Corporate Prayer is Not an Option

Notes on a Trip to Grants Pass, Oregon, by Lambert Dolphin

Recently Elaine Stedman invited me to visit her extended family for a few days. I was eager to do this, having not been there in at least seven or eight years. A dear Christian brother whom I have known for 30 years, Bob Bonner, is the pastor at Calvary Crossroads Church where Elaine attends and he immediately wanted me to speak at his church while I was in town.

The suggested topic for the two Sunday morning services was "Prayer." I had no idea what exactly I should speak on, except that somehow I felt the text in 1 Timothy 2 was right for the occasion. Usually in preparing to speak I can ask God and get some good pointers to jot down ahead of time. Not this time.

I was aware that I had been for some time struggling with an issue of prayer in my life that had been unresolved for some years. Helpfully, Elaine happened to mention that when she was asked to speak on a certain topic, chances are God wanted to teach her something, she said. I felt both excited and uneasy.

After studying the first two chapters of First Timothy I decided just to share with my church audience all the areas of prayer I was familiar with in my Christian experience, and then to enlist their aid in finding answers to my own current dilemma in my own prayer life. I told Bob I would like to close the services with some congregational prayer and he agreed.

At the first service I recounted the areas of prayer in my experience that I felt comfortable with. There are as follows:

Before I became a Christian I thought Christians were praying to an imaginary God. They hoped He was there, but there was surely no real God up there--so prayer could be wishful thinking. However during the process of my conversion, which took place in a pastor's office 36 years ago, it occurred to me that I had never prayed in my entire life and that one ought to pray to see if it works. I had been, after all, willing to try most anything else in my quest for the meaning of life. It would be foolish never to have prayed even once, since it seemed at worst to be an innocuous practice.

The next thing I was aware of talking to the pastor was the possibility that God might be more intelligent than I was! It hardly seems possible today that I was that naïve and that arrogant today, but such was the case! The point was, if God were real He probably could read the motives of the heart and He probably would not be fooled by phony prayers designed to fool the pastor I was sitting across the room from.

I decided then and there to open my life to God in a straight forward way. My first prayer went something like this: "OK God, I quit, I think I may need to be forgiven. If you are there you can have the rest of my life. Please come into my heart."

It was then that I experienced the immediate presence of Jesus Christ for the first time in my life. God was no longer hypothetical but incredibly real. It was as if the lights had been switched on in a previously dark house at midnight. My conversion was no gradual affair of becoming slowly aware that God existed--it was all of a sudden. "If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. Old things have passed away behold all things have become new." God was not only real, He was a Personal God and He was quite able to reveal Himself to an individual in ways that individual can perceive as personal and knowing.

Ever since that first experience with God, I have known Him as an intimate and personal God--"Abba, Father." Prayer for me has always been personal, since my conversion. I have since been around a good number of God's choice people and prayed with them and thus formal and liturgical prayer has never been significant for me.

As a corollary to my discovery of a personal God who hears and answers prayers, it was not long until I discovered that God listens and responds to my prayers when I am open, and speaking from the heart--but not when I revert to formal speech--making and abstractions. I suppose, being a loving, caring Person, he must get tired of our impersonal speeches and empty petitions?

The answers to many of my prayers I have discovered are already to be found in the Bible. Thankfully He has not answered a lot of my prayers which later proved to have been ill--advised or wrongly motivated.

God has never yet adopted any of my plans and suggestions offered to Him in prayer! He seems never to be in any hurry in responding to my urgent requests most of the time. He is apparently unbendingly sovereign in the way He runs the universe and works out his plans for every individual.

I soon found that God changes the inner man as a result of prayer. I had become a Christian late in life--at the age of 30. But I found that one's first real meeting with the Lord sends ripples of grace both backwards and forwards in time. God begins to rewrite the script of our lives, to edit the tapes when we are born into His family. We can assist this process by deliberately allowing the Lord Jesus to walk back in time with us in prayer. Allowing Him to show us His point of view in those experiences where He had previously been excluded or was unwelcome, a real sense of relief is to be found. Repressed fears, guilt, and shame are lifted away and the memory banks of the mind are refreshed and renewed. It is, then, possible to alter the past as well as the present in the world of inner space, through the power of prayer.

Prayer lies at the heart of all experience of God. In prayer God is known and met and touched. In prayer all our knowledge about God kindles into life. Our understanding of the Scripture gains personal illumination and power. Our whole conduct and career passes consciously under the divine judgment. In prayer the soul is molded and attuned to fresh obedience and confronted with new duty. Our relationship to others is seen in a new perspective, and conscience grows tender again. In prayer vision is clarified, the horizons are broadened, the goal becomes better defined and the inner resources by which the soul lives are replenished from eternal springs of power, hopefulness and peace. Prayerless religion is mere theory.--Reginald E. O. White.

During a lean time in my life when income was down and expenses were high I was amazed at God's ability to meet every need. I found Him to be "seldom early, but never late" in showing up. The truth of Psalm 37 became very real to me at that time: "The steps of a man are from the LORD, and he establishes him in whose way he delights; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD is the stay of his hand. I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging bread. He is ever giving liberally and lending, and his children become a blessing."

Following advice I had heard in a great sermon by Ralph Kraft, I found there is great wisdom in praying immediately when an unexpected crisis occurs in one's life. Pray first, then begin to take action, second. In my experience, this habit of asking God's involvement through prayer right from the start of a problem invariably results in a smoother and faster solution to the crisis even though the situation may have at first seemed insoluble and all bad news.

During the three-plus decades I have known God, I have discovered that prayer often very often alters circumstances. Answers to prayers may not come immediately, but very often they will happen later on--perhaps even after I have forgotten that I prayed for them. "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of." said Tennyson.

Many times praying about what seem to be important priorities in my life results in a major rearrangement of my list. What I at first thought were important items faded in importance. On the other hand issues I had been overlooking come to the forefront--all because "prayer changes things." This means that had I not prayed about my options but made a decision first I would often have missed God's best for my life.

We must either be praying or fainting----there is no other alternative. The purpose of all faith is to bring us into direct, personal touch with God. True prayer is an awareness of our helpless need, an acknowledgment of divine adequacy. For Jesus, prayer was as necessary as breathing, the very breath of His life. Although God certainly knows all our needs, praying for them changes our attitude from complaint to praise, and enables us to participate in God's personal plans of our lives. Ray C. Stedman in, Talking To My Father.

Next, in times of emotional trial I discovered in experience that there is great value in praying through the Psalter. My practice in this is to start reading aloud clusters of Psalms a dozen at a time, pausing to meditate and pray over those that seem especially to suit my present circumstances. In fact, it is through this type of prayer that my Bible is now marked with annotations on those certain Psalms that have become my favorites over time. I return to them often.

The eighth chapter of Romans reminded me that none of us knows how to pray very well at all but "the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words." (v26) A few verses later Romans talks about Jesus Christ being our great high priest "who always lives to make intercessions for us." Paul writes: "What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us?" (v. 31--34) I came to appreciate that night and day the Lord Jesus Christ, now risen from the dead, now in charge of the entire universe, prayed for me constantly--and therefore all sorts of terrible things that might have happened to me in a dangerous and evil world--did not happen. I had been protected and was being saved.

Experience in prayer has taught me that it is a good thing to feel weak and inadequate and to call upon God for help--because He never fails nor forsakes any of us.

You may ask, "If we cannot imagine a three--personal Being, what is the good of talking about Him?" Well, there isn't any good talking about Him. The thing that matters is being actually drawn into that three--personal life, and that may begin any time--tonight, if you like. What I mean is this. An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers. He is trying to get in touch with God. But if he is a Christian he knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God: God, so to speak, inside him. But he also knows that all his knowledge of God comes through Christ, the Man who was God--that Christ is standing beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him. You see what is happening. God is the thing to which he is praying--the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on--the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal. So that the whole threefold life of the three--personal Being is actually going on in that ordinary little bedroom where an ordinary man is saying his prayers. The man is being caught up into the higher kind of life--what I call "Zoe" or spiritual life: he is being pulled into God, by God, while still remaining himself.--C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

Again and again the great hymns of the faith, and the classic works of Christian literature have enlightened my mind, shed light on the Scriptures, and led me to worship my God in awe and in amazement. Looking back on the great distance which I have come thus far, I have little problem in believing that God can do as much or more for my friends. Thus, I have never had difficulty in praying for others. Having seen God rescue me from the darkest of pits, I enjoy praying boldly when I meet someone who has what seem to them to be insurmountable problem. I like to listen to the experiences of others shared openly, and it is a privilege to pray for people based on knowing them one-on-one or in a small group.

I also came to see that I did not ever, and do not now, know myself very well. It is hard to pray for myself--except of course when the Spirit makes me aware of some sin that needs to be confessed, or if I am in a situation calling for action on my part where I am without a clue as to how to proceed. By staying open and accountable to fellow Christians I could, however, count on their effective prayer for me--especially in my blind spots and areas of greatest need which I was usually unaware of.

From the gospels I noticed that Jesus prayed constantly, doing everything in dependence on the Father who dwelt in Him. As "representative man" Jesus demonstrated normal humanity--an example for the rest of us. Our Creator evidently built us in such a way that prayer should be a normal, natural part of our lives. If Jesus said that it was better for men to pray than to faint, it has always seemed to me to be a good idea to pray too much rather than too little.

Evidently the Persons of the Godhead pray--prayer is part of the mysterious relationships between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit within the godhead. One of the purposes of prayer is that when people pray, God draws them into what He is doing in the world. We are invited to participate in God's work and prayer is the connecting link. If we fail to pray, we probably will miss out on the action!

All these aspects of prayer, I told my audience at Calvary Crossroads Church, were not areas I had trouble with.

The problem was I was no longer praying for many people or situations beyond my immediate circle of friends and my immediate circumstances. The "outside" world was overwhelmingly messed up, global problems were out of control. Furthermore I was becoming cynical in my old age, maintaining the status quo in my life so I could die and go to heaven. I was operating like an ostrich with his head in the sand. The wagons were circling the camp and I was safe inside the circle, but no Indians were attacking.

In spite of the areas of my life where I enjoyed praying and had made it a habit and a part of my daily life, I felt real guilt and anxiety because somehow I was ignoring the clear teaching on prayer found in the second chapter of First Timothy.

At this point in my "confession" to my audience in church--that I felt guilty for not praying for the outside world--it occurred to me that the passage I was about to discuss was addressed not to individuals, but to the church as a corporate body. If I had a problem with prayer, quite possibly this problem needed to be solved in community with my fellow Christians.

After this introduction to my audience to assure them that I had not abandoned the faith I began to work through 1 Timothy 1:12 through 2:7. I divided this passage into three sections:

I thank him who has given me strength for this, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful by appointing me to his service, though I formerly blasphemed and persecuted and insulted him; but I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners; but I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience for an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.

This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men 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, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

Chapter 1 of First Timothy deals with the importance of sound teaching in the church. That was logical first priority the Apostle Paul would share with his young friend Timothy, newly installed as the pastor of the church in pagan Ephesus.

The second issue Paul wanted to communicate to Timothy and to the church was the importance of public prayer by the entire church. That is, corporate prayer is not an option--it is a duty, a responsibility, a part of our calling.

I noticed that Paul's discussion of the great importance of public prayer was preceded by personal notes of his own experience of God's love, compassion and mercy in his own life. The section on prayer closed with a reminder of God's compassion for the entire world and His desire than none should perish. Clearly this teaching on corporate prayer was bracketed by statements about God's love for lost sinners being preeminent!

After explaining briefly some of the terms and expressions in the Timothy passage I closed my message to the church by inviting Pastor Bonner to lead us all in prayer. The entire church joined one by one in prayer for the next half-hour. Individuals young and old, men and women alike, stood and prayed for the community, the nation and the world. I was glad to join in as I found reinforcement from the prayers of my brothers and sisters and I saw that there were many issues we all seemed to be agreeing on together.

It during this time of prayer at the close of the first service that the Lord said to me in my heart, "You really have the heart of a Jonah don't you? You don't want me to save a lot of the evil people in the world, people that you do not know or may not like." It was true.

The second service followed. Having seen more clearly now that 1 Timothy 2 is addressing the issue of corporate, public prayers by the church as a body, I brought this into my remarks more forcefully and also admitted my own discovery that very morning that I had the heart of a modern-day Jonah.

In the prayer time that followed the second service, Bob Bonner began by admitting that, yes, he too had an attitude like that of Jonah. God is merciful and corporate prayer is hard work, yet our duty. A wonderful season of corporate prayer followed. I left for lunch with Elaine Stedman and family with a sense that at long last my prayer life was back to where it should have been all along.

Later in response to my questions, Bob Bonner wrote me the following:

Here are some random practices concerning prayer that are going on in our church and together with about 15 other churches in our community. First, we recognize that prayer is HARD, AGONIZING and sometimes, UNPLEASANT WORK. Especially as it involves our enemies. Honestly, I am learning to pray more out of obedience than for personal desire. My biggest learned lesson as I pray is not that I get my will accomplished, but as I pray, I find the heart of God and I get drawn more in line with His will (which more often than not, I may not like, but do anyway.)

As a church family, we weekly send out a new prayer letter that is filled with about 30 new prayer requests from various people in the body. Along with that sheet are answers to prayer. We send those via e--mail and snail mail to all who sign up for prayer. Out of our congregation of 450 who attend every Sunday, (including the kids) we send out about 120 letters. The elders, along with other matters, pray for every one of those requests each and every week when we meet.

As leaders, we take seriously our need to pray. Every week as we meet as elders we pray for at least 30 minutes or more. Long ago, we learned that the more we seek God about things on our agendas, and humble place those agendas before him to rearrange at His will, the faster the administrative business gets done! Then we spend about 30 minutes together in study. The next hour and a half we deal with leadership matters.

Like most churches, we have a prayer chain for emergencies only. We have an annual 24 hour prayer vigil that focuses on the ministries and needs of our local fellowship. We have a prayer manual filled with lists of prayer requests from every department and leader in the fellowship. Everyone is challenged to take a half hour slot to pray throughout the 24 hour period. We begin the vigil with a corporate worship and praise time. By the time we are finished, we realize that God is done some pretty amazing things in our midst and that encourages us to pray more next year. By the way, we have a booklet of answered prayers from the year before to show the people.

We also have a group who just recently got together for intercessory prayer. It is made up of several women. How it got started...I don't know...but ALRIGHT!

In this small valley, I am committed to work toward unity with other Christ centered churches. We work diligently not to be churches who are trying to build their own little kingdom, but to work together for our corporate King. I meet with 19 different pastors each week to simply pray for one hour. No coffee and donuts or chit chat. Just prayer. Recently, the youth pastors have been doing the same. Last year I challenged all of the pastors to get their elder/deacon boards together to pray once a quarter. At our first meeting, we had over 30 people praying, and that was from only three churches. Since that time, we have had more. But that takes a lot of preparation to get everyone's schedule to work together. Once again, prayer is work.

As a result of this, we have a tremendous cooperation of believers in this valley. In fact, 5 times a year, all of the churches get together for a praise and prayer service in which we have communion at the end. It is truly exciting. I have never been apart of such a unified community of believers. We have learned to put aside our doctrinal distinctives to focus on lifting up Jesus and it has accomplished much in our community.

So my trip to Grants Pass was really God's opportunity to open my eyes concerning dimensions of prayer I had long neglected in my life. But it was not my just prayer life, there was a general problem in this area in much of the church today. Looking back on my own church experience I began to see what had gone wrong in my own prayer life.

I became a Christian at the First Baptist Church in Los Altos and remained there for about five years. Pastor Ralph Kraft was quite clear about the fact that he expected all members to show up for Wednesday night prayer meeting, so it took that as normative for Christian living and I showed up for prayer meetings regularly. After a brief opening time of prayer together we all broke up into small groups and knelt on the floor to petition God for all the areas of prayer which were requested. National and world--wide issues were always covered.

Later when I loved to PBC I was part of the Palo Alto Think and Pray group initiated by Dr. Gerhard Dirks. Every week we prayed not only for one another but also for the community and the world. When that group ceased to exist there was nothing much to replace it as far as prayer was concerned. Later, Carl Gallivan and I tried to start a week-night prayer time in the PBC Fireside Room. Lane and Connie Webster joined in as co-leaders later Ray Stedman became a regular. But the turn out was never more than a handful and gradually the number shrank. A small group held on for several years, but with diminishing results.

Now it is clear to me that PBC has never really been a praying church--and this is surely our greatest historic weakness. The spiritual life at PBC has been slowly fading and waning little by little towards Country Club Christianity for many years now. Our church "programs" run on autopilot and there is no vision for the world, no passion for the lost that I can detect and no real power in the preaching and teaching. Could this be that we are paying a big price for our lack of corporate prayer? I think this is the actual reality. Someone has likened PBC to a great barge floating down the Mississippi--a barge that was nearly impossible to turn around and set on a proper course upstream. I think this is a good analogy. I don't hold out much hope for the future of our church, but that leaves me with no solution for what I now see to be the area of an area of my life that needs to change: I need to be part of a praying community whose visions reaches between the immediate local, home town needs and situations and focuses on the world at large. For me, I see this is as an issue of obedience to the Lord--obedience not just from me, but from the church.

(A RealAudio version of my actual message at the church is on my web page under the title "Corporate Prayer is Not an Option" for those who are interested).

Expository Notes in First Timothy 1, 2

by Ray C. Stedman

It is sometimes helpful to pick out certain verses of a biblical passage which summarize in concise terms what the passage is all about. We have a phrase which does just that in this section from Chapter 1 of Paul's first letter to Timothy, beginning with Verse 18:

This charge I commit to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophetic utterances which pointed to you, that inspired by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith, among them Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. {1 Tim 1:18--20}

The phrase that summarizes this entire letter is,

"Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience."

That is the heart of all that Paul says in this letter to Timothy. The fundamental nature of Christianity is that it is a warfare in which we are all involved; and there is no exit until the end. The moment you began your Christian life, by faith in Jesus Christ, you entered a lifelong battle. And this struggle is not intended to be easy. Many Christians today forget that. Helped along somewhat by a lot of misleading teaching on the television and other media, there is a widespread attitude today that when you become a Christian God began working for you so everything has to work out. People are being taught that they are in the will of God because bridges appear mysteriously across the chasms of life. Rubbish! If that is the sign of being in God's will, then Paul was out of God's will most of his life. He knew he was in a battle, and he tells Timothy that he too is going to be in a battle.

The object of this warfare is not to survive to the end of life, as many Christians think. Even non--Christians are fighting the battle to keep healthy and stay alive. Everybody is engaged in that battle. That is not the Christian warfare. Paul is talking about being a Christian, about living a Christ--like life in the midst of dangerous pressures and countering forces. That is the battle. In other words, to be realistic in a world of illusion, to not chase after all the fantasies that the world falls for, to not allow yourself to think wrongly about what is going on in society, but to get God's point of view, to see things the way they are and to deal honestly, realistically and openly with everything that comes -- that is the battle.

That is the way Jesus dealt with life. He did not hide away in some monastery. He was out in the midst of life, in the marketplaces, in the cities, among peoples, under the pressures and dangers of everyday life. He was a realist who dealt earnestly and honestly with life.

The battle Paul is talking about is to be a loving person who has concern and compassion for people in times of harassment, when others are giving way to expressions of hate and violence and bigotry. The battle is to live redemptively among those who have lost their way, to turn them away from that which is destroying, to be involved with them and to give of yourself in order to bring them back into a relationship of truth and reality. The warfare is to live your life for a purpose, not merely to spend it on yourself.

What makes it tough is that we are opposed by three resourceful and utterly ruthless enemies called, the world, the flesh, and the devil. People are not the enemy. I do not know why it is so difficult to get this across, but I find that very many Christians are confused at this point. They think their problems are other people, but Paul tells us in Ephesians 6, "We do not wrestle against flesh and blood," {cf, Ephesians 6:12a KJV}. People are not the problem. So there is the battle -- to be Christ--like, loving, forgiving, understanding, and pure in the midst of those pressures. This is what Paul is referring to when he encourages Timothy to, "Wage the good warfare"

Faith is accepting the radical truth which Jesus and his apostles have given to us, understanding that this is a description of life as it really is.

Faith is believing truth about God, about his power, about his control of history and all humanity, of his love for us as a lost race which he does not choose to abandon, but takes steps to redeem and bring to himself.

Faith is learning about the nature of sin and the reason why life is often filled with misery, not because of others, but because of us. We are the problem. We have something within us that is constantly destroying our plans, wrecking our happiness and destroying our relationships. This needs to be dealt with, and the only thing that can handle it is the word of the cross; learning what Jesus did in the mystery of the darkness of the cross, how some transference was made in a most remarkable way in which our sin was placed on him and his righteousness was given to us.

Faith is learning about his resurrection and the impartation of his life so that he himself comes to live within us -- "Christ in us, the hope of glory," {cf, Col 1:27b).

Faith is learning that he himself will grant to us in every situation the wisdom and the power that it takes to live righteous, godly, Christ--like lives.

Faith involves taking all this personally, to ourselves, believing that God has done this for us.

We now have our resources, our power to live coming from him. Hold to that, Paul says. Do not deviate from it. Do not lose that. That is your ground of security. That is the resource from which you can live.

The question this leaves us with is: "What are we doing?" We are called by Christ, called to live a Christian life in a godless world. This is not something to take lightly, something to do on weekends, a low--calorie dessert to add to life to make it more agreeable. We are soldiers in a battle, a fierce war against sin, called by Christ himself to "wage a good warfare, to hold fast to the faith, to hold to a good conscience." God's image in the eyes of others is at stake. We are to live redemptively in the midst of a fallen world.

The first assignment the Apostle Paul gave to Timothy in regard to the church at Ephesus was to correct the teaching, which had begun to drift from the apostolic revelation into controversial areas that were destructive to faith. Timothy was to set that straight, using Paul as his model. He was also to stress the need for obedience -- that people actually do what they teach. That is always the first step toward vitality in a Christian's experience.

In Chapter 2 of First Timothy we now come to the second assignment the apostle gave to Timothy, and that is to set in order the public worship of the assembly in Ephesus. That is a relevant subject for us, because that is why we come together every Sunday morning. Public worship is a very revealing indication of what is going on in a church.

You perhaps remember the story of the man who was going through a church building one day with his son. The boy noticed a bronze plaque on the wall and asked his father what it was for. The father replied that it was a memorial plaque to commemorate the young men who had died in the service. The boy asked, "Which one, the morning or the evening service?"
The factors that make for life in a service are the same today as they were in the early centuries, i.e., the elements of Christian worship are basically the same -- prayer, praise, and preaching. This is what the apostle says to Timothy (Verse 1):

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. {1 Tim 2:1--2}

Paul gives a little priority list here of the elements that are to be emphasized:

First of all he lists public prayer: the people of God encountering God himself on behalf of their fellow Christians and people in the world around. That is to be the primary factor in terms of emphasis in a gathering of the church. I wonder how much we have drifted from that pattern today?

The apostle put prayer first for two very good reasons.

1.First, because prayer focuses people's hearts and eyes on God right at the very beginning. What makes a church service different from the gathering of the Kiwanis Club, or the Rotary, or whatever, is that God is recognized; he is in our midst. To acknowledge the power, the beauty, and the liberty that the presence of God imparts is to immediately give a sense of reality and vitality to a service.

2.Then, second, to begin with prayer means that we get our own humanity in perspective. Every one of us comes away from some situation at home with which we are still at least partially involved. Perhaps we are thinking of the dirty dishes in the sink, the hassle we went through getting the children dressed in order to come to church, or the fact that the car was almost out of gas, the upsetting phone call we had earlier this morning, or whatever it may be. But when we come together and the service starts with the recognition of the presence of God, then somehow all those human problems pale. We begin to see them in the right perspective. God and his world, what we are doing with our lives, who we are, how we are intended to function -- all these begin to take on increased importance in our eyes when we come to church. That is what a church service is about.

I know that many Christians think they do not need to come to church, that they can worship God just as well by staying at home, working in the garden or watching the television. There is a certain degree of validity about that: God is not found only in church. But there is a reason why the Scriptures tell us, "not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together," {cf, Heb 10:25 KJV}. Somehow, when we come together and focus upon the greatness of God, there is a ministry to our own hearts that nothing else will convey. That is why it is important to keep up attendance at church.

Oftentimes the problems of life are solved by coming to church. We have a different perspective; we see solutions that we never saw before. This is the continual and frequent experience of the people of God. In the 73rd Psalm, the psalmist speaks of how he was having a difficult problem in his life for which he could not find the answer until, he says, "I went into the sanctuary," {Psalm 73:17}. There he saw things in their proper perspective. So when the people of God come together, the first thing to be concentrated on is prayer and the recognition of God's presence.

Paul now goes on to list three forms of prayer and one form of praise:

1.First, he says, there are "supplications." This is a word which means, "the requests of the people." Every week we have prayer requests turned in here at PBC which appear on our Need Sheet. These requests reflect actual situations of people who are going through times of heartache, struggle, pain and pressures. These people are attempting to share these needs with us so that we can "bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ," {Gal 6:2}. So when you read these requests, pray about them at home, alone or in small groups. God can oftentimes meet these needs through the agency of human beings.

2.Then the second category is "prayers." That sounds so general for us in the English translation that it does not help us much, but in the original language this is a special word that is only used for requests which God alone can meet. The first kind of requests, "supplications," are requests that we can get involved in. If you are praying for somebody who does not have enough food, the Spirit of God is very likely to say to you, "What about all that food you have in your cupboard? How about taking some over there this afternoon?" But all of us know that there are some requests that only God can meet -- somebody is heartbroken, somebody is suffering from some terrible experience he does not understand and nobody can explain it to him. Only God can meet that need. That is the kind of request Paul is talking about. We are to bring those before the Lord and pray about them together.

3.The third form of prayer is "intercessions." Again, this is a word that has other people in view. It means, "an intimate petition made by a friend to a king on behalf of someone else." This is a beautiful expression of corporate prayer, as a church. Because we are children of the King, we come to our heavenly Father and in the intimacy of that relationship we share with him special needs and special problems that others have. Thus, we "make petitions" on their behalf. When you pray together in this way, remember that, as the hymn puts it,

Thou art coming to a King,
Great petitions with thee bring,
For his love and power are such,
None can ever ask too much.

4.With this, Paul then links a form of praise, "thanksgivings." When we gather as Christians we ought to give thanks to God. Usually this is what we are doing in our hymns, and this is why the singing of hymns has always been an important part of the Christian's life from the very first centuries.

The words of hymns are usually either prayers addressed to God, or the expressions of praise, thanksgiving and adoration voiced in the hearing of the people

Paul now moves on to give us the objects of prayer. Who should we pray for in a congregation?

First of all, he says, "for all men" -- for everybody.

Then, "for kings and all who are in high positions." That is a very helpful word. It means we are not to ignore governmental leaders and politicians. We are to be ready and willing to pray for anyone. It is very important that we understand what the word "all" means here. (When it says, "all men," it does not, of course, mean just males. There is great controversy today about this. Some people want to change these expressions in the Bible to read, "persons," but that is to deny the usual expressions of language. "Men" in this case means "mankind," and always has meant that; it involves both the sexes. In this case, however, it might be proper to substitute the word "persons" -- "To pray for all persons.")

The stress is on the word all. This does not mean all mankind, without exception. We would never get through praying if we tried that. It means "all" without distinction, i.e., all kinds of people, all sorts of needs are proper subjects of prayer. This little word all appears four times in this passage, and in every case it means "all without distinction," not, "all without exception."

Then, among all these people, the apostle points out, we are to pray for kings. We ought not to forget our leaders. They may not be godly men at all, but still we are to pray for them. The interesting thing is that when these words were written the Emperor was Nero, one of the cruelest of Roman Emperors, who already had launched a bitter persecution against the Christians. Yet when Paul wrote to Timothy in Ephesus, and told him what to pray about, he said not to forget to pray for the king, for Nero. This recognizes that all forms of government come from God's hand. We are taught that very plainly in Romans 13. That is why rebellion against government itself is always wrong. We may need to use the powers that are given to us in politics to change governments, but government itself comes from God. So these men and women in public office need our prayers.

Tertullian, one of the early church fathers who lived in North Africa at the close of the second century, gave us a list of some of the things he prayed for the Emperor:

*First, for long life;
*Second, for secure dominions;
*Third, a safe home;
*Fourth, a faithful senate;
*Fifth, for righteous people; and
*Sixth, for a peaceful world.

That is how the early Christians prayed for governmental leaders.

Then, we are to pray "for all in high positions," (Verse 2). This covers all the subordinate positions in government, down to the local level. This again is not a universal "all," but one without bias for all kinds of people, even those who are unrighteous and ungodly, even those who are cruel and vicious. They are, nevertheless, to be prayed for, that God will open their eyes and use them in ways that will bless and help and strengthen. God can use a wicked as well as a righteous man, as Proverbs reminds us: "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water; he turneth it whithersoever he will," (Prov 21:1 {KJV}). In the Scriptures, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus the Persian and others are called, "the servants of God," even when they were being used to punish and persecute the people of God. That is why we are to pray for men and women in these offices.

This naturally leads us to the results we can expect from prayer. Paul puts it in a twofold way:

First, he says, "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way." Did you ever realize that the peace of our community is related to the prayers of God's people? That is what this is saying. Lately we have been passing through a great period of violence. Attempts have been made on the life of the President and on the life of the Pope. There have been outbreaks of terrorism in various parts of the world. Some nations are on the verge of war. In this area we have been hearing of the capture of a vicious "trail-side killer" who, perhaps, was responsible for the deaths of as many as fourteen people in recent times. Every night the television has a continual report of murders, rapes, muggings and other violent actions. It may be that God is trying to tell us that the reason why we have so much violence is because we have not been praying for our public officials and our public life. Perhaps the words of James, "You have not because you ask not" {cf, James 4:2}, apply here.

Some of the young Christians who work in Vacaville prison tell me that the Christians there regard themselves as the control apparatus to keep the peace of that prison. When riots threaten or when violence breaks out in the prison, the Christian prisoners gather together and ask themselves, "What has gone wrong with us?" When discord is present among the Christians, they always expect, and almost always see, immediate restlessness in the whole prison. They have learned that God will keep the prison peaceful when the Christians are at peace, and in right relationship with him. That is a very significant confirmation of what the apostle is stressing here.

In fact, one of these men told me that some months ago the chief psychologist of the California prison system was asked by the Prison Board why was it that Vacaville prison had fewer riots and less trouble than any other prison in the state. The man said, "The only thing I can suggest is that there is a group of Christians up there who pray for Vacaville prison. That may not mean much to you," he said, "but that is what appears to me to make the difference."

This is what Paul is talking about. There is a direct relationship. We can lead quiet and peaceful lives when we are faithful in prayer for those who are involved in governmental matters.

Prayer also has an effect upon us. There is something accomplished outside of us because of prayer, but something is also accomplished inside of us when we pray. Paul tells us what it is. It is translated here by two words: "That we may be godly and respectful in every way." Both of those words are very hard to translate; it is difficult to find synonyms for them in English. I do not think that these two words, "godly," and "respectful," are very accurate translations. The first word is a word in Greek, eusebeia, which is really not used of "godliness" so much as it is used of "a consciousness of what is required in life with respect to God, to your fellow man, and to yourself." "Realism" would be a better word to use -- to live realistically, to pass through life knowing what is required in all circumstances, to understand the reality in which you live. This is one of the great things that prayer accomplishes. When you pray for the government, for the world, for your friends, for those in need, you understand more realistically than ever before what is really happening to them, why they act the way they do, what are the forces that are at work in society. To continue in prayer like that is to start to live with a sense of assurance, a quiet realization that you understand what is happening in life. That is what this word means.

Coupled with this is this word, semnotes, which is translated, "respectful." That is not a bad translation, but a better one, perhaps, would be "courteous," understanding that people are not the problem, they are the victims. So a second effect of prayer is that you become invariably courteous to people; you have a kind of graceful dignity with which you pass through life

The second thing that prayer accomplishes is that it fulfills the will of God. This is the way the apostle puts it:

This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men 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, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. {1 Tim 1:3--7}

Paul is saying here that the prayerful life is good and acceptable to God because it is God's way of opening up men and women everywhere for salvation. "God is not willing that any should perish," Peter tells us {cf, 2 Pet 3:9}. Here, Paul says, "God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." So prayer is the first artillery salvo that opens up a territory to possess it for God. Thus, when we pray for people we can expect that they will hear truth that they have never heard before. We can expect that they will see things in a different way than they ever saw them before. Prayer does not change them immediately. It is not a magic wand. But there comes a gradual dawning light. The darkness disappears, and people start for the first time to understand their own nature, and the reality of life around them. This is in line with God's great purpose, for he desires that all men shall be saved. Here is a particular place where the word all has to be clearly understood. It does not mean "all without exception." It means "all without distinction," without bias toward anybody. All kinds of people might be saved. There are no human barriers to men and women coming to God. It does not matter what the color of your skin is, what your social class, your background, may be, your national origin or the state of your heart, how bad you have been, etc. Paul stresses that there are no distinctions. God desires all kinds of people to be saved.

The wonderful thing is that as you pray in this way, all kinds of people do come. I have been amazed at some of the people God has reached. I have prayed for people I never expected God to reach, but he did. There were others I never had any heart to pray for at all, but God reached them too. So God desires all kinds of people to be saved. There is no barrier in life to that salvation when the Spirit of God starts to draw.

The fact that this is the meaning of this word all is brought out by the apostle's argument here. This is what it means when he says, "For there is one God and there is one mediator and there is one ransom and there is one gospel." Paul brings that in because he is stressing the fact that despite all the distinctions that appear to be among men there is only one provision for their redemption: that is God. There is only one God. There is not a God for the Hebrews and another for the Gentiles. There is not a God for the Muslims and another for the Hindus.

After the first service this morning a woman said to me, "My husband is not a Christian. He tells me that his God is in him." I have heard this from many people: "I have my own God. Others have their God and you have your God." But there is not a million or a billion gods. The truth is that there is only one God: "One God and Father of us all." All mankind must relate to him, despite differences in our culture, our background, or whatever. There is only the one true God over all the earth.

And there is only one Mediator: the Man, Christ Jesus. The reason for that, of course, is his unique nature: Jesus is both Man and God. When you come to and follow that magnificent Man who obviously has solved the basic problems of life, you soon discover that you have also come to God. By coming to Christ you meet God. That is what the disciples discovered. They did not come to Jesus because they thought he was God. They believed it was blasphemy for a man to claim to be God. They came to him because he was such a glorious man. They saw him to be such a wonderful, wise teacher, a prophet, a marvelous man of God. But when the Apostle John laid his head upon the breast of Jesus and heard the beating of his human heart, somewhere along the way he realized that he was listening to the heartbeat of God; that in coming to Christ he had found the Living God. There is only One like that in all the world. Men everywhere, if they are going to come to God, must find Jesus. "No man comes to the Father but by me," said Jesus {cf, John 14:6}. Though there are many paths to Jesus, he is the only path to God. This is what he meant when he said, "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leads unto life, and few there be that find it," {cf, Matt 7:14 KJV}. Broad is the way that leads to destruction, but there is only one narrow gate for those who come to life, and it is through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Then there is one ransom: "He gave himself for all." Again, not universally, but without distinction. Jesus gave himself that all kinds of people, from all walks of life, may come. He did not send a committee or a group of angels to do it. He gave himself. That is the glory of the gospel.

Finally, the apostle says, there is only one gospel,

...the testimony to which was borne at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle...a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. {1 Tim 2:6b--7}

Again, all the distinctions have been eliminated. If you are going to come to God there is only one way to do it, by the gospel, the good news that Jesus is the way, that by his life and death he has found a way to God for us.

There is only one gospel, and Paul was its preacher. This is the nature of his work. He says he glories in this. And Paul was an apostle. That is the authority with which he spoke. He was appointed by Jesus himself to say these things. Paul was a teacher. That was the method he employed. He patiently worked his way through these great doctrines with people so they began to understand with their minds (as far as the mind will go) what great things God has worked out and how they fit life itself. He was sent to the Gentiles. That was the sphere of his ministry.

You and I are here this morning because Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles. How much we are indebted to this mighty missionary of the cross who awakened faith and revealed truth!

These were the results everywhere the gospel came.

This is where we rest our case this morning. When the gospel comes into your life, it brings you into touch with reality. The gospel reveals the truth. When you know that this is the way life really is, it awakens your faith, and you begin to act on what you have learned. That is where people find deliverance.

Everywhere this great gospel has touched people, through some twenty centuries now, they come

Out of superstition,
Out of violence,
Out of degradation,
Out of sexual immorality,
Out of drunkenness,
Out of drugs,
Out of occultism,

and are healed. Wholesomeness comes in. Homes become happy. Hearts become bound together in love and truth.

What greater testimony could we ask for than the record of history of what the gospel does when it strikes!

A group of us who have been praying every week for the city of San Francisco have already seen that God has been answering those prayers. Teams of people from all over this area are planning to converge on San Francisco in the middle of August for a great outreach, a grassroots testimony. This will not be a crusade; no well--known speaker will be coming in. But six hundred or more of God's people will be walking the streets, telling people about a way out of all the heartache, the pressures and the problems that are destroying that beautiful city.

That is what the gospel is, and this is what the church is for. The gospel is set at the heart of life, and life will be healed when the church functions properly. The church is the key to life, the most relevant body on earth.

The church is the solution to the drastic problems that have baffled the minds of statesmen and others in our area. We hold the answer.

That is why God has called into being this most remarkable people called 'the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.'

Truth demands confrontation; loving confrontation, but confrontation nevertheless. If our reflex action is always accommodation, regardless of the centrality of the truth involved, there is something wrong. Just as what we may call holiness without love is not God's kind of holiness, so also what we may call love without holiness, is not God's kind of love...A false spirit of accommodation is sweeping the world as well as the Church, including those who claim the label of evangelical.---(Francis Schaeffer in The Great Evangelical Disaster)

Notes on I Timothy 1, 2 by Bob Bonner


Calvary Crossroads Church, Grants Pass, Oregon

Part I: Introduction

Jesus Christ is in the business of transforming people's lives in preparation for us to spend eternity with the living God. He doesn't just save people from the ultimate consequence of our sin, but He radically changes our lives from the inside out This morning, our passage of scripture points us to another rather famous individual and his testimony to the life changing power of the gospel.

In our previous study, Paul warned us about the false teachers who show up in churches and lead people astray. One characteristic of one type of false teacher is someone who loves to teach the Law because they believed that it held the keys to changing society and a person's life. Paul's personal testimony begins with himself as an example of one of those false teachers. Before he met Christ and while he was persecuting Christians, Paul meant well, thought he was serving the one true God and protecting truth. But he wasn't. He was ignorant of the truth and had misunderstood God's purpose for giving us the Law.

In contrast to the Law, Paul in 1 Tim. 1:11, points to the glorious Gospel and its power to change a person's life. Last week, we learned that God's laws were never given to us so as to change a person's life or change society. But rather, God's laws ultimately point us to our need for a savior. But Jesus came to do what the Law could never do, transform our lives.

This morning, we will see in v. 12-14, what Paul was like before he came to Christ. He points us to his own life in this passage because he knows that he, once, was one of those false teachers of whom he just spoke. Then in v.15-16, we will see Paul, after he came to Christ, an example of the work of God's grace in a person's life.

I. Paul, an example of a false teacher. v.12--14

Let's begin by reading v.12--14, and then make some observations. Paul tells us, "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service; even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. And yet I was shown mercy, because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus."

A. "Thank"

Paul is very emotional at this point. One can tell that from reading the original language, in that in the original language when Paul rights, "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord..."-- the word "thank" is in the emphatic position. This words are not just some ho hum talk from Paul. These words strike a cord of passion that comes from the core of his being. He realizes more than anybody, the miraculous transformation that God has started in his life and he is truly thankful and humble before Jesus, for saving and changing his life.

B. Three attributes of Paul's former self.

1. "Blasphemer"

He says three things about his former self, a false teacher of sorts. He says that he was a "blasphemer", a "persecutor" and a "violent aggressor." Nobody new the Ten Commandments better than Paul, a Jewish Pharisee or priest. When he examined his life, he was a "blasphemer" because he had smashed the God's commandments on the rock of his own pride. He knew that he had personally broken the first half of the Ten Commandments, which deal with one's relationship with God.

2. "Persecutor"

Paul had violated the second half of the 10 Commandments, which deal with God's directives of how people are to treat people, when he relentlessly, aggressively, ferociously "persecuted" the church of God. He went out and had people killed simply because they didn't agree with his theology and had turned to put their trust in Jesus.

3. "Violent Aggressor"

Finally, Paul called himself a "violent aggressor." Literally this term denotes one who is driven by violence and contempt for others to sadistically mistreat them. I like the way Fritz Reinecker, in his book A LINGUISTIC KEY TO THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT [p.617] explains what "a violent aggressor" is. He writes, "The word indicates one who in pride and insolence deliberately and contemptuously mistreats and wrongs and hurts another person just for hurting [sic] sake and to deliberately humiliate the other person. It speaks of treatment which is calculated publicly to insult and openly to humiliate the person who suffers it."

I guess you might say that Paul was not a man that you would want to entrust with your 7 year old child who had just come to faith. He would have killed the child!

C. Two actions of God toward Paul.

1. God shows Paul mercy.

Yet, Paul tells us, "even though" that was all true about his former way of life, God did two things for Paul. In v.13, Paul says that God showed him "mercy, because he had acted in unbelief." God did something for Paul, when Paul was helpless to help himself. That's what an act of mercy is. What did God do? He forgave him of his sin, chose him to be his child and made him a new creation. He became a saint, no longer a sinner or a victim who had no control of sin or anger or lust over is life.

But why did God have mercy with Paul? Why was God so gentle with Paul? Paul tells us, that it was due to Paul's "acting in unbelief." In other words, Paul was being a zealous Jew thinking he was protecting God's name and God's people from what appeared to be heresy, when it turned out later to be the truth. Paul was acting out of ignorance, just as some of the false teachers were doing at Ephesus, according to v. 7.

There is a slight hint here for Timothy as one who is having trouble with some of these false teachers at Ephesus. Paul is backwardly, between the lines saying that if these false teachers are shown the truth, then God, the Holy Spirit, can change them and turn them into effective vessels for Jesus just as he did for Paul. Hence, "Timothy, just don't give up on these people and walk away."

Another point about Paul's acting out of "unbelief." It is one thing for you and for me to act horribly out of ignorance. But it is quite another, when we act horribly out of rebellion to what we do know is true. When you are ignorant, but act wrongly there still will consequences to wrong actions. But when you act wrongly, knowing full well that you were acting wrongly, God's form of instruction will be much more painful and disciplinary toward us. When rebellion exists, God knows that the only way He can get our attention at times is through the pain of consequences. It is only through his discipline which is painful at times, that God can turn those of us who are rebellious, unfaithful and untrustworthy saints around to being useful servants of His who will change the face of eternity because we have submitted our lives fully to Him.

2. God strengthened Paul in three ways

Secondly, after God got a hold of Paul's life, Paul tells us that God strengthened him and put him into ministry. Because Paul's actions were not actions of rebellion, but actions of unbelief, when God got a hold of Paul, he saw that Paul was basically a faithful, trustworthy reliable follower and so he put Paul to work.

From studying the latter part of Paul's life, I can see that God strengthened Paul in three ways. The secret behind God's three ways of strengthening us, we will see in a moment.

a. God physically strengthened Paul. Acts 14:19-20

The first way God strengthened Paul was physically. For example: Paul is preaching in the town of Lystra, which happens to be Timothy's home town. At first, the people responded positively to Paul and his message, but then the Jewish segment of the town got angry and had Paul stoned and then dragged out of town, left for dead!

When it says in Acts 14:19 "supposing him to be dead," it means that they knew he was just about to die, but didn't want him to die in their town. You see, because of Jewish laws of purification, they couldn't have a man die in town otherwise they would have to do a lot of work to take fulfill the religious laws of purification for when a person dies in a house or in a city. They didn't want to do that work, so they dragged his body outside of town, with barely any life in it, assured that he would die shortly thereafter. Furthermore, if he was still alive when they got Paul's blood on their hands from dragging him out of town after being stoned, then they didn't have to purify themselves with a religious cleansing procedure.

So, know that when they dragged Paul out of town, he was not just a little banged up. He was as good as dead. Yet, the text tells us that while the disciples stood around waiting for Paul to breathe his last, he, supernaturally strengthened by God, got up, went back into the same city out of which he had just been dragged. Then next day, he and Barnabas, a fellow preacher walked off to another town to do God's work.

The point being, when God calls us to do a ministry, he will strengthen us physically to accomplish what he wants accomplished.

b. God mentally strengthened Paul. Ephesians 3:4

A second way Paul was supernaturally strengthened by God, was mentally. According to Ephesians 3:4 Paul speaks of truth or insights that God had given to him. His eyes had been opened to understand things that few others, accept the other apostles, had seen.

c. God emotionally strengthened Paul. 2 Cor. 1:6

A third way that God supplied Paul with strength, is emotionally. According to 2 Cor. 1:6 God comforts and strengthens the downcast, so much that whereas hours before, Paul could have been depressed, now, when God sends someone for Paul to care for, God gives Paul the emotional strength to do the job.

However realize this: God continues to strengthen all faithful believers today in these three ways, when we set out to make Him first and serve him with our whole hearts (which is the secret to His strengthening). God wants to use you, strengthened and empowered by Him to be involved in His work. Sometimes you may face a challenge to care for some one or speak to a broken heart of one who needs Christ and you won't know what to say, but God will give you the words. You may not feel like you have the physical strength, but you will suddenly possess it. You may be emotionally exhausted or even depressed, yet through serving the Lord and caring for another, you discover God's supernatural emotional strengthening.

But remember....always remember the secret behind your supernatural strength. Paul alludes to it in v.14. He says, "and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found IN CHRIST JESUS." The secret is Jesus living His very life out through you when you ask him to. You see, Christianity is not a philosophy you come to learn on Sundays. It is a lifestyle to be exhibited every day, in every circumstance or situation. We carry Jesus and His strengthening every where we go. Paul tells us that we are merely earthen vessels carrying around in us this treasure of the life of Christ, so that "the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves;" Or, so that others might see that our emotional strength, or physical strength to carry on in hard times, or mental strength comes from Christ who lives with in. It has nothing to do with human potential or having a positive outlook on life. It has only to do with by faith relying upon the supernatural life of Jesus living through us.

II. Paul, an prototype of God's grace at work. v. 15-16

Now to explain further about how this strength is truly found only in Christ, Paul goes on in v.15--16 to show us an example of God taking a false teacher and making him a trophy of His grace. Paul is a prototype, if you will, of what God intends for every believer. Let's look at what Paul says. He writes, "It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example [literally: prototype] for those who would believe in Him for eternal life."

A. Paul, a sinner?

Now, there are a couple of important points that need to be made from these verses. If you were with us through our study in the Book of Romans, you must remember the number of times you were told that once you were a sinner, but then, when you put your trust in Jesus Christ as savior and Lord, then you became a saint. You can still sin as a saint, but your identity has been changed and you are no longer a sinner, controlled by or a helpless victim of sinful passions in your life. Because you have Jesus living in you, bound to your spirit, you have His very life, His very power to enable you supernaturally to overcome the flesh, if you choose to use that power.

If that be true, and it is, then why does Paul state here that of all of the sinners in the world, he IS, present tense, "foremost of all?" Why does Paul still say he is a sinner if he isn't? The answer is that Paul is not saying that he still is a sinner, now; but that of all the sinners that have ever lived, he still holds the record of being the worst.

For example: In baseball, Hank Aaron holds the present record for hitting more home runs in a major league career than any person alive. He is the foremost home run hitter ever. Yet, Hank Aaron is a "has been" in baseball. He has not played in a major league game for years and will never be able to play again at that level. Baseball was a former life for Hank Aaron.

Similarly, the apostle Paul's former life identity was that he was a sinner. And as far as Paul was concerned, he still holds the record for being the greatest sinner ever to live, even though he was a saint, retired from the sinner category, when he wrote this letter.
A couple of other facts that support this understanding are: Ephesians 3:8 where Paul declares himself now to be a "saint". Secondly, in v.13 Paul lists his sins of blasphemy, persecution and aggression as past events. Third, in v.16, Paul states that he "found mercy" which is in the past tense, while he was the foremost of sinners.

B. "Mercy and patience"

Another point to be noted comes from v.16 and that is Jesus' ongoing "perfect patience" in the believer's or saint's life. Even though Paul knew that he was a saint, he also was very aware of the flesh and all of his old past habit patterns and those areas of his life in which the wicked one would continue to tempt him and at times, he would continue to fail even as a saint.

Yet, God deliberately chose Paul to be an example, a prototype, of a person that God would use, even though as a saint, he would continue to war against sin in his life and sometimes even lose the battle.

Furthermore, as Paul drew closer to the Lord, Jesus would reveal to Paul, more areas of Paul's life that did not mesh with or coincide with his new identity in Christ. In other words, God would continue to show Paul areas of sin or the flesh in his life that he never saw before, but still needed to be addressed. If Paul quit seeking the Lord for one second or quit making the practice of confession or the practice of listening to Lord's voice about areas in his life that needed to be tended to, then Paul would not have been a very useful vessel to the Lord, nor would he have enjoy that close intimate fellowship with God that all of our hearts desire.

Because of this ongoing revelation to Paul about his own life, his failures and ongoing need of confession, he speaks of God's continued mercy and patience toward him to be an example or prototype to Timothy and to us for the way that God deals with all of us. Look at the verse again. He says, "And yet for this reason I found MERCY, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His PERFECT PATIENCE, [that's an ongoing perfecting working patience] as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life."

How patience Jesus Christ can be! How patiently the Lord had worked with this apostle and continued to forgive him. For Paul, his stumbling block was his arrogance and he continued to have to run back to the Lord to confess it. We see that in the earlier chapters of Acts. He continually had to confess his new found weaknesses and receive God's restoring grace. Paul holds himself up as an example to Timothy and says, "Look Timothy. This stuff happens in our lives. When it does, don't be discouraged, receive God's mercy and forgiveness and move on."

Our lives are very much like a garden that we must pay continual attention to if we want to experience God' joy, His power and leading in our lives. For instance: around our house we have a number of very large flower beds. When we want to plant some flowers, the first phase of the project is to dig holes and clear out the big rocks. That's pretty easy. The big obvious boulders go fast. When that's done, we begin to then sift out the smaller rocks and stones so that we can mix in mulch and cleaner dirt. This is much harder and tedious work. But once it is done, the soil is ready for the plants.

Our lives are very much like that flower garden. When I first began to follow Christ seriously, He pointed out many major behavior and attitude patterns that were like those boulders that no longer belonged in this saint's life. Like those easy to see big boulders, those initial areas were somewhat easy to clear away. But as time went by, He began to show me more smaller rocks and stones in my life, those not so obvious sins of the heart. Those took a lot more time to deal with. But after about 5 years, I thought I had managed to clear my "garden" only to discover a new principle of rocks and gardens.

Every year our garden is hit by a frost on the ground that causes the soil to have different temperatures which cause rocks and boulders from deep below the surface of the ground to start moving to the top. Pretty soon, a year or two later, I am digging holes in the ground to plant bulbs or other flowers and I find another big boulder. It wasn't there last year or two years ago, but it is now. And sometimes, it looks just like on old boulder I thought I had gotten rid of before. I've learned that there are a lot of boulders down there that I know not of, but they will continue to keep coming to the surface.

The same is true with my life. After almost 30 years of working with Christ, I have discovered that I will never reach a point in my life when you won't see or I won't see spiritual boulders, rocks or stones of sin in my life. The soil of my flesh is full of them. Furthermore, after a few seasons of no big boulders, I may find one that looks just like a sin boulder that I thought I got rid of once and for all several years ago. Hence, I need to continue to discipline myself to walk closely with the Lord and when He shows me a sin boulder, a sin rock or a sin stone, turn it over to Him, realizing that in his great mercy and ongoing patience, as I continue to seek His face, He, amazingly enough, will still use my life for his honor and glory.

III. Paul's response to the work of God in his life. v.17

As Paul was writing these words, he realized once again all that Jesus had done and was doing in his life. In response to this, he spontaneously from his heart does what comes natural to all of us when we are reminded of God's work of grace in our lives... he worships and praises Jesus in v.17. He writes from his heart, "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen."

The term "eternal" literally means the "Jesus, the king of the ages." In Jewish thought there was always two ages to keep in mind: the present age and the age to come. Jesus had no beginning or end. He exists outside of time, though he acts in it. Jesus is the forever king and no one will ever knock him from his sovereign throne. Therefore, if He saved us and says that we are secure, we are!

Next, Jesus is "immortal". That means imperishable or incorruptible. Jesus ill never no death or destruction or loss of strength.

His being "Invisible" is a reminder that although people may see evidence of the outworkings of God, we can only know Him if He chooses to reveal Himself to us.

In Rome, where there were many different gods to believe in, Paul points to the truth that there is only one God, Yahweh and Jesus is He.

Because of all that Jesus has done and because of who He is, merciful, patient, perfect, the One who strengthens, He is worthy of all of our honor, respect, submission and support. And with that, Paul closes down his praise with "Amen" or "Let it be stated as true."

IV. Points to ponder


Let's look at a couple of points that need to be thought through in these verses. First is that NOBODY IS TOO SINFUL TO BE SAVED AND TRANSFORMED. You will never do anything so wicked or wrong that your life is beyond saving and made useful to the Lord. He loves you and want you to know the excitement of walking with Jesus, being approved forever by God, forgiven and transformed. If you have never trusted Christ as your savior...[GOSPEL]

B. Through God's mercy, we have all been CALLED TO THE PRIVILEGE OF HIS SERVICE.

Because of God's mercy, you who have trusted Jesus to be your savior and Lord have not just been invited but you have been enlisted or CALLED TO THE PRIVILEGE OF SERVING HIM. It matters not what your past failures have been. In Christ, you have a new identity. You are a new creation created to bring Him glory as you submit your life to Him and serve Him.

C. God's strength is available to you today, EMOTIONALLY, MENTALLY, AS WELL AS PHYSICALLY.

Yet, there are times when we feel too foolish, ignorant, depressed or even physically exhausted to serve the Lord. We have all been there. Paul has shown us today, that when we cry out to the Lord and depend upon Jesus to live His life through us, He will GIVE US STRENGTH WHERE WE NEED TO ACCOMPLISH THE TASKS OF LIFE HE WANTS US TO FULFILL. Draw upon Him. He wants you to dig deep into His bottomless resources and riches of strength for your life. (Part II Omitted)

Part III. Introduction

A successful industrialist once addressed a large group of executives. While speaking on the topic "Following the Leader," he encouraged them to be better leaders. Among the many helpful things he shared, this statement seemed to rank as the most significant: "I HAVE FOUND THAT THERE ARE TWO THINGS MOST DIFFICULT TO GET PEOPLE TO DO...FIRST, TO THINK...AND SECOND TO DO THINGS IN THEIR ORDER OF IMPORTANCE."

That's not only true of good business leaders, but it is true of our own individual lives and whether or not we accomplish much in our temporal lives that proves eternally significant. We sometimes fail to make a list of our objectives and put them in the order of priority, and then do them in that order. When a business or a practice or an individual's life seems to hit the skids, the cause can often be due to the lack of thinking as it regards one's purpose and secondly, from not putting things in the order of their importance.

The same thing is true when we look at what enables a church to function as it is suppose to. If we are going to effectively call this world to worship and follow Jesus Christ, then we must put first things first. In Paul's first letter to his representative, Timothy, who was living in Ephesus, trying to get the church back on track, Paul points out to Timothy what is first in the order of priority as to getting the church back on track, to effectively impacting its world for Christ. He shows us, beginning with chapter two, what should be Timothy's first steps to leading the church out of the quagmire it is in and back on to the road of success to effectively reaching its world for Christ.

In chapter one, Paul introduces this letter with words of encouragement and points to a major problem of the church that had to be dealt with: false teachers. These false teachers we turning people's attention away from their dependence upon Jesus Christ and their new found identities in Christ, to the dependence upon themselves and their abilities to live up to various moral laws. They were so busy trying to keep up with laws and earning God's approval and were so busy with their studies of myths and genealogies that they lost sight of their calling to be witnesses to their world.

I. The Priority of prayer. v.1a

Beginning with chapter 2, Paul shows us what allowed this problem to arise, and that was the lack of prayer in the church or the fact that the primacy of prayer was taken lightly. People were not taking enough time to come face to face with God, listen to Him and check in with Him daily.

If the people in the church had had their priorities straight, and had been seeking God's face in prayer, these other side issues would not have lead them astray. Hence, Paul begins this second chapter with THE FIRST STEP for getting that church, any church, or any Christian's life back on track and keeping them on track so as to fulfill the purpose for which God says the we exist. Paul writes, in v.1, "First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,"

All churches have a certain amount of problems or face challenges that will continue to cause them to do one of two things: either strive and become a breeding ground for conflict, which is obvious not good; or, the problems will cause them to wait upon the Lord for His direction, which is good.

But sometimes, those problems become so overwhelming in number or complexity, they come at us so fast and heavy that the church quits functioning as the church. Not because God can't help us, but we don't get on our faces and stay there until He shows us what He wants us to do. Instead, we strive over solving these problems ourselves, rather than seeking Him and waiting upon Him. And that's where the tension lies. God has given us brains to make choices and decisions, so we want to use them. But sometimes we use them, without checking in with Him first. On the one side, we either error on moving to fast, not checking in with God; and then on the other, we wait for some supernatural answer, when God has given us a simple solution already and he simply wants us to use our heads and go do it!

The only thing that helps us to keep a proper balance of using our heads and depending upon the Lord, is to make sure that we, the whole church not just the elders, take seriously the priority of prayer.

As you read Paul's words in 2:1, you can't help but sense the importance he places on prayer. Furthermore, this isn't the only place that the scriptures point out the priority of prayer in the life of the individual or the church. In Acts 6, there was some dissension in the church concerning the needs of widows. As a result, the church's elders, appointed others to meet the specific need, and then said, "We will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the word." Please note that prayer was given priority, even over the ministry of God's Word to His people. I'm convinced that if we as leaders prayed more and you as people prayed more, all of us would get more out of our studies together from God's word.

Once more, Paul speaks of the importance of prayer in Ephesians 6:18 where he challenges us to "pray without ceasing." And here, Paul "urges" us all to pray.

It's a shame how many churches, even including ours at times, has shown how little importance prayer is. We announce a 24 hour prayer vigil, encouraging families to take one hour during that period to pray over several clearly laid out requests, and we have maybe half the people who claim this as their church home, commit to praying as a family. Some churches may think that's a good representation; but does God? Is that the kind of evidence that shows we are excited about our new identity of being called His chosen one's, His set apart ones, His beloved children, that half of us can't commit to one hour of prayer? I grant you that half is better than less than half, but still, is that fully honoring to God? But, have a church put on a social event or a banquet or a float trip, and anybody who can physically be there is there.

In some churches, they spend more time making announcements on a Sunday morning than they do praying. That's one reason we have "from the heart", it gives you opportunities to communicate praise to God, entreaties, petitions and thanksgiving. Folks there is more to worship than listening to a sermon, or singing. Prayer is what takes it from being just a corporate event, to making it a personal worshipful experience for every one of us. At Crossroads, we are here to worship, not play church. Hence, our worship service is a little longer than most church's so that we can incorporate as many aspects of personal worship as possible, especially prayer.

Of all the activities that a Christian can engage in, prayer is the most significant of all. How's your prayer life been lately? Have you found yourself willing to pray but not knowing where to begin or what to include?

A. Four types of communication with God.

Well, that's why the spirit of God uses Paul to direct our attention to four different types of communication with God, all of which are essential, and then to four different points or objectives to keep in mind when we go to prayer. First let's look at the four types of prayer, found in v.1.

1. "Entreaties" = communication based on PERSONAL NEEDS.

The first is "entreaties", which is a term whose root meaning is "to lack, to be deprived of" or "to be without something." In other words, this is the kind of prayer that comes from the realization that you are in over your head. You sense your inadequacy or weakness. Hence, when one entreats God, we are asking Him TO MEET A PERSONAL NEED that we are incapable of meeting ourselves. We are asking Him to replace our weaknesses with His resources and strength. It is acknowledging our dependence upon Him and asking Him to live His life through us.

2. "Prayers" = WORSHIP

The second type of communication with God that Paul lists is "prayer." In this case, Paul is using a specific term that through out the NT is used only in reference to focusing upon God, His attributes, His will, His workings. In other words, we might call it "WORSHIP" or "speaking a word of praise to God."

This term does not refer to us informing God or equipping God with information about a situation He doesn't already know about. Rather, we center our focus on Who God is, what his overall will and plan is, and as we do, we begin to see ourselves and our circumstances from His perspective. And usually, when we see things as He does that brings inner rest to our lives, even in the midst of turmoil.

3. "Petitions" = requests ON THE BEHALF OF OTHERS.

This next term describing a type of prayer is "petition". It comes from the idea of "falling in with someone" or "getting involved with them". Basically, it describes a prayer request that is filled with empathy and sympathy and compassion ON THE BEHALF OF ANOTHER. Understanding the depths of their misery, we go to God on their behalf and ask Him to do something.

4. "Thanksgiving" = expression of gratitude for WHAT HE HAS DONE AND FOR WHO HE IS.

Then finally, there is "thanksgiving" which is nothing more than showing God gratitude for all that He has done and for the privilege of being related to someone such as He. Our prayers have no place for grumbling, and complaining. Although we all do it from time to time, and God listens to it, it doesn't bring Him honor. He calls us to look to Him and thank Him at least FOR WHO HE is in the midst of the situation, even if you don't like it.
II. Points of prayer. v.1b-4

So, now, when we go to God in prayer and if we don't know where to begin, we have four choices. Either talk to God about your needs to depend upon Him and seek His strength; or worship Him, through praising His name and His works, or talk to God about the needs of others, or express gratitude to Him for the specific ways He has answered your prayers or worked in your life.

A. Four points of prayer.

But from here, Paul directs our attention down through v.4 to four specific points of interest, in which we can all be praying. Some of these points may only cover one type of prayer, while others may include all for kinds of prayer.


He says, first of all, pray "for all men." And the term there for men is generic and it refers to both men and women, WITHOUT DISTINCTION. Pray for others without regard for their race, color, sex, saved or unsaved state, broke or rich, educated or uneducated. And heaven forbid, it even means that we are to seriously pray for our enemies. (If you have any of Jonah's spiritually genetic genes in your being, this might be hard to swallow.) This term "all" is repeated four times in this passage, and in each case the word "all" also means without distinction.

That's one reason we put out the prayer sheet every week with the requests that come from any and all in this body. We take prayer seriously. So, if you want to join us in prayer, take out that green sheet in the bulletin or call the office on Monday morning, and we will get your name on the mailing list. Furthermore, if you have a need, write it down on one of those green sheets, and it will be sent out to everyone on the weekly prayer letter list to pray for. As well, the elders will be praying for you at our weekly meeting. If you need prayer during the middle of the week, call the office and we will get that urgent prayer on the prayer chain.


But then Paul gets even more specific. Paul says we should pray for all POLITICAL LEADERS. He writes in v.2, that we should pray "for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity."

I believe that Paul reminds us to pray for our political leaders because so often they are tyrannical and even disrespectful of the Lord, which make them targets for our bitterness. I confess to you that I find it difficult to pray for Presidents whose moral lives I cannot respect. But God does not tell me to respect their lives, but to respect their position, a position He has allowed them to temporarily possess. Furthermore, God does not make any distinction here as to which leaders I am NOT to pray for. Hence, not to faithfully pray for a President that I don't respect, is disobedience to the God I worship. God doesn't want us to live in bitterness or to lose sight of the truth that nobody has power unless He allows it and that Jesus even died for the likes of Nero. God is the only sovereign ruler. Hence, remember that, when it comes to obeying Him in praying for these leaders.

But political leaders are not the only leaders, are they? There is church leadership, coaches, teachers, bosses, parents, any one who is in authority. Some are saved and some are not. Any time you have someone in authority over you, you need to pray for them.

Notice the end goal of our prayers for our leaders: Paul lists four things in groups of two. In the first group, "tranquility and quiet." These two results benefit us personally, and are reason alone to keep praying. "Tranquility" refers to the absence of outside disturbances. Here, I take outside disturbances as those that come from non--believers outside the body. Where as "quiet" refers to the absence of inner disturbances, those that come from conflicts with other saints.

Paul's point is that when the church prays for its leaders, both saved and unsaved, and manifests Christ's love toward those who are in authority, it will lessen the hostility that may exist from the outside, if that be non--believers, or those on the inside, other believers. With less hostility, we can better communicate God's love through knowing Jesus Christ.

The second group of words in v.2, is "godliness and dignity". I agree with one other commentator who defines the word translated here as "godliness", "Realism." This word is not really used very often in reference to godliness or a proper behavior, as it is to refer to having a "consciousness of what is required in all circumstances." It's a mixture of discernment about life, and thus knowing how to properly behave or live in various circumstances around others, so as not to be a pain in the neck to them, but to be a vessel of encouragement and a sweet aroma of Jesus Christ to them.

The term "dignity" refers to treating others with "respect". For instance, if we pray for our leaders, saved or otherwise, we will gain God's perspective of them, and not see them so much as the cause of our problems for our country or church or school, but a victims of their own foolishness or the enemy. Hence, when we pray for our leaders, it helps us to better respect the position of those in authority even if you can't respect the actions of the ones in authority.

Just so that we don't think too lightly of what Paul has just said, the Spirit of God adds in v.3, "This is good [meaning worthwhile, productive] and acceptable [or "received with great satisfaction by God or] in the sight of God our Savior," But why are these types of prayer worthwhile and received with such great satisfaction? Paul tells us in v.4, because God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

3. For the UNSAVED. v.4

In other words, God wants us to pray FOR THE UNSAVED, it is right to pray for the unsaved, whether they be rulers or followers, because he desires that all people, without distinction be saved.

Now careful, here. Paul is not saying that God is going to save everybody in all of creation. This is not a text promoting universal salvation. This is often thought because of the word, "desire". There are two words in the original language that can be translated desire. One word means that which God desires, His eternal purpose, that is His decree. In other words, if God wishes it so, it will happen and nothing or no one can stop it from happening.

But that is not the word used in this verse. This word for "desire" is the other word for desire. It refers to God's desire, but not His will. For instance: It was never God's desire that sin exist, yet the undeniable existence of sin proves that even sin fulfills God's eternal purposes, though in no sense is God the author of sin.

God's desire is that all people would trust Him, but at the same time not all will. They have the choice to chose Him, but not all will. He wishes that they all would, but they won't. Only those He chooses will trust Him. He wishes they could all on their own be saved, but they can't, because they are dead spiritually. He must move upon their hearts if they will ever choose Him. And that gets into the impossible to understand doctrine of man's responsibility or will to choose God and God's choice of us.

Paul's point here, simply that God wants us to pray for the lost, because he wants the lost saved and it is acceptable to God, He receives with great satisfaction, our prayers for the unsaved to be saved.

4. For growing in THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH. v. 4

Hence, Paul has said, "Pray for these things: for all peoples, for leaders, for the lost to be saved and that "those who are saved would come to the knowledge of the truth." And Paul means by that the same thing he means in Ephesians 1 and Col. 1 when he prays that believers, born again, saved followers of Jesus Christ would grow in the knowledge of who they are in Christ and what is theirs in Christ. That God has put at our disposal, as His children, his supernatural life and resurrection power of Christ in our lives. That if we rely upon the living Lord within us, we will be able to accomplish or live in this world in exactly what God's will is for us.

And in v.5--6 Paul then gives us two specific examples of that knowledge of the truth about Christ that God wants us to know and the types of things that we can pray that others will know. He says, "For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time."

There are several facts in these verses that are foundational for health and growth as believers. V.5 clearly reminds us that Jesus was not just a man, but He is God. He is the only God--man, and therefore the only "mediator" or go between or access for us to get to God. It is through no one else that our prayers get answered. My prayers are not more powerful than yours because I am a pastor. My prayers are powerful because of the mediator's power. I don't pray to Mary, because she is powerless to help me. She is not a mediator between God and me. Only Jesus is a mediator. Only Jesus provides access to the living God. Only Jesus is the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by Him.

Why is this so? Verse 6 tells us why. Because Jesus, at the proper, predetermined and prophesied time, died willingly as a ransom for us all. Because Jesus was God, without sin, and fully man at the same time, only He could die in our place for our sin.

You see, if I loved you and knew you were going to hell because of your sin and rebellion against God, I might say to God, "God, I really feel sorry for these people. I'm willing to give up my life here on earth; I'm even willing to give up eternity with you that you might save them. I'll willing die for their sin." But God would say, "I appreciate your willingness, but you don't have what it takes to pay for their sin. Your death would only be able to pay for the sin of your own life. Only someone who has never sinned has the resources to give as a ransom to save the world."

That's why Jesus can be the only savior. He was without sin. Although fully man, he never sinned therefore he was the only one who could pay our debt. Furthermore, since he raised himself from the dead, only He can give us new life now that will carry on far beyond the grave. Not Buddha, not Gandhi, not Moses, not Mohammed, not even Abraham. Only, Jesus.

Another specific truth that Paul uses as an example of practical understanding that we can pray for for others is given in v.7 Paul writes, "And for this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth." Paul wants the Jews at Ephesus and around the world to realize that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not limited to any one special group of people like the Jews. But in addition, it is for all non--Jews as well.

So, as we look at all that Paul has said here thus far, it is this. Prayer is a priority of our lives. There are four types of prayers and four points we should always consider in our prayers. We should consider praying for all sorts of people for any need. We should specifically pray for all who hold positions of authority, secular or religious. We should pray for the unsaved and the saved that we would come to the knowledge of who Jesus is, what Jesus accomplished and how the gospel is for everybody.

III. The principle leaders of prayer = the MEN OF THE CHURCH. v.8

Now, in v.8, Paul directs his comments to a specific group of Christians who are to be the leaders and modelers of what prayer is all about. He says, " Therefore..." Understand that word "therefore", tells us that right here, Paul is coming to a very important conclusion that he wants Timothy and the rest of the church not to miss. It is important. "Therefore, I want the men [men as in males, not a generic term for men and women] in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension." The principle leaders of prayer in the church are the MEN OF THE CHURCH.

Paul is not saying that the women can't partake in public worship or lead in prayer. They can. And we will see more about that next week. But his point is that the men need to be the leaders in this area of the church's life. That's why Paul refers to the men first. We are to be the initiators and leaders of the body of Christ.

It is very common to find women's prayer meetings, but not often do we find men's prayer meetings. But historically, when the men take on their responsibility to pray, then revival takes place. Then the local church begins to function and impact the community around it.

When Paul refers to "lifting of holy hands" he is pointing to the custom of Jewish men praying with their arms extended and their hands open to heaven. Our traditional posture of bowing the head, folding the hands, and closing the eyes is nowhere found or commanded in Scripture. Actually, there are many prayer postures found in the bible: Standing with out stretched hands, kneeling, just standing, sitting, bowing the head, lifting the eyes, falling on the ground. The important thing is not the posture of the body but the posture of he heart.

The posture of the heart is seen in two ways in this verse. First, "Holy hands" refers to a clean or holy life. "Clean hands" was symbolic of a blameless life, where one is standing in good fellowship with God. So, if men's prayers are going to be effective, they must be in close fellowship with the Lord.

A second requirement for effective prayer is not just our relationship being in good stead with God, but with others. That's why Paul adds, "without wrath or dissension." We are not to be holding grudges, bitterness or refusing to forgive others because they have hurt or rejected us. We are not to refuse to fellowship with others if we want to be effective in prayer.

IV. Points to consider about prayer.

A. Prayer is a PRIORITY...FOR ALL MEN.

There are several points of application that we need to consider this morning concerning prayer. First is that PRAYER IS A PRIORITY...FOR ALL MEN. That is not to say that women don't need to pray. They do and we will get to that next week. But Paul makes it clear here that men are the initiators, we are to be the leaders when it comes to prayer in the church. We are to set the pace, not our wives. The very future of the effectiveness of this church in bringing men and women to the knowledge of Jesus Christ and to worship Him depends literally on whether the men of this fellowship take up God's challenge seriously to pray.

Men, I challenge you. Put your name down and your address to receive the prayer letter every week and commit yourself to praying for others, for leaders in this fellowship and secular leaders. Mark down on your calendar this date, NOVEMBER 15-16. That's our 24 hour prayer vigil. If you can't lead your family in prayer on a Friday night for some reason, then join the vigil by taking an hour to pray with your family or by yourself on Saturday. Don't be wimps and let your kids or wives do the leading. Step up to the plate and take responsibility. Lead in prayer. Get together with two or three others to pray on a consistent basis, maybe once a week for our community leaders, church leaders for the lost and your own families. We pastors have been doing that in this community for almost five years now.

B. Make a prayer list of THE LOST and PRAY CONSISTENTLY for them.

Second, MAKE A PRAYER LIST OF THE LOST AND PRAY CONSISTENTLY for them. A list of family and friends, fellow class mates, coaches and fellow employees. For four years my daughter faithfully prayed for a list of her friends who were in trouble and needed Christ. That list was on the wall of her room. Daily, when she got dressed and before she headed to school, she prayed for those in the arena of influence she was entering every day. As a result, God used her mightily.

C. Problems in churches will CRIPPLE THE CHURCH WITHOUT PRAYER.

Finally, the only way we can arrest problems in this church or any church, or the only way we can prevent many problems in the church is through prayer. Without prayer, PROBLEMS WILL OVER RIDE THE CHURCH. Remember this: a growing church, an effective church in calling its world to worship and follow Jesus Christ is a praying church.

(from Bob Bonner's October 1996 sermon series.)

November 3, 1998

 Travelers Unaware

"Why do people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a package tour of the Absolute?...On the whole I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea of what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up batches of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return." (Annie Dillard in Teaching a Stone to Talk).

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