First Things First: Prayer for All


“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all the 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” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Of all the matters that the apostle Paul wanted to address with Timothy, he first of all urged that attention be given to prayer.

The act of prayer is important because it acknowledges that God is, that he hears us, that he cares for us, and that he is able and willing to answer us. Prayer is based on our understanding that we are utterly dependent on him. The offering of supplications considers prayer as an expression of our need. With childlike confidence we bring our petitions to him, knowing that he answers prayer according to his will. And our prayers should always be accompanied by thanksgiving and expressions of gratitude to him for his blessings, knowing that he is the giver of all gifts and blessings.

Paul’s exhortation to prayer is also significant because of those for whom we should pray. The focus here is on prayers being offered on behalf of all people. The scope of such intercessions is not limited to those close to us. No one should be left out; we cannot pray too broadly. Every fellow human being is made in God’s image, and is the object of God’s love. He desires salvation for all, if they will come to the truth and receive it, and to that end Christ sacrificially gave himself as a ransom for all (1 Tim. 2:3-6).

But in this text, the apostle especially singles out one group of people as special concerns of the prayers of God’s people. Pray for kings and those in high places. The emphasis on the importance of praying for our communities, our nation, and our leaders is an echo of the Lord’s words through Jeremiah as he wrote to the exiles in Babylon. “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for it is welfare you will have welfare” (Jer. 29:7).

God has ordained that rulers exercise authority for the good of man, and Christians can help them do so. It is our duty not only to submit to those in positions of authority, but to pray for them as well. We should pray that their leadership and decision-making will result in our ability to live a tranquil and quiet life. We should especially be concerned about being able to live our lives in godliness and dignity. As Christians we ought to be guided by values and principles that promote righteousness.

It is significant that the group that Paul singles out for special mention is a class of people whom Christians, especially in the days of the infamous Nero, might easily fear or even hate for their cruelty or ungodliness. Yet Paul exhorted the disciples to pray for them. Our answered prayers on behalf of others, including our leaders, can affect them and their choices. And our prayers on their behalf will change us and our attitudes toward them.

Perhaps at no time in our nation’s history has this teaching been more relevant and needful than at this moment. We may not know what the future holds or what kind of policies our political leaders will embrace. We may not agree with those policies or with those who are elected. But this we know—we are to pray for them.

Make it a priority.

Dan Petty