The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
1 Timothy 2:1-8
Faith’s Foundation: Pray for All People
Proper 20C, 19 September 2010
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (1 Timothy 1:2a) Amen.
A certain preacher and an atheistic barber were walking through city slums.
The barber said, "This is why I can't believe in your God of love. If he was as kind as you say, he wouldn't permit all this poverty, disease, and squalor. He wouldn't allow these poor street people to get addicted. No, I cannot believe in a God who permits these things."
The minister was silent until they met a man who was especially unkempt. His hair was hanging down his neck, and he had a half-inch of stubble on his face.
The preacher said to his friend: "You can't be a good barber, or you wouldn't permit a man like this to continue living here without a haircut and a shave."
Indignant, the barber answered: "Why blame me for that man's condition? He has never come in my shop. If he had, I could've fixed him up and made him look like a gentleman!"
The preacher said, "Then don't blame God for allowing people to continue in their evil ways. He invites them to come and be saved. [He even allows people to reject Him.]" Citation: Brett Kays, Brownstown, Michigan
What is God’s will toward the people He has created? In short, His desire is no less than what He expressed through this letter of Paul to Timothy last week: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. It’s that simple.
This morning’s portion of Paul’s first letter to the young preacher named Timothy shows what Christians are given to do for those around them. They are first to pray and also to witness about our only God and Savior.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior…
Our Lord expects that we will pray. He commands us to pray. He also uses Gospel-language to invite you to pray. “When you pray, say, Our Father, who art in heaven…” Prayer is faith, living and active, conversing with our Father in heaven as His dear children. You are simply talking to Jesus. We pour out the desires of our hearts and painful burdens to the Holy Spirit.
Prayer begins best when we listen to God first. God speaks first in His Word. We repeat His words back to Him in prayer, calling upon Him by name, or by one of the titles that He has revealed to us in His Word. The Lord doesn’t change, so the promises He has made us in black and white are dependable. You can hold the Lord to His promises in Christ!
We can pray silently in our bedrooms at night. You can pray in your car or out in the wilderness. As long as there are tests, there will be prayer in schools. When Luther spent his 2-3 hours in morning devotion, prayer was a part of his reading of the Word. Wrestle with the text. Ask the Lord for help. Read, pray, and re-read. And then pray some more.
Pray persistently. Pray fervently. Pray confidently, in full faith, knowing that your dear Father in heaven hears you. And always, always, always pray, “Thy will be done.” Many people are frustrated by God or give up on Him when their selfish prayers of “My will be done” aren’t answered to a “T.” They often forget to allow God’s perfect all-seeing, all-knowing will to have the final say. This is another good reason to incorporate the Our Father into your daily prayers in the morning, at noon, and at night.
For whom do you pray? Often, we’re pretty selfish. This is an extreme example: “God bless me and mine and nobody else. Amen.” Such selfishness ignores the spirit of Paul’s counsel here.
Paul urges that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people. Are we to willfully exclude anyone or any group of persons from our prayers? No. And it’s likely that the people we would rather forget to pray for are the very ones who need our prayers the most!
We pray for all those in authority. Don’t like the actions of your local government, state representative or senator, the governor, your US Senators or congressperson, the President or anyone else? They still need your prayers, especially when or if you see that they are contradicting the clear words of the Lord in Scripture! After all, Jesus called for us to pray for our enemies too! Therefore, all bureaucrats and politicians are covered.
Why do we pray for all in authority? We pray for them so that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. God has instituted two kinds of governments on the earth. The first is spiritual. This is the Holy Christian Church. She has both law and Gospel at her disposal. The Word of God is supreme. Her primary role is to proclaim the Word: the law to sinners unaware or uncaring about their sin, and the Gospel, so that afflicted, sorrowful, repentant sinners may then hear of the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ.
The other government is civil. The books of Moses tell us the story of creation, the patriarchs, and the Exodus, but they also lay out the civil law of ancient Israel. That civil and ceremonial law do not apply to us. Christians have lived under emperors, kings, dukes, despots, communist or fascist dictators, commonwealths, republics, and democratic republics, like the United States. Christians have lived under various governments whose primary responsibility is to provide for the safety and welfare of the inhabitants therein.
In America, we have been blessed with freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, and freedom of expression. These freedoms are part of our civil law and have been a great blessing to the Gospel. The police and military protect us from threats domestic and external. Good infrastructure from roads to phones and from mail to the Internet, facilitate travel, trade and communication. These blessings contribute to living peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. Such blessings need to be protected so that they may be preserved. It is the vocation of every American citizen to speak up for the truth, to vote, and to be a faithful, Biblical voice in the public square from the living room to the White House and everywhere in between.
[Praying for all people] 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.
There is another purpose for praying for our leaders and for all people beyond preserving peace and quiet. We pray that all would hear the truth and become Christians, forgiven sinners and saints made holy by Christ.
It should be evident that God desires all people to be saved. After all, that’s what the text says. Some followers of John Calvin say this isn’t so. You can find them in most non-Lutheran Protestant denominations. They claim truthfully that God has elected some to salvation. The problem is that they pick and choose what Scripture they want to follow and exclude this verse. They claim, contrary to Scripture, that God has predestined some to hell. They explain that some people are going to hell no matter what they believe or do, whether they have been baptized, regularly attend church, or not. Not only is that blatantly false, but it’s also incredibly depressing! Who would want to tell others the good news about Jesus if it wasn’t going to do the unsaved any good at all?
Let’s uphold the Biblical truth. God our Savior wants all to be saved and to come the knowledge of the truth. This is the same thing as John 3:16. We must refute all evil errors and especially uphold the much more comforting truth. God makes an offer of salvation’s gift to all within earshot of the Gospel. He means it. He’s not just playing around.
Again, why is this congregation here if not to proclaim total forgiveness, a guarantee of heaven, the undeserved gift of salvation, and the blessings of God delivered here and now in Word and Sacrament? Why are you here if not to regularly receive these gifts, raise your family in the faith, encourage others, and then to go and tell all you meet about Jesus and His love? This isn’t a social club. It’s a hospice for sinners—and all people have a terminal case.
For there is one God…
Paul rightly asserts and assumes something here that many throughout history have not. Human beings originally began as monotheists, the children of Adam and Eve after the exile from the Garden of Eden. Some of their children rejected the truth and turned to nature or cleverly devised myths. Soon, every land, every part of nature, every household had its own patron idol god or goddess. The Roman Empire was masterful at exploiting this tendency of fallen man for political purposes. They, like the ancient Greeks, had a “pantheon,” a temple or list of all kinds of gods, goddesses, demons, angels, and “higher powers” in order to incorporate their followers into one empire.
Christianity rejected the opportunity to put Jesus next to Zeus, Baal, and Asherah. Where Old Testament Judah and Israel failed, the New Testament people of God resisted.
Today, we face the same challenge and temptation. We are invited to pray to Jesus on the same stage with those who reject His divinity, kill His Christians, and overall see Him as one god among many or one of many ways to salvation. We must resist this temptation, brothers and sisters. A Muslim imam has no place co-leading a Christian funeral. There can be no such thing as a wedding jointly led by a Christian pastor and a Jewish rabbi. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three persons in one God and one God in three persons, not three gods nor three split personalities of a schizophrenic deity.
Yes, there is only one God, but there is only one way to Him, one way He will answer—and that’s Jesus. You can’t get to the right destination if you take the wrong road. Religions don’t work exactly like roadmaps. A highway can’t get you to Asia, Africa, or Europe. Non-Christian religions can’t get you to God. People see all kinds of things being done, but it doesn’t make them valid. They all sinfully ignore the first commandment.
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…
For many, there is more than one mediator. Some pray to Mary, saints, or guardian angels. Even wearing a St. Christopher medal is such a false prayer. Prayer assumes that the one you pray to is listening or can listen. Only the Lord is present everywhere. Only He can actually do something about your prayers. Yes, the saints certainly speak to God in heaven, which can be considered prayer, but they can’t see what’s going on down here.
We have been taught to pray in Jesus name. Amen to that! We pray in the Spirit through the Son to the Father. What a wondrous thing the Trinity is! And the Father delivers the forgiveness of sins because of the Son’s all-atoning work through the Holy Spirit in Word and Gift. When we pray, Our Father, Jesus prays with us! You are therefore praying in Jesus’ name when you pray the Lord’s Prayer!
Some address God by names not given to the Lord in Scripture. The false prayers, “Our Mother in heaven,” or “Our Father-Mother in heaven” are examples of this, used even in this valley by some claiming to be religious or even Christian! When I call out a name like “Hey, Xavier,” in a room where no one is named Xavier, will anyone answer? No. It’s also like calling a disconnected phone number. So, too, with “Our Mother who art in heaven.” God has not promised to answer prayers addressed in a way He hasn’t promised to answer.
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
Jesus was fully God and fully man at the same time. He gave Himself as a ransom for all, including you! That is the best testimony of all. It depends not upon feelings or false teachings, but has Christ as it’s foundation. Paul was an eyewitness. Jesus appeared to Him on the road to Damascus, and he shared this message with all, Jews and Gentile.
What is God’s will toward the people He has created? What is His heart’s desire for those whom He blessed through procreation? If the Truth be told, His desire is no less than what He expressed through this letter of Paul to Timothy last week: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He wants you and all human beings to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. It’s that simple, if the truth be told.
Paul’s first letter to Timothy shows what Christians are given to do for those around them. They are first to pray and also to witness about our only God and Savior.
I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling…
I urge you to pray in the morning when you get up, before and/or after every meal, before you go to bed, and every free moment you have. You don’t have to abandon your family and vocations to move off to a monastery or convent. You can pray any time, anywhere, especially in church and especially with your family at home. God hears when His Christians pray. Let us pray for all people and that all would be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Pray. Our Lord invites you to hear Him in His Word and pray. It costs nothing. It can do anything. Pray for all people. Amen.
The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you. (2 Timothy 4:22) Amen.