If Paul were to write a little handbook about congregational worship and functioning, what might be foremost in his mind? Where would the emphasis lie?
1 Timothy can remove the speculation. Within this letter Paul provided Timothy with instructions regarding, “how people ought to conduct themselves in the household of God” (1 Timothy 3:15). Where did he place the priority?
“First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people” (1 Timothy 2:1). Paul directed that “in every place,” that is in every meeting place godly men were to pray to God (1 Timothy 2:8).
I remember a long time ago listening to someone’s response upon hearing that the regular Wednesday night Bible study program had been replaced by a prayer meeting. “It is just going to be a prayer meeting.” It would appear that in that person’s thinking, prayer didn’t rank too high.
On the other hand, for Paul it was the first topic that needed clarification. As I read 1 Timothy 2, two prayer principles stand out: first, an inclusive focus and, second, diversity of type.
God’s people were to be lifting up before the Father all who are in authority and all people. These prayers were to burst through a self-centered focus to embrace the needs of all people.
Secondly, the range of these prayers were to include praying for the lost because God wants everyone to come to a knowledge of the truth. Furthermore, gratitude for God’s loving kindness was to spill out in prayer. An awareness of our dependence upon God was to erupt in prayer as godly men laid before the Father requests.
Paul desired that prayer in all its forms and with an inclusive focus upon humanity be directed to God. “Such prayer for all is good and welcomed before God our Savior” (1 Timothy 1:3).
What about us? How do we view God’s people gathering to pray? Is it “just a prayer night”? Or does the opportunity to gather together before God in pray rank high in our minds?