Prayer is something all Christians are called to do. We pray for a lot of different people, but have you ever thought about who should receive our prayers? Paul, writing to Timothy, answers that question for us. Let’s see what he has to say.
We Are to Pray for All People’s
At the end of verse 1, Paul tells Timothy that he, and we, are to pray for all people,
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,” (1 Ti 2:1)
At first, praying for all people doesn’t sound too controversial. We are used to praying for a lot of different people. If your church is like mine, you hold a prayer service, where you pray for those in and out of the church. People in the community and those who live elsewhere. You probably ask the Lord to heal them, to give them wisdom, knowledge, comfort, and joy; to provide them with jobs, and so on and so forth. Nothing really controversial. We are usually happy to pray for others.
But when you really start to tease out what “all people” means, this idea gets a little more radical. What about those in the Middle East who hate us? What about ISIS and Boko Haram? What about them? Should we pray for them? According to Paul, we are supposed to pray for them as well.
For many, that’s difficult. These folks have done some horrible things. Thinking about those things can make it hard to pray for them. It may even lead us to be like Jonah who was reluctant to pray and preach because he wanted to see his enemies punished, not saved. If I’m honest, I know I’ve thought like Jonah. These groups are murdering innocent men, women, and children. They are cutting heads off Christians. So if I’m honest, I’ve certainly thought like Jonah.
But God, through Paul, tells us that we are to pray for all people, even our enemies.
As one commentator says,
“All needy sinners—without distinction of race, nationality, or social position—must receive our prayers” .
We Are to Pray for Our Governing Authorities
After telling us that we are to pray for all people’s, Paul drills down a bit further and specifically tells us that we are to pray…
“…for kings and all who are in high positions,” (1 Ti 2:2)
This may not sound like a radical idea, but in Paul’s day, and maybe soon in our day, this was a radical idea. Most commentators believe that when Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, Nero was in charge of the Roman Empire.
If you remember from history class, Nero was a bad dude, a major persecutor of the church. One of the things he did was blame the fire that decimated a large portion of Rome in AD 64 on the Christians. A fire many believed he started. Having blamed this fire on the Christians, he rounded many of them up and punished them for a crime they didn’t commit. Another thing he did to the Christians in the empire was to impale them alive on large poles, and then light them on fire in order to provide light for his parties. There was more Nero did, but I think you get the idea — Nero was a bad dude.
Paul tells the church at Ephesus to pray for this guy! A guy they probably wished had never been born. A guy they most likely wanted God to punish. But Paul tells them to pray for him.
When it comes to our leaders, we are to do the same. We are to pray for our President, Congressmen and Congresswomen, our Supreme Court Justices, and our local leaders. We are to pray for all those in leadership over us, interceding on their behalf, asking God to work good in their life and save them, if He hasn’t already. We are to do this even if we are being persecuted by them, disagree with them, or believe they deserve God’s wrath.
Question for Reflection
- Do you only pray for those you believe deserve it?
Post adapted from my sermon For Whom Should We Pray and Why?
 Thomas D. Lea, Hayne P. Griffin, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, New American Commentary, 87