We all know that 1 Timothy is “the” manual for church order. The apostle Paul himself says that he writes “so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). With so many manuals and books on how churches and ministries should operate written by men, God gives us His “how to” book in this letter.
The purpose of the letter is laid out in fuller detail in the first chapter, actually, with the apostle telling Timothy to “instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines.” The word “strange” is probably better rendered “different,” as in “Do not allow anyone to teach anything that is contrary to the gospel with which you have been entrusted. Do not allow anyone to teach anything that is contrary to the apostles’ teaching.” Rather, further the administration of God which is by faith. In the Greek the word for administration is actually a compound word from oikos and nomos — i.e. house law. The mission of the church is to further the house law of God, in which the glorious gospel of the blessed God is paramount (1 Tim 1:4, 11). That is the WHY of the church. So then, after warning against shipwrecking your faith, as Hymenaeus and Alexander did, he moves on in chapter two to actually instruct regarding the HOW of the church.
And the first thing Paul tells the church to do is pray:
1 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
Before gender roles… before the qualifications for pastors and deacons… before everything else is instruction to pray. So much time in the church today is spent on things that are peripheral. “Praise and worship,” i.e. the musical portion of the program, takes up more and more time. Announcements and special fellowship times eat up minutes. Sometimes testimonies and dramatic presentations take up even more.
Not all of those things are wrong in the context of corporate worship. The focus, the thing that takes up the most time, should be the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. However, corporate prayer is commanded by God through the apostle. It is part of how we conduct ourselves properly in the household of God, part of how we further the house law of God. And not just “part” of the way we do it, but “first of all.” Paul puts it first, giving it a prominent position in the program of the church.
The church should corporately be praying for all kinds of men, for kings and all who are in authority. Why? So that we might lead tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity. In other words, the church is to beseech the Father that it might be the church and do the work of the church freely, efficiently, liberally, and effectively. Pray that the church might further the house law of God with as few obstacles as possible. Pray that the church might be unencumbered in its work.
This command took on significant meaning to an Ephesian church that found itself in the midst of a Roman Empire that was, more and more, hating the name of Christ. Twenty-first century America finds itself, more and more, hating the name of Christ. The church of Jesus Christ would do well to obey the apostolic command to pray for all kinds of men, that the church might freely be the church, further the house law of God, and glorify His name.
Think and pray about ways you can better think and pray, both on an individual basis and in your churches.