Although Christians realise the need to talk to God regularly about what we face in life, there are times some might want to restrict what we bring to God. Sometimes there are people or even situations in life that, for some reason, we do not want God to deal with. Notice how Paul deals with some of these.
“First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. Such prayer for all is good and welcomed before God our Saviour, since he wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one intermediary between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as a ransom for all, revealing God’s purpose at his appointed time. For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle—I am telling the truth; I am not lying—and a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. So I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or dispute.” (1 Timothy 2:1-8 NET)
We are to pray “on behalf of all people”. This makes sense in that most people in the first century Roman world did not pray to God – nor do most people today speak to him. So it is of utmost importance that we, as Christians, be making requests and offering thanks for all of those around us.
Included in “all people” would be those in power in our governments. But at times we disagree with what our government is doing. This doesn’t give us a reason not to pray for them. If anything, this is when we should be praying more for them!
When I first moved to Scotland the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was Margaret Thatcher. For a number of reasons she was not well-liked in Scotland. As I studied the Bible with people and we came to the subject of who we should pray for I was surprised at the number who said they could not pray for her. They seemed to think that by praying for them they had to accept everything they did. My response was, “If she is as bad as you say, then she needs all the prayers she can get!”
And that is the point, isn’t it? Keep in mind who the Caesar was at the time Paul wrote this to Timothy: it was Nero. Nero was not a friend of Christians and was most likely already involved in intense persecution of them at this time. Yet Paul said to pray for “kings and all who are in authority”.
Why pray for our governments? The reason Paul gave here centered around the desire God has for “all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth”. This is the prayer that is “good and welcomed before God our Savior”. How does all of this fit together?
We pray for our rulers, not that God will bless them in what they are doing that is wrong but that what they are doing will allow us to get on with telling others about Jesus. We pray for governments “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity”. It means that when men (and the Greek word refers to adult males) pray publicly that they do it without anger and dispute.
Sadly in many countries it seems that politics more determines what we do as Christians than does God’s word. Rather than becoming embroiled in political arguments and debates, which only leads to anger and division, we need to pray for our governments and learn to live peaceful and quiet lives. We can then be more effective in reaching those around us with the good news of Jesus.
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Readings for next week: Hebrews 11-13; 1 Timothy 1-6