1 Timothy 2
First of all, then, I pray that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men. – Vs 1
Do you have any people in your life for whom you refuse to pray? You know the ones I'm talking about. They're those hard-to-get-along-with type of people who rub you the wrong way or who just make your life miserable. Maybe it's your boss or a coworker. It could be a neighbor or even a family member. But we all have them. Then there are those individuals we don't even know, but who we feel no real desire to pray for. They could be a politician, a prominent person in the community, or the corrupt leader of a third-w0rld country who lives in luxury while his people starve to death. Those are the kinds of guys I basically refuse to put on my prayer list. In my mind, they don't deserve it. If I pray for them at all, it usually isn't for their well-being. Then I run into 1 Timothy 2!
…on behalf of ALL men
There it is. No arguing semantics or hermaneutics. It is pretty simple. Paul urges us to pray for all men. Even kings and those who are in authority. That includes every politician from either party in our own country, as well as every corrupt leader in every nation on the face of the globe. Paul says that praying for these people is "good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior." God wants us to pray for all men and women everywhere. But what does He want us to pray? For their removal if they are corrupt? For their further success if they are of our particular political persuasion? For their failure if they don't happen to come down on the right side of the political fence?
No, Paul makes no distinction. He just says to pray for all men. What makes this a particularly powerful statement is that the Roman Emperor on the throne as Paul penned these words was the infamous Nero. Here are just a few excerpts from Easton's Bible Dictionary to describe the man in power while Paul was writing Timothy:
He became emperor of Rome when he was about seventeen years of age (A.D. 54), and soon began to exhibit the character of a cruel tyrant and heathen debauchee.
And in their [Christians] deaths they were also made the subjects of sport; for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts and worried to death by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and, when day declined, burned to serve for nocturnal lights. Nero offered his own gardens for that spectacle.
Nero was the emperor before whom Paul was brought on his first imprisonment at Rome, and the apostle is supposed to have suffered martyrdom during this persecution. – Easton's Bible Dictionary, M. G. Easton
Quite a guy. Yet Paul encourages the believers of his day to pray for him. But what was Paul asking them to pray? From the context it would seem that Paul was encouraging believers to pray for nothing less than Nero's salvation.
"This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" – Vs 4
Paul wasn't praying for Nero's downfall or removal, but for his salvation. Paul took every opportunity to try and introduce every prominent political figure he met to his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ – from Festus and Felix to Agrippa and probably even Nero, if he ever got the opportunity. But he more than likely prayed for each of these men every day.
Who should we be praying for?
Who are the Nero's of our day? There are plenty of corrupt political power brokers out there who are taking Nero's reign of terror to new heights. They are persecuting the church. They are imprisoning believers and putting many to death for their faith. And while we should pray for the persecuted church, are we willing to pray for the salvation of those responsible for the persecution? Paul would. Because Jesus Christ gave Himself "a ransom for all" (Vs 6). Jesus died on behalf of all men. He payed the price for not only my sins but the sins of the world. So Paul says, "I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension" (Vs 8). The believers of Paul's day probably felt like they had every right to be angry at Nero for his atrocities. But Paul said they were to replace their anger with prayer. They were to not allow "dissension" or reasoning within themselves to convince themselves not to pray. No, they were just to pray – for all men, everywhere. And leave the results to God.
Father, I confess that there are many in this world I do not feel the urge to pray for. I may want to pray them out of office or pray for their ultimate failure, but praying for their salvation just doesn't seem right or fair. In some way, I feel as if they do not deserve it. But then You remind me that I did not deserve salvation either. The truth is, the only way men can live a "tranquil and quite life in all godliness and dignity" (Vs 2) is if they come to a saving knowledge of Your Son Jesus Christ. Put in me a growing desire for all men to be "saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (Vs 4), because that is what You desire. Amen