Faithful Prayer (1 Timothy 2)
- Order of Service: Divine Service 1
- Hymns: LSB #557, 941, 844, 770, 350
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 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 is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 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. (1 Timothy 2:1-7)
NOTE: This morning's Epistle text has a great deal of material in it. Too much for a single sermon without spending most of the day on it and barely make it out of the first two verses. I've split the reading in half. I'll take the first half in this sermon. The second half will be the focus of Bible study this morning. It also has more questions that you have probably already asked as you heard it read. So I encourage you to get the other half downstairs in Bible class.
St. Paul talks about four categories of faithful prayer. St. Theodore of Mopsuestia explains them: “Here supplications express the desire for good things from God. Prayers express the desire to be released from various evils. Intercessions ask for freedom from undeserved consequences. And thanksgivings express gratitude for blessings.” These four categories outline the question, “What is a faithful prayer?”
The first category of faithful prayer is supplication. These prayers show our need for something. That something is lacking in our lives. Therefore, we desire good things from God. A supplication is a prayer where we seek something that we don't have.
The greatest need we have is salvation. We began our service, “Seek where you may to find a way that leads to your salvation.” We seek salvation because we have a void in our heart and soul. We know that we don't have everything we need. So we supplicate God so He can give us what we need. Especially forgiveness. As we'll sing as we receive our Lord's body and blood, “Forgive me, Lord, where I have erred by loveless act and thoughtless word. Make me to see the wrong I do will grieve my wounded Lord anew.” We not only use supplications for previous sins. We use supplications so that God will keep us from future sins through a lack of love or a lack of thinking. Supplications help us to see ourselves and the gracious God that we have.
While supplications are one-time events, prayers are a lifestyle. St. Paul tells the Thessalonians, “Pray without ceasing.” Our own word “liturgy” emphasizes faithful prayer. The liturgy is a series of prayers we give to God. Through these, we praise Him for His glory and mercy. “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of His people. He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children.”
This is the thrust of St. Paul's last phrase in our Epistle reading: “She will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” A woman is not saved because she has a house filled with children. A woman is saved through Christ's death and resurrection just like a man. The mother often has the most contact with the children. Teaching them how to be faithful and loving. Reminding them of their holiness in Christ. Giving the example of how to control yourself.
Prayer is the backbone of the Christian life. Calling upon the “only hope for sinful mortals.” This only hope is God's will for mankind. God “desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the Truth.” To see Him—Jesus—as the central point of all existence. A lifestyle of prayer seeks to ground the Christian into Christ, who gave Himself as that “precious Ransom” as the one Mediator between God and man. The only One to whom prayers should be addressed. The third category of prayer is the most common in our fallen world. Intercessions. We need people to pray for us. People need us to pray for them. Illnesses. Death. Anxiety. Addiction. Many reasons for prayers. Because we have consequences that we don't deserve. Sin is not an undeserved consequence. But sin causes all of our undeserved consequences. Sin causes the walls to rise that divide us from one another.
But even greater are the undeserved blessings. We can intercede for others and others can intercede for us because God has blessed us. Intercessions require great boldness. Boldness because you're coming before the Creator of the universe. But you are a loved child coming to your heavenly Father. You're asking Him to help you or your neighbor. That's exactly what He teaches us in the Ten Commandments. “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Following these commandments in Christ, you are able to boldly go into God's presence and make your requests. And you have no fear of your requests not being heard.
And these intercessions are most appropriate when someone is being oppressed. Amos intercedes to the LORD for the poor and needy in Israel. “The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: 'Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.'” As Christians, we pray especially for those who are oppressed through affliction, wrath, danger and distress. We intercede for God's mercy to be shown to them.
Thanksgivings respond to answered intercessions. The most basic thanksgiving is, “Hallelujah!” “Praise the LORD.” A more elaborate thanksgiving comes in the Te Deum. “We praise You and acknowledge You, O God, to be the Lord … The band of the apostles in glory sing Your praise; the fellowship of prophets their deathless voices raise.” We especially thank God for sending Jesus to bear our sins and griefs.
All four types of prayers are to “be made for all people.” Especially “for kings and all who are in high positions.” This includes all rulers and authorities, whether we like them or not. This includes our President, whether you voted for him or not. Whether your candidate wins in November or not, you are still commanded to pray for him or her.
As St. Paul writes to St. Timothy, he is in prison in Rome. Praying for Nero as he waits to hear his case. Nero! Probably the most insane emperor who ever ruled in Rome. But Paul isn't the only one. Daniel prayed for Nebuchadnezzar. British Anglicans prayed for Mary, Queen of Scots, as she beheaded their brothers and sisters. Russian, Chinese and Cuban Christians in their underground churches prayed for their atheist rulers. German Christians prayed for Adolf Hitler. Italian Christians prayed for Benito Mussolini. Iraqi Christians prayed for Sadaam Hussein and their other Muslim rulers.
Through our prayers, we seek a peaceful and quiet life. This peaceful and quiet life leads us further into a lifestyle of prayer. Faithful prayer for every person and every reason. Supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings. All in their time and place as we live our peaceful and quiet life of prayer. Amen.