Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in the September 2020 issue of Christian Standard + The Lookout. (Subscribe to our print edition.)
“Does It Really Help to ‘Send Thoughts and Prayers’?” by David Faust (Lesson Application)
Lesson Aim: Pray for everyone to be saved through faith in Christ Jesus.
By Mark Scott
Last week’s lesson was entitled “Fight,” and we do that in many ways. We fight by using bold preaching (Acts 4:19, 20, 29). We fight by destroying arguments raised against God (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). We fight by sacrifice and endurance (Revelation 2:1-3; 13:10). We fight by singing (Revelation 15:3-4). And we fight by praying.
Paul urged Timothy to stay put and slug it out against the false teachers in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3-11). Paul even added his own testimony to help Timothy endure the opposition (1:12-17). Next, Paul admonished Timothy with several congregational directives. These involved prayer, men and women in the assembly, leaders, and apostacy (1 Timothy 2:1–4:5). We understand this from a passage in the middle of these directives (3:14-15). The interrogatives—where, when, what, who, why, and how—can help us understand the passage.
Where and When
Where are these teachings applied? The church. (To be more accurate, the question is, “Who is being called to pray?”) While many verses in 1 Timothy (and almost all of 2 Timothy) are directed at Timothy in particular, these instructions are for a wider audience. Timothy’s job is to pass them on. Remember that often in the Pastoral Epistles the “you” is plural, meaning Timothy is not the only one being addressed.
When are we to begin to follow Paul’s teaching? Immediately. In fact, Paul said, first of all. Whether Paul meant to establish a list with prayer being at the top or whether he was just emphasizing prayer as a priority, it is clear prayer must be a first concern and not a last resort. Paul urged (to beseech or encourage) prayer on us. Just as Paul “urged” Timothy to remain at Ephesus (1:3), so he urged prayer for all people.
What and Who
What is Paul urging us to do? The New Testament used four verbs for pray and four nouns for prayer. Prayers have particular nuances and purposes. They are not all alike. Petitions are prayers that make known specific requests, supplications, or benefits. Prayers is the generic term, which highlighted respectful speech to God. Intercession meant to entreat or interpolate with familiarity (i.e., praying for others). Thanksgiving is exactly what it says.
Whom do we pray for? The answer is broad and includes all people (humankind). This might be why Paul pushed his prayer vocabulary to the limit. Christians should not be partial in their prayers. But then Paul drilled down into more specificity. Pray for kings (earthly potentates) and all those in authority (prominent leaders). Considering Nero was Rome’s leader at the time this was written, it is a stunning command by the apostle Paul. On the other hand, who needed more prayer than Nero?
Why do we pray? Paul gave two reasons. Christians pray for humanity in general and governmental leaders in particular. The first reason benefits believers, and the second reason benefits unbelievers. Governmental leaders do hold sway over people’s lives. They pass and enforce laws, they administer justice, and they uphold the common good (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). When Christians pray for them, their prayers have a residual benefit. Believers can lead peaceful and quiet (tranquil) lives. If the “peace of Rome” is preserved, then Christians could conduct themselves in godliness (a key term that appears several times in the Pastoral Epistles; it means “respect for deity”) and holiness. There is a special beauty (good) in this. It pleases (makes welcome or acceptable) God.
The second reason for Christians to pray is that there is only one way to God. Great Bible doctrines are taught in 1 Timothy 2:4-6. Among those doctrines are the love of God (who wants all people to be saved), the truth of God (as revealed in the Bible), the mediation of God (which is found in Christ as the “middle person,” cf. Hebrews 7:20-22), the redemption (“ransom,” as in that of a slave, cf. Mark 10:45) by God, the timing of God (proper time), and the mission of God (i.e., Paul’s place as an appointed preacher, apostle, and teacher to the Gentiles).
How are we to pray? Since Paul will continue to instruct the women in the passage that follows, he gave the men of Ephesus (and everywhere) a prayer admonition. They were to pray with no pretense (lifting up holy hands, cf. 1 Kings 8:22; Ezra 9:5; Psalm 28:2; Lamentations 2:19)—even the pictures in the catacombs indicate this posture. They were also to pray with no ill motive (anger or disputing), which will be especially important in this next section.
Lesson study ©2019, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on the scope and sequence, ©2019 by Christian Standard Media. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.