If men will pray (1)
I suspect that men haven't changed much since the days of Paul. We still have to be goaded into praying as we should.
Let's face it: Prayer is not a Christian man's greatest strength. Not that we have all that many strengths anyway, but prayer is definitely not one of them.
We know that Paul commands us to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5.17), and to pray about everything (Phil. 4.6, 7). But men today - as probably in Paul's day - are so far from that ideal that they don't really take that exhortation seriously. They can't see themselves praying like this, and so they conclude Paul's probably just speaking in hyperbole here. His instruction is more a bit of pious rhetoric than a serious call to a prayer-full life.
But the fact is, prayer is to our spiritual lives as breathing is to our physical lives. In order to participate in physical existence, we have to breathe. Breathing is so fundamental to being that we must do it continually. We do it so continually in fact that, most of the time, we don't even think about it. When we have trouble breathing, or can't catch our breath, we don't just not breathe; rather, we redouble our efforts to breathe, because we know that not to breathe is not to exist. Breathing is not so much something we do as something we are. Men exist, so men breathe.
Prayer is to our spiritual lives as breathing is to our physical lives. If you're not breathing, you're dead. If you're not praying...
Paul calls us to pray without ceasing because we can no more benefit from being spiritually alive without prayer than if we tried to be physically alive without breathing.
Yet Christian men just don't pray this way. So Paul has to goad us into it: "I desire then that in every place the men should pray..." (1 Tim. 2.8). This comes as the culmination of a passage fraught with hope and promise for times like ours. We have become a society where peace and quiet are an illusion, godliness is scorned, dignity has been traded in for crudity and mere self-indulgence, and anger and quarreling are increasingly the normal mode of communicating at home, work, and in the public square.
In such a situation, our neighbors look to the old standbys to find some semblance of happiness: possessions, privacy, and politics. Give me my stuff, leave me alone, and take care of my needs.
But this is not the way to peace and quiet, dignity and godliness, or peaceableness, respect, and civility.
The way to this kind of society is along the path of prayer. Men praying, specifically, as Paul has it in 1 Timothy 2.1-8. If men will pray, God will act. If men, Christian men, continue to insist on being mere men, for whom prayer is hardly the breathed air of spiritual existence, then we can forget about realizing the hope of a better society and a more God-honoring culture.
The peace and wellbeing of our society, the condition of our culture, and the safety and security of our children and grandchildren depend not on prosperity, not on self-sufficiency, and not on public policy.
They depend on prayer.
On men who will pray.
Christian man: Will you pray?
Related texts: Matthew 21.22; Philippians 4.6, 7; 1 Thessalonians 5.17; James 4.16-18
A conversation starter: "How can we encourage the men of our churches to take prayer more seriously?"
T. M. Moore, Principal