Three Lessons about Prayer
“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” (1 Timothy 2:1-2, ESV).
This passage teaches us three lessons about prayer.
Prayer Is a Priority
After an introductory chapter, Paul begins to instruct Timothy about church, and the first subject is prayer. That does not mean that prayer is the most important part of worship, but it does suggest it is a priority. At all times (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). We are naturally motivated to pray in tough times, but prayer needs to be a constant priority.
We all ought to ask ourselves, How much time do I spend in prayer? Do I make time for it? Jesus taught us to ask God for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11); does that not suggest daily prayer?
Prayer Takes Different Forms
Paul uses four different terms: (1) supplications, a word that first suggests a need, then an asking to supply that need; (2) prayers, the broad term that includes all kinds of prayers; (3) intercessions, prayers on behalf of others; (4) thanksgivings, expressions of gratitude. Other passages use terms such as ask, seek, praise, confess, etc. The point is, there are different kinds of prayers; or, put another way, prayer has different purposes. Some suggest Paul’s terms in our text reflect the prayerful heart: dependent, devoted, confident, and grateful.
Each of these kinds of prayer might be more or less specific, depending on the circumstances. While a single prayer would likely include several different elements, that is not always the case; some prayers may have only one purpose. That being the case, some prayers are longer and some are shorter. Don’t limit prayer; take a moment to briefly pray about needs or blessings that arise throughout the day.
Prayer Is Not about Self
Our passage emphasizes praying for others. Other passages instruct us to pray especially for our brethren. Jesus even taught us to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48)! If you continue reading in 1 Timothy 2, the text goes on to point out that this interest in others is consistent with God’s outlook.
While we are encouraged to pray about whatever is troubling us (Colossians 4:6), much of the New Testament teaching about prayer points to spiritual ends. In our text, the prayer for civil leaders is not about political preferences; it is to the end that we may quietly lead godly lives. In the same sermon in which Jesus said, “Seek, and you shall find” (Matthew 7:7), He said we are to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness (6:33). Our prayers must reflect hearts that are spiritually focused.