiety and need, rather than because the other person’s situation truly calls for it, or they even want us to “help” in more direct ways.
Paul reminds us that prayer is not a “one way fits all” – all people and all situations – kind of practice. No, Paul says we shouldn’t pray in the same way each time – but use a variety of methods. There are multiple forms of prayer that we can utilize depending on the situation, and that we should be comfortable with all of them. These different types of prayers help us cover everyone and everything we should be praying for. In fact, he provides several examples.
One commentator calls the methods mentioned by Paul in v1 as “SPIT” prayers: Supplications, Prayers of Petition, Intercessions and Thanksgiving.
Paul also states in v3-4 that the real reason we should be offering prayers is because “it is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior” and because God “desires everyone be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (NRSV). Peterson says that the “truth we’ve learned is that there is one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us – Jesus, who offered himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free” (The Message).
The good news we hear this morning is that:
So, my friends…. PRAY and Pray often. Pray in all ways that you know and even when words fail you. Open your hearts and lives to God, and see what amazing things await you and those around you.
May it be so….. AMEN
Erwin, Jim. Blog post, February 8, 2015: 1 Timothy 2:1-8 Godly Prayer. https://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2015/02/08/1-timothy-21-8-godly-prayer/
Peterson, Eugene H. The Message, Copyright 1993, 2002, 2018.