Pray! For Who? Really? Yes!
Pentecost 18 Trinity Lutheran Church
18 September 2016 Murdock, NE
+ Jesu Juva +
1 Timothy 2:1-4
Only the first few verses of the Epistle today. If I don’t limit myself, well, you know I’ll go way too long. You now how preachers are! So, I promise the next time this text comes up in the readings I will preach on the second part of the text. Agreed? All right. Here goes.
“First of all!” When St. Paul says something like that, he’s pushing something really, really important. Vital. Imperative. Central. Chief. Essential.
Well, what in the world could that be? What do you think? Establish some kind of whiz-bang program to reinvigorate or save a dying church? Brainstorm and put a foolproof plan into place so that a weak and feckless church will eventually become a major player or power broker in the world? Well? That’s the direction most ecclesiastical big wigs and pastors go when THEY talk about doing a “first of all.”
How about Paul? Is that what he’s talking about with HIS “FIRST OF ALL”? Not hardly! In fact, what Paul says is really quite shocking. Takes you by surprise. You probably don’t even consider or expect it when you come to church. It’s probably the last thing on your radar screen because you’ve been so influenced and intoxicated by the make-the-church-a-heavy-weight-in-the-world-beruacratic-know-it-alls.
Paul’s “first of all” is — are you ready for this? – PRAYER! Yes that’s right, PRAYER! Faith prays. The faithful pray. Prayer is the Second Commandment in motion. That’s what the church does in the divine service as she is gathered around the one and only Mediator Jesus Christ “who gave Himself as a ransom for all people.” Ransomed and redeemed from all sin, death and hell’s eternal damnation BY GOOD FRIDAY JESUS, the church DEPENDS – HANGS ON TO– CLINGS TO GOOD FRIDAY MEDIATOR JESUS!
Yes, the church is a power player, a world heavy weight, as she is a beggar. She pleads with Jesus to take our “petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving” to God the Father in the full and complete assurance that He hears, that He will answer and that He will act and be God FOR US and for the world. Yes, the church calls upon His holy, divine and saving name for help. She remains always and only dependent on Mediator Jesus. That’s no surprise because “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given” to Jesus (Mt 28:19). In addition, Jesus declares: “Truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” And then He promises that, “where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there I AM in the midst of them,” (Mt 18:19-20).
There’s more. If praying wasn’t shocking enough, get a load of who the church prays for. This will really blow your mind! Paul urges that the church should pray for “all people – for kings and for all those in authority.”
“All people.” This is your priestly work as the baptized people of God. You speak to God in pray on behalf of others. People need your prayers offered to the Father in the Name of Mediator Jesus. So the church prays for all people according to their needs. That begins with your family. Your church members, your community and the world. For your friends. For your enemies. For those that have hurt you. For those that have helped you. For Christians all over the world. For unbelievers here and throughout the world. Pray for all people. For their needs and for their salvation. After all, “God wants all people to be saved to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
But then comes the shocker of all shockers. This is where one might say that Paul has lost it. Must have forgotten to take his meds again! Perhaps Paul should retire, go to the Nursing Home For Apostles and concentrate on tent making. After all, he exhorts the church to pray “for kings and all who are in high positions” of authority.
WHAT? PRAY FOR THOSE IN AUTHORITY? Even Emperor Nero — that degenerate and the hater of Jesus, all Christians and all that Christianity stands for? Even if we don’t like them or oppose their policies? Even if they’re dishonest and cruel? Even if they hate you? Yes. Paul excludes no one from the prayer of the church, not even the politicians.
The reason for this is “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
And one of the ways this can happen is when the earthly authorities do their God-given work properly. When the earthly authorities do their civil work faithfully and honorably. The work God gives governing authorities is protecting the innocent, commending those that do right, and properly prosecuting and punishing criminals. That’s spelled out in Romans 13. God uses civil authorities as His instruments – His hands – to keep society from all out robbery, murder, anarchy, bedlam and madness. For this the church prays. Otherwise, there will be no peace. No stability. No way you can hold a job, raise a family, put food on the table, or come to church freely to worship Jesus by hearing His Word and eating and drinking His body and blood.
We, at Trinity, are known for many things. Let us also be known for our praying. “These are the people that actually pray for the president. For the governor. For Congress. For the supreme court. Etc.!” And that will be a draw for them. They will see that we ultimately rely on God. That we cling to Him and His crucified-Good–Friday-Son “who gave himself as a ransom for all.”
Quickly just one more thing. I know you’re getting antsy. You’re ready to pray. You’re chomping at the bit to offer “supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions.” And I don’t blame you. The earthly authorities desperately need the church’s prayers. They’re not perfect people. They’re sinners too. They’re not infallible. They’re not omnipotent. They’re not saviors. And that gets revealed to us when almost every decision they make is disastrous and brazenly in opposition to God’s clear Word.
So we must pray. We must. For their sake. For the country’s sake. So that we can “lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” And one of the most exquisite ways you do that as God’s baptized priests either individually every day or together as the holy and royal priesthood gathered before Jesus the Great High Priest in the divine service on Sundays is to pray the Lord’s Prayer! In particular praying the FOUTH PETITION: “Give us this day our daily bread.”
When you pray that petition you are asking God to provide you with everything you need to support your body and life. From what you eat to what you wear. From where you live to the family you have. So that you can have an education, get a job, raise a family and freely be a citizen and church member without harassment or hindrance. And for that we need “devout and faithful rulers” as well as “good government,” (Small Catechism, Lord’s Prayer, Fourth Petition).
That’s why Paul gave his “first of all.”
And we’re more than happy to do it. We pray in Jesus’ Name. He is the Mediator between God and men. He carries our prayers to the Father. And He will act. He will be God FOR US!
So let’s do it. Let’s pray.
In the Name of Jesus.