Many people come to Washington, DC, every four years for the inauguration of the President. They don't attend the concert. They don't have tickets to the swearing in. They don't line the parade route. When asked, they are not pro-Republican or pro-Democrat. They are pro-Jesus and they are here to pray. Some come before the election and are back again before the inauguration. Others just come once. They may be here a few days or a week.
You may find them walking around the White House, the Capitol, or the Supreme Court buildings, heads bowed, arms raised. These people don't make the news. What they do is not exciting or glamorous. Instead they are often cold and wet, even bedraggled.
Paul spoke of this very type of prayer in his exhortation to Timothy (! Timothy 2:1-4). We should note that we are to pray for our leaders. We are not to pray against them nor at them. Our prayers should not be a veiled message of what we think they should do. We are to pray "intercessions and thanksgivings" for them. Why? So that we "may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity", and because God wants "everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
Whether we are called to pray in DC or to pray from where we are, let us remember to pray for our leaders, for their salvation and for them to know the truth. Let us do so with thanksgiving no matter how we voted.
For Reflection: If our new year's resolutions have fallen by the wayside, perhaps a good resolution would be to pray for one member of government each day.
Let us pray. Lord Jesus, I thank you for all of our elected leaders at the federal, state and local level. If they don't know you, I ask that you send someone to tell them about you and to introduce them to the good news of salvation. I thank you for their hard work, their giving of themselves, their time, their lives. Grant them wisdom to govern as you yourself would. Help them to enact just laws and to keep our land at peace.
I also thank you, Jesus, for those who have been upholding our government in prayer for many years. Give them the strength and determination to continue.
How great would it be to be described as God's co-worker? Not God's employee, God's servant, God's follower, but God's co-worker? Two people working side-by-side toward the same goal. What if Jesus introduced us as, "This is my co-worker ___"? What a privilege to be described that way and to hold that place.
That is just how Paul described Timothy in 1 Thessalonians 3:2. Timothy is "our brother and God's co-worker." If we seek God's goals in our station in life, then we are God's co-worker in raising families, teaching children, studying and working alongside others, feeding the hungry, comforting the grieving, spreading the gospel. God's work is a vast undertaking. He chooses to use many co-workers.
For Reflection: Where may I serve as God's co-worker today? Am I working alone or alongside Jesus?
Let us pray. God, it would help a lot if I could feel you beside me today as I go about my normal activities and any special activities you want me to do. I want to be your co-worker today.
Many of us are dragging around a load of guilt. We think that we are too great a sinner for God to forgive us. Not true. God is bigger than our sin. In fact it is hubris to think that any sin of ours is too big for God to forgive or to believe that he can't take away our guilt.
Paul made this very point is his letter to Timothy. Paul considered himself the worst of sinners. He was a "blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man" (1 Timothy 1:13-16; Acts 8:3). Yet God forgave him. Jesus came into the world to save sinners. If Jesus can forgive someone like Paul (who really was a great sinner) and take on all of Paul's sin and guilt, why not ours?
For Reflection: Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I am a sinner. Therefore Jesus came into the world to save me.
Let us pray. Jesus, I have sinned. I realize that if you can forgive Paul, you can forgive me. I have . . . . I ask you to forgive me. Help me to make amends for what I have done and to not commit these same sins again.
This time of advent, of waiting, of expectation, of praying for the Kingdom to come is not one of passivity. No, we are actively preparing for the arrival of the Kingdom of God on earth, for the second coming of Christ for all. We do this because he wants all to be saved and none to be lost (1 Timothy 2:4).
This theme of Kingdom expectation (which has gone on much longer in this blog than I expected) can be traced throughout the Scriptures as we have seen over the last several weeks. It permeates the Old Testament. It threads its way through Jesus and his teachings and prayers. It turns up consistently in Paul's letters. This expectation, this hope, leads us not to sit back and watch, but to go forth and do.
All will not be saved if each of us does not do our part. Some are preachers; some are preparers, some are pray-ers (Ephesians 4:11-12). We each have our assignment. The Kingdom of God depends on us. God is waiting too.
For reflection: How well have I been fulfilling my assignment from God?
Let us pray. Come, Holy Spirit. Fill my heart. Set it on fire for you. Renew me. Empower me every day to do what you expect. Renew the face of the earth.
We have been (loosely) following a theme of right conduct, leadership and choices. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul instructs him on the attributes of church leaders. A leader should be "above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well. . . . not be a recent convert. . . . He must also have a good reputation with outsiders" (1 Timothy 3:2-7). For Paul these don't seem to be unusually high standards. He has basically the same expectations for all Christians except for being able to teach.
Paul was both warning Timothy about other, older teachers around him and exhorting him to live up to higher standards than they were. Paul encouraged Timothy to train himself to be godly (4:7) and to set an example "in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity" (4:12).
For reflection: Whose standards am I following? Am I training myself to be godly? What example am I setting for others?
Let us pray. Jesus, I recognize that there are areas in my life where I am a leader and areas where I am a follower. I always want to be following you and leading others to you.
As long as we are in 1 Timothy, let's look at one of Paul's more controversial instructions: "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent" (1 Timothy 2:11-12).
In Paul's day and in the Jewish faith women were not allowed to study at all. Only men studied (and argued over) the Torah. So for Paul to say that women should learn was extraordinary. The women, naturally, would have been learning from men because no women at that time would have been qualified to teach. And, after all, a good portion of this letter is concerned with false teachers who were men.
Would Paul have allowed women to teach had he lived longer? I don't know, but I think it is a possibility. Paul goes to some lengths in his letters to send greetings to women, to mention churches that meet in women's houses, and so forth. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul praises Timothy's grandmother and mother, who were believers. So it has never seemed to me that Paul hated women or disrespected them. For a man of his day, he seems to hold women in high regard.
For reflection: Is there anyone whom I consider less than me? beneath me? Have I relegated anyone to a second class status? How do I treat people with learning disabilities?
Let us pray. Father, you created all people in your image and likeness. In you we have our inherent dignity. As your children, we are worthy of respect. Thank you for your gift of life.
Continuing with some of Paul's instructions about good conduct and how to pray, Paul addresses women's clothing. Evidently this was an issue. Women were to "dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God" (1 Timothy 2:9-10).
Recently I read an article in the newspaper in which women claimed that "being modest" in the Bible didn't include dressing modestly. They must have forgotten Paul's words to Timothy. But today we don't look askance at women who braid their hair or wear jewelry. The type of clothing women wear today can be another matter altogether though.
Still I think the emphasis belongs on the good deeds that Paul mentions. If both men and women looked to clothe themselves in good deeds, how different the world would be.
For reflection: What good deeds can I do in the next day? the next week?
Let us pray. Jesus, you saw all the people around you and their needs. You ignored and rejected no one. Help me to see the people around me and to respond to their needs.
Paul's letter to his assistant Timothy is full of instructions. Earlier we looked at his instruction about praying for governmental leaders. Today let's look at 1 Timothy 2:8. Paul says he wants "men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing". I don't know how common it is for men to pray with hands uplifted. It is probably more common in some churches and gatherings than in others. Lifting hands is a sign of lifting hearts and minds to God. That prayer posture - lifted hands - also causes us to lift our heads. It's a completely different prayer posture from bowing our heads and clasping our hands.
Paul's instruction "without anger or disputing" was probably because Timothy's group had been doing just that. It reminds me of Jesus' admonition in Matthew 5:23-24, "If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift". Lifting hands and hearts is difficult when we are angry or arguing with someone.
For reflection: What posture(s) do I assume when in prayer? Do they differ with the type of prayer (prayer of thanksgiving, praise, petition, sorrow)?
Let us pray. Today, Father, I lift up my holy hands in praise to you. You are the King, eternal, immortal, invisible. You are my source of inspiration. Honor and glory are yours forever and ever.
At the end of Paul's letter to the Ephesians we saw that he was asking them to pray for him. In his first letter to Timothy he gives some instructions for prayer. "I urge . . . that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone -- for kings and all those in authority, that we might live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness" (1 Tim 2:1-2).
The leaders of the U.S. don't make it into my prayers every day, but they certainly should. In addition to praying for the wisdom to govern, we should be praying for their salvation because, as Paul goes on to remind Timothy, God "wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 2:4-5). If we want to live peaceful and quiet lives in godliness and holiness, we need leaders who believe we should be allowed to do so and who will work to see that it happens.
For reflection: For which governmental leader(s) shall I pray today? Are there leaders of other countries for whom I should be praying?
Let us pray. King of kings, Lord of lords, Ruler of the universe, Almighty God and Father of all, we desire to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. We thank you for our leaders. We know that you love them as your children. If they do not know you, we ask that someone be sent to bring them to the knowledge of your love for them. We ask you to inspire them with paths to peace and not war, and the best decisions that can be made for the welfare of the people entrusted to them.
Note: I am taking a few days off from blogging, the phone line and the email prayer requests. Other members of Manna Prayer will be posting and checking the phone and email. I will see you again in October. I'd also like to remind you that under "Prayer Resources" on the website there is a prayer for anyone you think might be dangerous to himself or others. It is my strong belief that with prayer we can avert mass shootings and suicides. -- Alice
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.