1 Timothy 2:1-7
1 First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, 2 for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
5 For there is one God
and one mediator between God and humanity,
Christ Jesus, Himself human,
6 who gave Himself—a ransom for all,
a testimony at the proper time.
7 For this I was appointed a herald, an apostle (I am telling the truth; I am not lying), and a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
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First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
—1 Timothy 2:1-4
There are two very different but equally appropriate ways to understand Paul’s words to Timothy in this passage.
First, we can see it as an exhortation mirroring part of our Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” From this view, we are urged to pray for everyone—and especially all earthly authorities—so that His will might be established in every aspect of human relationship and activity.
What is God’s will? It is that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. It is precisely for this reason that Jesus “gave Himself—a ransom for all” (verse 6). The provision for perfection, both for individuals and for the human race, has been sufficiently and completely offered. When we pray with this vision firmly grasped in our minds and spirits, we will be praying in unity with the heart of God Himself.
But of course, many of us who read this passage cannot help but be disturbed by the reality that if we offer prayers—and thanksgivings—for all who are presently in authority in the various corners of our world, it is hard to see the connection between their prospering and our own. Too often modern authorities, like the Roman authorities in Paul’s day, do not serve to enhance the tranquility and quiet living of authentic followers of Christ.
Does Paul’s call to prayer apply only to a theoretical world that many of us will never enjoy? Here is where I think a second meaning is to be found, one that is available to all of us no matter what political powers prevail.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans he reminds them, “Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God” (Romans 13:1). Years earlier, Solomon understood the same thing. “The king’s heart is a water channel in the Lord’s hand: He directs it wherever He chooses” (Proverbs 21:1). Jesus Himself told Pilate, “You would have no authority over Me at all...if it hadn’t been given you from above.”
How do these realities affect our prayers? Quite simply, if we truly understand and believe in the absolute sovereignty of God over every aspect of our earthly existence, including those authorities who often impact so many components of our daily lives, our prayers will become an exercise of ever-increasing trust.
As the voice of our spirit (which is the true source of authentic prayer) draws our minds into a realization that God’s hand is upon every circumstance of history, and furthermore that He can be trusted to direct those circumstances for our good (Romans 8:28), the result is that we WILL live lives that are peaceful and tranquil with all godliness and dignity.
You see, peace and tranquility in this sense have nothing to do with our external environment. We tend to think that peace results when stresses are removed. But in John 14:27 Jesus tells the disciples that His peace is very different from the peace the world offers. It’s a peace untouched by circumstances or stresses, a peace that comes from a childlike assurance that our Father has all matters of our life held firmly in His hands.
And the result of praying with this assurance is not only inner tranquility, but outward “godliness and dignity.” The word dignity is semnotes, which might be better translated as honesty, gravity, soberness or integrity. It is the tangible manifestation of our confidence that God is wise, good and powerful, and that our lives should properly be lived only in response to who He is, not in response to the chaos that surrounds us.
When we live life in this manner, Paul says, we please God. That’s huge! That should be our greatest joy above all other joys. But there is more implied. When we live lives that radiate peace and godliness, then God’s kingdom will be advanced, as others see His work in us and are themselves brought to salvation and to the knowledge of the truth.
- Paul opens his letter to Timothy with a warning against false teachings, and encourages Timothy to see himself as being engaged in a battle (1 Timothy 1:18). Why do you think he makes prayer the “first of all” step to take? Reading further in this letter, what other forms of obedience also help to oppose false teachings and promote “faith and a good conscience” (I Timothy 1:19)?
- A.B. Simpson once described prayer this way: “As I listened, it became to me the voice of prayer, the voice of wisdom, the voice of duty, and I did not need to think so hard, or pray so hard, or trust so hard; but that ‘still small voice’ of the Holy Spirit in my heart was God’s prayer in my secret soul, was God’s answer to all my questions, was God’s life and strength for soul and body, and became the substance of all knowledge, and all prayer and all blessing: for it was the living GOD Himself as my life, my all.” What is gained when we realize that effectual prayer is not so much words spoken from ourselves to God, but rather words spoken from God through us back to Himself?
- Verse 4 speaks of coming to “the knowledge of the truth.” In 2 Thessalonians 2:10 Paul warns that people in the end times will perish “because they did not accept the love of the truth in order to be saved.” Paul is speaking of a very specific truth that is received as a gift from God both in our heads (knowledge) and our hearts (love). Read 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 to see why people might refuse this gift, and also what God will do to those who reject it.