Consider 1 Tim. 2:1-2 in which Paul writes, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”
Notice how these two verses comprise of one complete thought. Verse two cannot exist without verse one. Too often, I think we isolate verse two. We quote verse two about prayer for kings out of context, and we come to an incorrect conclusion without the context of verse one. Plus, I’d suggest that it takes a lot of meditation on the first verse to understand the meaning of the second verse. Paul starts by saying, “I exhort therefore…” Everything he wrote in chapter 1 has led to this point – to pray. In all circumstances – pray. He lists 4 aspects of prayer.
- Supplications – making requests for yourself.
- Prayers – communing with God, sharing with God your thoughts and emotions about everything.
- Intercessions – making requests for others.
- And finally, Paul writes about the giving of thanks to God being made for all men. Just imagine. The giving of thanks, being made for all men. The key phrase of this entire sentence is all men. This means, in no uncertain terms, that Timothy was to be thankful to God in his prayers for all the saints as well as all the grievous wolves in his assembly at Ephesus (Acts 20:27-32). He was to be thankful in his prayers for the men who were rising up out of his congregation speaking perverse doctrines to create followers after themselves. He was to be thankful for all those Judaizers in his church speaking in error about fables, genealogies, and going back under the law (1 Tim. 1:4-11). He was to be thankful for all those who hated him, who opposed him, and who dismissed him because of his youth (1 Tim. 4:12). He was to be thankful for every person with whom he had to war a good warfare – thankful for all men.
But there’s a bigger point to these verses. Do you know what these verses mean? These verses are all about grace. These verses are a calling for us to exhibit grace in our prayer life.
This is exhibiting grace in our attitudes in our prayers to God when we talk with Him about everyone we know. This is acting with grace in our prayers to God by expressing a sincere gratitude for even the worst enemies in our lives. This is grace in our thinking and in our requests to God that rises above any difficult circumstance we may be in. This is grace in our prayers that transcends our circumstances. This is us exhibiting grace to God in prayer regardless of the circumstances. This is us being models of grace when we talk to God about everyone we know, including those we don’t know, like kings and those in authority, regardless of how bad the circumstances may be. This is us exhibiting grace to God by telling Him all the good things we want to happen to those who oppose us. This is His grace in us by praying that even our worst enemies may come to a saving faith in Christ or perhaps to come unto the knowledge of His truth for us today. This is grace in action in our prayer lives. This is what it means to be living the grace life through prayer. God acts in grace to us, and so in turn, out of gratitude, we act in grace with our requests to God about everyone we know. This is us reflecting back to God in our prayers the beauty of His own nature, His own goodness, and His own attitude of love and grace to all men, including the kings we don’t know, and the worst of men. This is everything I wasn’t before I came back to the Lord, and I was just so struck by the beauty of the grace life God would have us to live, and how much higher His ways ever were more than my ways, because grace in our prayers about all the people in our lives becomes grace in our attitudes toward them in real life. Living with this degree of His grace in our lives is the most satisfying life one can live.
Paul is not saying that we specifically pray to God that someone like Nero creates a less hostile political environment that makes it possible for us to live a quiet and peaceable life. That’s not what he’s saying and that’s not possible in this life. How can a king possibly give us a quiet and peaceable life when Paul tells us in 2Ti_3:12 “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution”? How is a quiet and peaceable life even possible in a political sense, when there is spiritual wickedness in high places warring against us continually until the Lord comes?
When has God ever betrayed the free will of man? In the Old Testament God used His means of persuading kings to move in the direction He wanted but He never betrayed their free will. But didn’t God harden Pharaoh’s heart? Yes, and what did He do? He shared with him the truth knowing full well how he’d react to it. He allowed Pharaoh’s magicians to deceive him by mirroring Aaron’s miracles only up to a point. And He irritated the corrupt Egyptian heart of Pharaoh with all those nasty plagues. But he never betrayed Pharaoh’s free will.
Why would God betray the free will of man to cause legislation to be passed to advance His cause when we know good and well that God advances His cause today by using “the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are…” Why would God supernaturally force governments to pass legislation to allow us to live quiet and peaceable lives and then turn around and tell us “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution”?
What Paul is simply saying is that what we do for all men we also do for kings and those in authority. Supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks.
Can you imagine giving thanks for someone like Nero? But that is what God has called us to do, because that is at the heart of living His grace life. The end result of us exhibiting grace in our prayer life isn’t that God would change the circumstances with all men so that we may live a peaceable life with all men but that through these prayers, regardless of the circumstances, we will be empowered, that God would work in us, to live in peace with all of them and especially those in authority. This is about God working through us so that we may live in godliness and honesty in the sight of all men as well as kings and those in authority. This is about us living with grace guided by the Spirit that makes it more possible for us to be at peace with all men and those in positions of governmental authority.
These verses show God’s process to keep our hearts and minds eternally vigilant about His grace in all our ways. Our prayer life bleeds over into our real lives, and thus, we may more easily fulfill Rom. 12:18, the great cross-reference to 1 Tim. 2:2. Paul writes, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” Notice in this verse that there are no guarantees to peace with all men. He only says, “If it be possible.” Notice, too, that Paul does not say to rely on any expectation of divine intervention in external circumstances. The emphasis here is on “as much as lieth in you”.
So what lieth within us? The entire trinity of God, who is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Eph. 3:20). We have all spiritual blessings. We have the fruits of the Spirit. We have the words of Christ dwelling in us richly. We have the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, which sings and makes melody in our hearts to the Lord regardless of the circumstances. Being at peace with all men is bottom-up, not top-down. Being at peace with all men is made possible by our attitudes of grace, by us exhibiting love and grace in action, which is made possible by the empowerment within by the leading of His Spirit through the study of His Word and the power of God working in us above all that we ask or think. And this process is energized by us also being a model of grace in our prayers. Say what you will about divine intervention, but God working in us and through us leading us by His Spirit through His Word IS, by definition, divine intervention. We cannot limit “divine intervention” to external circumstances only, because God is actively at work inside each of us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.