This week’s treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson (for March 6) is written by Jeremy Lawson who serves as minister with Mount Pleasant Church of Christ in Williamstown, Kentucky.
Worship Guidelines (1 Timothy 2)
By Jeremy Lawson
In a majority of churches, the worship service goes something like this: someone welcomes the congregation and worship begins. After a few songs, there is a time of Communion and offering. After that, one or more persons sing a special number that everyone will clap for regardless of its quality. The preacher then takes the stage and 20 to 30 minutes later the service ends with an invitation and a closing prayer.
Obviously there are some differences to that basic schedule, but for the most part, it represents a typical Sunday morning in church. Every element of a typical Sunday morning is important and biblical, but as I study the first church, there seems to be one element that is absent. That element is prayer: fervent passionate calling out to the Lord.
In Mark 11 when Jesus enters Jerusalem, the first place he goes is the temple, where he finds a scene that is more like a market then a place of worship. After turning over the tables and throwing out the vendors, Jesus exclaims, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers’” (v. 17).
I do not intend to compare the temple with our modern churches. The Bible clearly teaches that we, as individuals, are the temple of God and it is the community of believers that constitutes the church. But it is worth noting that the temple, the place where people came to worship, was to be a house of prayer.
Instructions for Worship
In 1 Timothy 2, Paul gave Timothy some instructions for how to conduct the corporate worship in the church he was leading. Paul writes, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone” (v. 1). Paul’s first instruction to Timothy is to make sure prayer is a part of corporate worship. Specifically, Paul lists four different types of prayer that should be made on behalf of everyone, including the king and those in authority positions:
• Requests—some Bible versions translate this as petitions, entreaties, or supplications. This type of prayer may be defined as asking for fulfillment of a need, be it physical, emotional, spiritual, etc.1
• Prayers—this general term encompasses all types of prayer we see throughout the New Testament: confession, intercession, thanksgiving, supplication, etc.
• Intercessions—this term describes prayers on behalf of others.2 James 5:16 says we should confess our sins to each other and pray for one another.
• Thanksgiving—this type of prayer should need no explaining.
Why does Paul put such emphasis on prayer in the context of corporate worship? Because he knows prayer is the best way for Christians to meet with the Lord. The whole purpose of worship, both in the public and private, is to meet with God, to commune with the Almighty. Prayer is an important element in worship because, as Richard Foster writes, “it ushers us into perpetual communion with the Father.”3
When we pray any of the prayers previously mentioned, we open ourselves up to communication with the Lord. When this channel is open, we can really tell God how great he is, be truly challenged and encouraged by his Word, and truly appreciate the sacrifice his Son made for us. While all of those can be done without prayer, it is only through prayer that those things become truly transformational.
Have you ever attended a worship service where it felt like everyone was just going through the motions? The songs were flat and lifeless? The preaching had no sense of urgency or passion? Services like that can leave people feeling like they have gone to church but didn’t meet with the Lord. There is only one cure for such services: prayer.
Prayer is the switch that allows God’s power to flow freely among his people. Every church would be wise to make sure prayer is included in their corporate worship. Now I’m not talking about rehearsed, standard prayers, but heartfelt prayers that truly call on his name. In order to meet with the Lord and truly be transformed by worship and teaching, we must make sure all churches are houses of prayer.
1 William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker. New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007). 91
2 Ibid. 92.
3 Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1998).
*Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, unless otherwise indicated.
|HOME DAILY BIBLE READINGS|
|Feb. 28: Hebrews 8:6-12|
|March 1: Psalm 95:1-7|
|March 2: Ephesians 6:18-24|
|March 3: Romans 8:22-27|
|March 4: Luke 11:1-13|
|March 5: 1 Timothy 1:1-7|
|March 6: 1 Timothy 2:1-7|
ABOUT THE LESSON WRITER: Jeremy Lawson graduated from Cincinnati (Ohio) Christian University in 2008 with a degree in biblical studies. He and his wife, Cara, serve with the Mount Pleasant Church of Christ in Williamstown, Kentucky.