I first delivered this message on the Canadian Thanksgiving Sunday in October of 2015. Thanksgiving is a time when we pause to celebrate and give thanks to God for everything he has given us, and the best way to give thanks to God is to pray. Giving thanks is one of three types of prayer, the other two being supplication and intercessions (which means speaking to God on behalf of someone else). Regardless of the type of prayer we use, we must remember that prayer is not just for our sakes or needs.
Supplications are petitions for certain definite needs. They are humble requests made because of certain situations which God alone can help. When our supplications are granted, we need to give thanks. When we take our concerns to God, God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit.
In the reading we heard from 1 Timothy 2:1-7, Paul tells us to pray for those in authority. Here in Canada this is appropriate right now because we are in the middle of a federal election campaign. Complaining about people in authority is easy, but God also tells us to pray for them. These prayers should include requests for the peaceable and wise rule and prayers for their salvation. Such prayers acknowledge that all authority is ultimately God’s authority and that God is the ultimate King.
We are also to pray for salvation for lost souls. This puts us at odds with Paul. He argues that although God wants everyone to be saved, that does not mean that God will save everyone. People must either accept the Gospel or reject it. Believers should still pray for everyone, even those who seen unreachable. If we think that some people do not deserve the gift of salvation, then we are not as all-loving as God is. Scripture clearly states that God wants everyone to be saved and know the truth of salvation. There are no exceptions. No one is beyond God’s saving love.
Salvation is available because of the one person who was both man and God and who could represent humanity and reconcile humanity to God. That person is Jesus. Jesus served as a mediator between these two otherwise irreconcilable parties. Jesus is the only way to God.
The cross is the site of the most important transaction in history. Jesus served as a ransom to redeem humanity from slavery. The image is that of a slave market, with human beings as the slaves of sin. The price paid to free them was Jesus’ own death. Jesus substituted his own innocent life for our lives as slaves to sin and dying the death we all deserve and sparing us from the judgment we deserve.
False teachers were probably saying that salvation was restricted to the Jews, prompting Paul to write that Jesus gave himself for the sake of everyone and that God appointed him to teach the Gentiles. Paul’s calling has authority because God gave it to him and because he was faithful to it. Godly obedience makes a Christian’s testimony believable so that unbelievers may hear it and receive it.
We have many gifts from God to be thankful for. These gifts range from the universal offer of the Gospel and salvation to everyone to God’s love for everyone to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for everyone to a church that is for everyone. The last one is hard to believe when you consider that some churches have allowed the world to control their agendas.
The passage from 1 Timothy links God’s grace with our concern for the church’s conduct in a world that lives by non-Christian customs. Churches that appeal to their own kind are the churches that most often grow in numbers. A church that reflects a culture of affluence and success is more likely to be successful. While God can and does bless people with success, we must remember to give thanks to God for that success. We must use that success to show God’s love to the world. One way we can do this is to pray.
Paul’s desire is for us to have compassion for the lost, to understand the depths of their pain and misery, and to come ultimately to God pleading for their salvation. Paul wants us to come to God on behalf of people who have no standing with him. We are to intercede for the lost.
We must not be “carnal Christians.” We must not live to please and serve ourselves instead of pleasing and serving Christ. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in asking God to provide us with what we need or want that we forget to pray for others. We need to ask God to help us be sensitive to the needs of others, just like many people in this area are being sensitive to the needs of Syrian refugees by coming together to arrange to bring some of them to this area. We must take advantage of every opportunity to approach God and lay our concerns at his feet.
Things do not happen in this world because we pray. They happen when we pray. We are changed as we discover that the deepest desires of our hearts and the world are changed in some way because of God, the source of light and life, the ground of our being and the lover of our souls. God is the source of all things. If there is matter, God created it. If there is meaning and purpose to life, God determines it. If there is power, God wields it. These are great gifts from God for us, and we need to keep our sights on God’s kingdom and not on the politics of the day.
Because of the gift of Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension, we have the power to choose what is right. Our love for Jesus motivates us to live for Jesus, and if we live for Jesus, we are to share our faith by praying for people. God loves doing miracles in the lives of people, especially people who are not believers.
The act of praying can involve lifting hands to heaven. This act is a picture of coming before God with clean hands and a pure heart. How can we lift our hands to God if we are not seeking to relate to everyone we meet-people God loves without distinction? We can’t lift our hands to God if we don’t speak and work for the elimination of things that would destroy us. We must raise our hands without anger or doubt.
At God’s Table, which is one of the greatest gifts God can give us, we learn that we need to show an attitude of gratitude. We don’t need to wait until Thanksgiving to give thanks. We need that deep spirit of influence. It keeps us from having an attitude of selfishness. We need to give thanks for all things because there is always something to be thankful for. We can give thanks to God today and every day, and we can be thankful for the one who loved us so much that he paid the ultimate price for our sins-Jesus.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood, TN: Worth Publishing; 2013)
- ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
- Demarest, G.W. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 32: 1,2 Thessalonians/1,2 Timothy/Titus (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1984)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, NASV (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Bayless Conley, “The Prayer of Intercession.” Retrieved from Christianity.email@example.com
- Dr. Tony Evans, “What are Carnal Christians?” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Pastor Ken Klaus, “Everybody.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Pastor Bobby Schuller, “Pray for People.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Allan Smith, “Praying for Others.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rebecca Barlow Jordan, “Mediator.” Retrieved from Christianity.email@example.com
- A.K.M. Adam, “Commentary on 1 Timothy 2:1-7.” Retrieved from http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=717
- The Rev. Geoffrey Hoare, “Intercession.” Retrieved from www.day1.org
- Exegesis for 1 Timothy 2:1-7. Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
- Dr. Philip W. McLarty, “Honour the Emperor.” Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
- Dr. Philip W. McLarty, “Praying for Others.” Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
- Billy D. Strayhorn, “Sitting at the Big People Table.” Retrieved from www.esermons.com