If men will pray (2)
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made... 1 Timothy 2.1
Any Christian man who doesn’t want to change the world is likely not a Christian at all.
No man who is truly a Christian can ponder the misery, suffering, degradation, injustice, corruption, and evil of our world and not know the heart of Christ pounding in his chest. Every true Christian man wants to change the world, wants to turn his world rightside-up for Jesus Christ.
There. That’s settled.
Now, where do we begin?
“First of all…” You know what follows: men must pray. That the focus is on men is clear from vv. 8 and 9. This is the only occurrence of this phrase, “first of all,” in the entire New Testament. The meaning could not be clearer: If men want to change the world, want to see the world come into the light and glory of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, want to leave a better world for their grandchildren, then, first of all, they have to pray.
In 1 Timothy 2.1 Paul bundles four different words together, each of which indicates some aspect of prayer: “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings”. There are several other words used in the New Testament for our idea of “prayer,” but these four seem to have sufficed for Paul’s purposes.
These words suggest various aspects of prayer, including, praying aloud in public, praying on behalf of another person, offering specific requests to the Lord, crying and weeping before Him, praying at set times and in specific places, thanking God for certain people or situations, pleading with Him, and so forth.
Paul seems to be saying to Christian men: If you want to change the world – and if you don’t you’re probably not a Christian – then first of all, you must pray. Take everything you know about prayer, everything you’ve ever learned or practiced or heard about. Bring it all together and devote yourself to maxing out the discipline of prayer, knocking yourself out in prayer, and staying at it individually and together until the Lord grants the requests we seek.
I wonder if Paul had more success with the men in his generation than we’ve seen in the men in our own?
It’s likely he did. After all, the first Christians turned their world upside-down for Jesus Christ. They maintained a strong unity among the congregations of Christ throughout the Roman world. They brought a new morality and a hitherto unknown level of civic courage, decency, and love to an Empire on the downslope of moral integrity. The first Christians braved ten separate waves of intense persecution (think: lions, being torn limb from limb, roasting over a fire, set adrift on ice flows, and other like pleasantries, all stripped naked and before howling throngs).
The first Christians inaugurated a body of theological and spiritual literature which continues to bless those who can tear themselves away from television and the Internet long enough to do some serious and edifying reading. The first Christians evangelized their neighbors with consistency and convincing power. The first Christians started thousands of churches in houses and communities, trained their own pastors, sent out their own missionaries, preserved the Scriptures for subsequent generations, and refuted heretics and philosophical opponents – all without a worship band, committee, klieg light, new building (or any building), or the promise of health and wealth.
The first Christian men must have been men of prayer, because the first Christians achieved the kind of society Paul envisions in this passage: peaceful and quiet, godly and dignified in every way. So they must have taken Paul at his word and given themselves to everything they knew about prayer, first and always, day by day.
And so what about us? Where are the men for whom “first of all, pray” is the defining motif of their lives? Where are the men who make appointments with God to pray throughout the day? Who weep and cry out before Him in every place? Who join with other men regularly to supplicate the Lord, intercede for others, and offer God heartfelt praise and thanks?
Where are the men for whom prayer is a way of life and “pray without ceasing” is more than cliché?
For until we find those men, and until they begin fulfilling their “first of all” duty to swarm the throne of heaven with every conceivable type, tenor, and tumult of prayer, we can expect our society to continue its downward drift into dissolution and death.
T. M. Moore, Principal