That Prayers Be Made For All
1 Timothy 2:1-6
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time.
We recognize prayer as a "spiritual" activity, and yet if we took a hard, honest look at our personal prayer lives, we might find that the majority of time we spend centers on ourselves. Maybe we give some brief words of thanks at meal times, and maybe we think of special friends or family members before bed sometimes. – Think about your own prayer pattern, though! Does most of it perhaps focus on God blessing you and your own days and work and leisure, or on God helping you with your particular problems?
God certainly directs us to cast our cares on Him, of course, but an objective survey of our prayer time might expose that it's really about all we may do. If we find that it really is true of us (and I suspect for most it is) we've then seen to a small degree how insidiously infected we are with selfishness. Holy Scripture teaches us to look "also to the interests of others."
I've always believed that, aside from directly sharing the Gospel with another person, there is no higher gift any of us can give another beyond our prayers for them. St. Paul wrote in the Text: "I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all..." That therefore, is the theme for today's thoughts, THAT PRAYERS BE MADE FOR ALL!
BIBLE EXAMPLES AND DIRECTIVES ON PRAYING FOR OTHERS
St. Paul & Several Apostles
Paul was qualified to press for it so strongly, because he practiced what he preached in that regard. Seven of his Epistles open with his example of constantly remembering the people in his prayers. Six of them mention his thanks to God as well.
James issues the directive to "pray for one another." And John advises in an Epistle to ask God to give life to a brother who sins. Then he says: "God will give him life whose sin is not mortal." That's a pretty wonderful promise!
Abraham persisted in his prayer on behalf of the city of Sodom and obtained God's promise that He would not destroy the city if only ten righteous people could be found living there. King Solomon pleaded that God would hear the prayers of both penitent Israelites and foreigners whenever they faced Jerusalem and sincerely prayed, and by grace it had the result of staving off Jerusalem's destruction for generations. The Prophet Amos is another whose prayers for the people averted God's punishment, and so did the prayers of other prophets.
Our Lord Jesus, too, is of course shown in Scripture praying for others. – Even as He gave up His life at the Cross, He continued to put the interests of others first and prayed: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." – The disciple Stephen followed that example in praying for those who murdered him, saying: "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." Who knows but that his prayer might be directly attributable for the Apostleship of St. Paul, who had consented to his death? Perhaps it's because Stephen prayed for Paul while he himself was dying, that Paul met the resurrected Lord on the Damascus Road and became God's ambassador to the gentiles!
CHRIST'S INTERCESSION AND MEDIATION
By His Prayers
Many were the ways in which Christ especially interceded for others and for us. Once He addressed Peter, saying: "Behold, Satan demanded to have you that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail."
Jesus had us in mind during His prayers on the night He was betrayed! In what we call His "High Priestly" prayer He asked that we be made one with Him. He cared about us in His own darkest hours, in other words, essentially asking that all our pain, brokenness, sin and fears should become His at the Cross and simultaneously, therefore, that His own perfect righteousness and His glory in Heaven should become ours.
What comfort it is for us that the Bible assures us He's still our "Advocate" with the Father! He still intercedes for us at the Heavenly Throne! That's what He's doing in Heaven even now!
By His Action
Jesus has interceded for us not only through words of prayer, though, but as the Text says: "There is one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a Ransom for all." – His doing and whole life, death and resurrection exhibit His care and intercession for us!
Christ interceded by keeping all God's Law without any sin in His thinking or speaking or acting, yet not on account of His own need, but that it might be reckoned to our accounts. – Jesus "bridged the gap" between Heaven and earth, between God and mankind, when without guilt of His own He suffered the punishment of death and hell for the sins of the world. That really means that He took yours and my sentence on Himself when His hands and feet were hammered with the iron spikes at Calvary! He's the only legitimate "go between" for this deviant planet. – By His intervention Jesus satisfied the justice of God and was therefore raised back to life, yet even that wasn't merely for His own sake. It was that He might be the first among many brothers, as Scripture puts it! The mediation of Christ Jesus was intended all along to obtain the gift of eternal life for people like me and you! He interceded with His ALL before you and I were even born or ever came to learn of Him.
THE REASON AND AIM FOR INTERCESSION
Hold briefly in your mind a picture of a young child excitedly anticipating the opening of Christmas presents. Better yet, consider a typical mother's love for her children. – Is there any more powerful emotion experienced between humans? – A mother goes frantic for her children's safety and would move Heaven and earth (were it possible) for their welfare, and perhaps to gain them some advantage in life.
The desire is great in the heart of a child about to open presents. A mother's love and concern runs deep! – Now mentally transfer those feelings with GOD being the One in view, and magnify them to infinity because He is God, and hear this central aim of the Text, that our praying for all people "is good and ..acceptable in the sight of God our Savior," because His desire is that "all men .. be saved and ..come to the knowledge of the Truth!" That's the specific reason Paul urges our prayers on behalf of other people! It's God's own singular desire and purpose, and He accepts our praying for them.
Jesus is the Truth! God wants people to know HIM and to no longer be His adversaries, He who has reconciled them.
Think of it! If God can receive just one humble little prayer and change a situation or a life or even world history, what might His grace do if a whole army of Christian prayer warriors were to be enlisted?
I urge you, therefore, along with St. Paul, to pray for your fellow church members. Pray for Pastors and for the various other leaders of congregations and Church offices. But above all, pray for the very souls of others you know who need to learn of Jesus and His Truth! – Certainly God can help and convert people without our prayers, but the Bible consistently shows us that He wants to do it because His children have shown their care and concern by their prayers. He solicits our prayers to set Him to the task of fulfilling His will and desire. He directs us to pray so that He will act according to His desire for people's salvation!