THE PRIORITY & VARIETY OF PRAYER

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 2:1-7

Do you write letters to friends using chapters? Of course not, and neither did Paul when he wrote his letters. Someone else divided Paul’s letters into chapters at a later date to make them easier for us to read. The word “therefore” [1 Timothy 2:1] links Paul’s previous exhortation to fight the good fight with prayer. Prayer is a powerful weapon in warfare [see Ephesians 6:17-20]. An experienced overseas Christian worker recently wrote, “After years of working here, we have come to realise that the real battle is fought and won in believing prayer”. We want to fight that ‘real battle’ in believing prayer and in a focussed, persistent way, we want to pray to see God’s kingdom come and His will done. Prayer is the key to the breakthroughs we long for. Some obstacles can appear immovable and some situations seem unchangeable. Something may seem firmly ‘locked’ and prayer is the key.

As Paul begins to write about prayer he uses the words, “first of all” [verse 1a] emphasising clearly the priority of prayer. Perhaps the words “first of all” could be interpreted as “before all else – pray!” There is a danger of slipping into a mechanical routine and not depending upon God in prayer. Recently, a Christian worker asked me why in the department of the church in which they work, they do not start the day with prayer! Prayer was as much a part of the apostolic ministry as the preaching of the Word [Acts 6:4].

Not only does Paul emphasise the importance of prayer, but also the variety of prayer [verse 1b] – how we should pray. There are seven different Greek nouns for prayer and Paul uses four of them in this verse:

The first word is “supplications” [Grk. ‘deesis’]. This kind of prayer is specific, concrete needs. It implies a sense of helplessness and need.

The second word is “prayers” [Grk. “proseuche”]. This is the most commonly used word for prayer in the New Testament. It has been suggested that a better translation might be “humble entreaties.” The word speaks of prayer in general, and covers general needs, such as the need for wisdom, love, holiness, etc. The same word is used in Ephesians 6:18, where we are exhorted to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers“.

The third word is “intercessions” [Grk. “enteuxis”]. “This word originally meant an encounter, a meeting with another…. of an interview with someone in authority” [The Pastoral Epistles, by E.M.Blaiklock, p.29]. It is the particular action of submitting a petition to a king. This is praying for others in need!

The fourth word is “thanksgiving” [Grk. “eucharistia”]. This word speaks of gratitude, grateful language to God, as an act of worship and thankfulness.

This is an element too often missing in our praying [see Phil. 4:6].

Questions:

Why do you think that prayer has so often been relegated in our Christian living to a less important place than God intended? If this has been the case in your life, what do you think that you should do about it?