Tuesday, June 20, 2017
The Place of Prayer
1Tim. 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Prayer must be a primary focus of the believer’s life. As the young Pastor Timothy is being encouraged, prayer must be a priority in his life and in that of his congregation. Then, specific instructions are given in regard to the content of prayer. There are to be supplications — earnestly asking or begging for things. There are times when this is necessary because the burdens we are carrying are so heavy. There are to be prayers which include worship of God. Then, there are to be intercessions, where we pray for others, and finally thanksgivings or praises lifted up to God.
For whom are we to pray? For kings and queens and presidents and chancellors and all of those who find themselves in high position. The prayer is not that these people will change who they are or their character, but that we will be able to lead a “quiet and peaceable life.”
This focus on prayer is what helps to set everything right, and it plays a role in the salvation of those who do not know Christ. The implication seems to be that Timothy cannot be an effective leader if he does not spend time in prayer.
Prayer seems like such an ordinary thing and there always seems to be an assumption that all Christians engage in prayer. The sad truth is that we are doing little to train up the next generation regarding prayer. In the early days of the holiness movement prayer was a central theme. Here’s a story about the experience of camp meeting from the Nazarene Messenger of 1898:
The 6th of October, 1898, will be a red-letter day in the memory of many souls. As the people were engaged in prayer, there came upon them such a spirit of prayer that many began to pray all over the house, and there came over the assembly such tides of glory and power that several lost their strength, and little was done during the rest of that service but simply wait and praise, while such a sacred wave and heavenly glory filled the place, as It has not often been the privilege of those present to witness and enjoy.
Prayer was a major focus of the gatherings of the early holiness movement. They took to heart this guidance found in the word of God and prioritized prayer. Often there was more prayer in a camp meeting than there was preaching. Today those places have been reversed and I wonder whether we are lacking in the area of prayer.
The pattern laid before us can be very useful for our prayers lives. There are times in life when we are going to need to make supplication. It’s when our hearts are broken or so burdened that we cannot bear it any longer and so we pour out our burdens before the Lord. This is different for each and every one of us, and it changes through the seasons of our lives, but God is always waiting and ready to listen.
Prayer should always be about praise and worship of God. Notice the requests are only a part of prayer, while most of prayer is about being in the very presence of God. This is the place where worship leads to molding and shaping and forming into the image of Christ. God loves us and delights in us spending time in holy fellowship with the Trinity. We simply need to slow down long enough, be still, and listen to the voice of God in humble worship.
Intercession for the needy and lost is vital. This is one of the great mysteries of God which we cannot explain, but somehow, our participation in praying for those in need seems to be efficacious. Some of the early church Fathers talked about the synergism, or the release of energy that occurs when humanity participates with God. This is the invitation — in prayer we are invited to participate together with God’s activity in this world. God’s passions become our passions and our hearts are broken for those who need to come to Christ. I’m not sure there can be any evangelism without prayer.
When I have prayed with a group it seems that they often struggle with thanksgiving. I think it’s because we haven’t practiced this pattern of prayer and are so accustomed to bringing requests before God that we may become uncomfortable with thanksgiving. Our hearts are to be full of thanks for the things that God is doing in the world, and in and through us. Could it be that we have become so caught up in the negativity and criticism of our day that it’s hard for us to break from that mold and actually give thanks?
Praying for our leaders ought to be a normal focus of our lives. Nothing says that we have to agree with them, but we are to pray for them. Leadership can be pretty lonely and far too often the only voices are those who affirm their actions because they are afraid to speak the truth. We need to pray that truth will be spoken and heard.
We cannot take prayer for granted and as a spiritual discipline, it must become a priority. If we fail to create space for our prayer-life, our entire life will suffer.
Lord, thank you for the challenge of the discipline of prayer I have so much to learn and I desire to be more like you. Please help me to daily make the space for time with you. Amen.