If men will pray (6)
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2.1, 2
How can we get men to pray like this, so that God might bring about the kind of transformation in our society which Paul indicates?
We’ve seen that the Apostle is particularly concerned that men be enlisted to pray – at all times, in every place, publicly, and together. That the focus is on men is clear by the way the passage turns, in verse 9, to provide special instructions for women.
It must have been as much a struggle in Paul’s day as in ours to get men praying out of holy lives, employing all manner of prayers, with a focus on all people and, in particular, on those who are in places of authority.
But Paul and the early Christians must have succeeded in this effort, because they turned their world upside-down for Jesus Christ (Acts 17.1-9) and, eventually, brought the entire Roman Empire under the authority of our King.
Which is a far cry from where our society is, and how it is tending, in our own day.
So we need for Christian men to get praying, and to get serious about praying in specific ways, for specific people, and with a view to specific outcomes.
How can we achieve this objective?
How did Paul?
Paul sent a letter to a preacher and urged him to get the men of his churches praying. In Ephesus, as in cities all over the Roman world, churches were organized at two levels. There were first of all the house churches – small groups of no more than around 30 or so (if the Dura-Europa house church can be taken as a kind of space template for these house churches), which often met daily for worship and instruction and were overseen by shepherds (elders) appointed to the task. The house church – wrongly translated “families” by the ESV in Titus 1.11 – was the essential life cell of the Body of Christ in every community.
But these house churches were also part of the larger community church – the church in Ephesus, for example, or in Corinth (cf. 1 Cor. 1). As such they met regularly for worship, to share in the work and mission of the community church, and to attend to matters of order and discipline as needed (cf. Acts 6.1-7; 1 Cor. 5). The community or city church was comprised of the house churches. Each expression was truly “church” and was regarded as such by all members of the Body of Christ.
Men played an important role in the churches at both levels, especially as officers (elders and deacons, 1 Tim. 3). But they were also responsible, following the Old Testament model, to serve as the primary teachers for their wives and children; moreover, from their ranks would be drawn the leaders of the churches for the generation to come.
Engaging men for prayer, therefore, would have been an essential step toward getting them more involved in leading their homes and churches for the sake of the Kingdom. And it was the pastor’s job to enlist the men for these important roles.
In order to get men praying, Paul approached their pastor. Timothy was probably the main pastor (later to be called “bishop”) of all the churches in Ephesus, just as John would assume that role toward the end of the first century. In order to get men praying, Paul went to their pastor. Paul considered men praying in this way to be an important component in the right ordering of a local church, whether at the house church or community church level (cf. 1 Tim. 3.14, 15).
So while we who are men should take up this challenge as it comes to us, and while we should also encourage other men to join us in such prayers, we should in particular, it seems to me, urge our pastors to work with their men, train them for discipleship and prayer, and enlist them in the task of praying in every place for God to bring revival and renewal to His churches and awakening to our culture and society.
Pastors are continually sending messages to the men of their church. If the message they are sending is, “Good to see you again this week; glad you’re here for worship; thanks for your offering and for keeping your nose clean again this week; see you next Sunday,” then that’s the message his men will hear, and the one to which they will continue to respond.
But if the pastor calls his men to pray, if he leads them in prayer and teaches them to pray as Paul instructs, if the pastor will insist that being a man in his congregation means that you are expected to pray for revival, renewal, and awakening as the most important thing you can do each day – if pastors will take Paul’s instruction to heart and put it to work in their own lives and ministries, then we just might begin to see God answer such prayers in ways more transforming and dramatic than we’ve seen in our lifetimes.
Oh, what God might do among us, brethren! Do we have the vision and faith for it? Are we willing to do whatever God requires in order to achieve it? God is ready to pour out blessing and fruitfulness upon churches and communities all over the land.
If only men will pray.
T. M. Moore, Principal