Pastor Chris Matthis
Epiphany Lutheran Church, Castle Rock, Colorado
Pentecost 18 (Proper 20), Series C
Saturday, September 21st, 2013
Sunday, September 22nd, 2013
Sermon: Praying for God’s Wish
Text: 1 Timothy 2:1-15
Focus: Jesus invites us to pray.
Function: That they would pray for all people and their salvation.
Locus: “With these words God tenderly invites us…” (SC, Intro to the Lord’s Prayer).
“Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord” (1 Tim. 1:2, ESV).1 Amen. Are you a person of prayer? I know that most of us pray before meals and bedtime, and we pray in church on Sunday morning. But are you really, truly, deeply a person of prayer? Do you devote yourself to prayer? Unfortunately, prayer is one of the most important things we Christians often neglect in our relationship with God. We call on God if we’re in a bind or have an emergency—the God of the last resort—but most of the time we think we’re too busy to spend a lot of time in prayer. Actually, the opposite is true. As pastor and author Bill Hybels points out, we are Too Busy Not to Pray!
Prayer is neither bore nor chore. Prayer is a gift from God, a blessing to be enjoyed. And prayer is also of prime importance in the Christian’s life. “First of all…,” Paul writes in our epistle. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people” (1 Tim. 2:1). In New Testament Greek, the word “urge” can also mean “encourage” or “invite.”2 God, speaking through Paul, invites us to pray for all people! That reminds me of Martin Luther’s introduction to the Lord’s Prayer: “With these words God tenderly invites us” to pray (Small Catechism).
God invites us to pray because he loves us—and he loves to hear our prayers. The Book of Revelation describes our prayers like sweet-smelling incense rising up before God in heaven (Rev. 8:3-4; cp. Ps. 141:2). God invites you to pour out your heart before him in prayer (Ps. 62:8). You’re his child, and he wants you to tell him what’s going on in your life.
Yet God also wants us to open our eyes to the needs of his other children. He wants us to love and pray for them too. And that’s why Paul urges that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people” (1 Tim. 2:1). God wants us to pray for all people: family and friends, neighbors and coworkers, classmates, pastors and teachers, doctors and lawyers, the government, military, and law enforcement, the homeless and hungry, the sick and injured, the lonely and depressed, the elderly and unborn, old and young, black, white, Asian, and Hispanic, citizen and alien—just to name “a few”! It doesn’t matter who they are, where they’re from, or what they look like. If they’re human beings, they’re God’s children—and he loves them (Mal. 2:10). So he invites us to pray for them.
1 All Scripture references, unless otherwise indicated, are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.
2 Greek: parakaleō (cf. Luke 8:41; Acts 8:31; 16:9).
Just think of how special and meaningful it is when your pastor or a friend calls to say, “Hey, I just want you to know that I’m praying for you!” Doesn’t that just totally make your day? I know it does for me! Some of you are really good at sending nice, encouraging notes and e-mails to let me know I’m in your prayers. That’s the kind of stuff I, personally, need to hear. That’s what keeps me going in ministry and life. Well, in the same way that we enjoy being prayed for by others, God also invites us to pray for them.
But let’s be honest about something: some people are harder to pray for than others. Paul says to pray “for kings and all who are in high positions” (1 Tim. 2:2). It has been more than 200 years since we have had a king in the United States of America, but we certainly have Presidents, Senators, Congressmen, and Governors. Many times we don’t like our leaders and what they stand for. We’d rather complain about them than pray for them. Our disagreements and dislike for particular politicians and their policies make it difficult for us to pray for them. At least that’s how I sometimes feel! And I know you do too because some of you have come up to me after worship and asked, “Pastor, why do you have to pray for the president?” My response: because the apostle Paul tells us to!
God’s Word says that we’re to pray for all people, including our government and other leaders. They’re God’s children, too, and he loves them. Painting them as an enemy outside of God’s grace is not what Christians do. Instead of disrespecting our leaders and waiting for them to fail, God says we owe them our prayers, honor, and respect—even when we dislike or disagree with them (Rom. 13:1-7). Paul wrote at a time when the Roman Emperor was Nero, an insane, wicked madman who persecuted the Church and claimed to be a god. If Paul could pray for Emperor Nero, then you and I can certainly pray for the welfare of our president and other politicians, even with all their flaws and failures. And they have a lot of them—because they’re sinners like us. They’re people God wants us to pray for—invites us to pray for.
When God invites us to pray for all people, there’s an even tougher group than politicians. Jesus says we’re also supposed to pray for our enemies. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). “Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28). Whether it’s a cantankerous neighbor, estranged family member, a church gossip, a wanted terrorist, or just your cranky boss, God asks you to pray for them. And that doesn’t just mean that you pray, “Dear Lord, let them have it!” (Aside: Although it might include that!) It means that you love them and ask God to bless them. Praying for your enemies certainly means that you ask God to bring them to repentance—for God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:5).
But it also means that you pray for reconciliation and healing in your relationship with them. It means that you ask God to change their heart—and your heart too. Don’t allow any root of bitterness to take hold of your heart (Deut. 29:18; Heb. 12:15). Pray that God’s Spirit will empower you to love and forgive the people who hurt and hate you.
Praying for your enemies is hard—believe me, I struggle with it each and day! How do you pray for the boss who gets under your skin, the neglectful parents who ruined your childhood, an abusive spouse, your ex-husband or ex-wife, the friend who betrayed you, or people at school or work who gossip and stab you in the back? It’s hard to love and pray for people like that.
And yet God still wants us to pray for them because he loves them. God invites you to pray for them. Paul writes, “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 Tim. 2:3-4). God
wants all people to be saved—not just some or a chosen few. (Ever hear of “the frozen chosen”?) He wants everyone to know and love him with sins forgiven by Jesus. It doesn’t matter if we like them or not. It doesn’t matter what they did or said to us. God loves everyone, and he wants to save them. God doesn’t play favorites, unless everyone is God’s favorite!
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). Jesus Christ is our only connection to God, and the only way for any of us to be saved. (The Virgin Mary, Buddha, and Muhammad are no help at all!) Jesus is the only one who can save us because his body on the cross bridged the divide between heaven and earth. Jesus is the only person who ever lived who was fully God and fully human. And so the divine and human meet together in Jesus’ body on the cross of Calvary. When Jesus offered himself as a “ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:6), he paid the price for our sins and bought us back “from sin, death, and the power of the devil” (SC).
Jesus is our one mediator. Apart from Christ, we have no access to God. But because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, you can approach God in prayer with boldness and confidence through Jesus Christ, your Savior and Lord, the one mediator between God and man. You can be sure that because of Jesus, God invites, listens to, and answers your prayers.
So just as Christ died for all people, including us, now Jesus invites us to pray for all people. In response to God’s forgiveness, faith always desires what God desires. “Delight yourself in the Lord,” writes the psalmist, “and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). As God’s people, we long for the things God desires. His will becomes our will. We want what God wants. We wish what God wishes. And God’s deepest desire, his good and gracious will, is for “all people to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4). God wants every single person on this planet—from you and me to the president of the United States—to know him and love him and worship him as Lord.
My hope is that as we begin to practice daily prayer “for all people,” you and I will become really, truly, deeply people of prayer. “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 Tim. 2:3-4). God’s desire, his greatest wish, is for all people to be saved. So we pray that the people we know, the people we don’t know, the people we love, and the people we struggle to love would all be saved. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Pastor Chris Matthis