Read His Words Before Ours!
Right now I have a 5-year-old son at home. Age 4 is definitely my favorite age (aside from that incredible newborn stage that lasts way too short), but year 5 is pretty sweet too. He asks a million questions and then thinks of one more. He’s a professional at getting out of chores, and thinks of things that make me scratch my head in amazement. His eyes light up with wonder, and he always, always has something to say. Usually several “somethings”, and quite comically, he will begin his conversations like this, “I have 4 things I want say, wait, 5 things. First of all…. Second of all…”, and on down the line he will go.
Paul had quite a lot of things to pass on to Timothy, his “son in the faith”, especially as Paul is knowingly near the end of his life. His passion and emotion are heavy in these tender letters to young Timothy, but here in chapter 2, Paul gets straight to the point:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.
And add a dramatic pause here….
As we work our way through the letters to Timothy, we hope to pick up some good Scripture study habits along the way. One of which is to remember that the Bible was originally written without chapter breaks, verse markings, or sometimes even paragraphs. In the original languages, some sentences would span 2 or 3 paragraphs! Bearing this in mind, study God’s Word as fluid and cohesive; constantly look backward and forward from where you are reading to get the full, contextual idea.
“First of all, then”….Stop!
What? We’re only 4 words into chapter 2, and we are already calling time-out?!
What’s “then” referring to? Back up and look so we can get the full picture.
Verses 18-19 of chapter 1 tell us that whatever Paul is about ready to tell Timothy, he’s passing it on because of Timothy’s faith, and because of all that Paul and the community of believers have seen in Timothy as they have discipled him. Paul is getting ready to give Timothy the necessary tools to “fight the good fight” of following Jesus.
And, onward….what’s the most crucial tenant of fighting the good fight, Pastor Paul?
Bible reading? Community group life? Scripture memory? Serving the community? Sharing the gospel? Moving to Africa?
Prayer, Timothy, it’s prayer. Prayer and thanksgiving.
It’s not a church program, it’s not how to build small groups, it isn’t even your outreach strategy, it’s prayer. Prayer is Paul’s “first of all”.
I haven’t always had a good relationship with prayer, to be honest. There are so many mysteries about it, so many things that don’t add up. I would pray about stuff earnestly, desperately, passionately, with deep, unswerving faith, and nothing would happen that I could see. Of course, there were times I would pray and what I’d prayed for did actually happen. Was it a fluke? Random chance? Why this time and not that other time? What’s the point? Doesn’t God know all and hear all anyways?
The more I wrestled with prayer, the more I realized I had been asking the wrong questions. The point really wasn’t about prayer “working”; it was about the relationship “growing”.
Prayer’s main purpose is to grow depth and intimacy with the Father by creating an ongoing conversation between Creator and created.
If God desires our unity with Himself, doesn’t it make sense that He opens up prayer as the means to accomplish that? In our over-communicative age of text, email, snapchat, FaceTime, and social media outlets, we are grasping desperately to fill a void given to us by our Maker. We were created for meaningful communication with Yahweh!
When prayer becomes nothing more than a list of wants, or even needs,
we’ve missed the point entirely.
My husband and I cherish the times we “date” our children. Time carved out for one-on-one love and attention. Sure, sometimes we spend a little money and buy a gift, or dinner, but these gifts we buy, they’re really just tools to help our children see how much we love them. Sometimes we take them hiking, or window shopping and don’t spend a dime, but each investment is an opportunity to talk about what’s important to them, what they worry about, or ways we can be better parents to them. Our heart for them is to build a strong enough relationship that they trust us beyond a shadow of a doubt, knowing that we will always be in their corner, working for their ultimate good.
The same is true for God. Prayer is His invitation to do far more than a request submission form; it’s an arms-around-you hug while you walk through life. It’s confidence. It’s a stretched out hand to hold yours. It’s intimacy. It’s depth. It’s an offer to delight in both knowing and being known.
While at the same time, it’s a direct access pass to an audience with the all-powerful Creator….who is in your corner, fighting for you.
And it comes first.
Paul teaches that prayer is the “first of all”, because through communication, God shapes our hearts to be more like His. He gives us a passion for His will, He allows our hearts to break for others with God-sized compassion, and it’s the crucial component to becoming like Him.
Worried for a friend? Pray.
Hurting emotionally? Pray.
Wrapped in fear? Pray.
Confused in a relationship? Pray.
Sick? Lonely? Thankful? Ecstatic? PRAY!
And as you pray, entering into a deeper relationship with God, be thankful for the freedom to come, hold tightly to His hand and be known and loved.
Next time life comes at you with a long list, fight back with your “first of all” and pray!
P.S. If you read all of 1 Timothy 2 (and we really hope you did!), and you’re stuck on those verses about women and clothing and hair and what all of that has to do with prayer and worship, come back tomorrow to Dig Deeper!
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!