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Praying for the Lost
1 Timothy 2:1-8
Open your Bibles to 1 Timothy 2 and let’s read the text together. We will be looking at 1 Timothy 2:1 to 8. “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. 8 Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.”
John Harper was born in Scotland in 1872. When he was 14, he gave his life to Christ. While still a teenager he began preaching, going up and down the streets of his town passionately pleading for men to be saved. When he was 24, he started his own church in London with just 25 members. Settling into life as a pastor, he soon got married and had a daughter named Nana.
Over the next decade, he continued as a fervent and faithful evangelist–so much so that Moody Church in Chicago, known specifically for evangelism, asked him to come and speak. And so it was that John Harper, along with his 6-year-old daughter boarded a ship headed for New York. The ship’s name was the Titanic.
About midnight, Harper woke his daughter to tell her that their ship was in trouble and that another ship was coming to help. As a precaution, he put her on a lifeboat–he would wait until the other ship arrived. But that ship came too late and John Harper along with more than 1500 others lost their lives that night.
The fascinating account of his death was shared some months later in a prayer meeting, when a young Scotsman stood up and in tears, told the story of how he was converted. He explained that he had been on the Titanic when it sank. He had clung to a piece of floating debris in the freezing waters. Suddenly a wave brought John Harper near–he too was holding a piece of wreckage to stay afloat.
He called out, “Man are you saved?” “No I am not,” came the reply. Harper shouted back, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.” The waves bore Harper away, but a little while later he was washed back beside him again. “Are you saved now?” he called out. “No,” was the reply.
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.” Then losing his hold on the wood, Harper sank. “And there, alone in the night with two miles of water under me, I trusted Christ as my Savior. I am John Harper’s last convert.
Men like John Harper line the annals of church history. There are stories of those who share their faith on every street corner and in every place, boldly and without apology–men and women of great courage and of strong resolve. Some, like John Harper, have taken their last breath proclaiming the Gospel. But most of our stories are not like this, are they?
For most of us, sharing our faith is a difficult task accompanied by reluctance and an inward battle of fear and worry. Just the mention of evangelism is enough to make us hang our heads in shame and admit we have much room to grow in this area. Evangelism is one of two main areas of struggle for most believers. The other is prayer. And congratulations, in the passage before us, the apostle Paul links these two together.
Evangelism is not a topic that stands on its own–not in the Scriptures and not in our lives. It is inseparably linked with prayer. Without prayer, evangelism lacks power and effectiveness. Maybe the reason that we have a hard time sharing our faith is because we have a hard time praying.
John MacArthur said evangelism begins with evangelistic prayer. If we would be effective at bringing the lost to Christ, then it starts on our knees. Charles Spurgeon said, “Prayer is the slender nerve that moves the strong arm of God.”
Let me get to the point. The lost are perishing and we are called to pray. Time is short and the stakes are high. We must pray. There are 7 billion people on this planet, 2/3 of which have never heard the name of Jesus Christ. We must pray. Think of this–every second, three people on earth die. That is 180 every minute, nearly 11,000 every hour. One-quarter of a million people go to Heaven or Hell every day.
3 . . . 6 . . . 9 . . . 12 . . . 15 . . . 18–people are showing up and going to Hell right now. Friends, our effectiveness begins with our prayer life. And yet, like I said, this is an area of great struggle for many. Even for the great evangelist, DL Moody, who once said, “Next to the wonder of seeing my Savior will be, I think, the wonder that I made so little use of the power of prayer.”
What about you? How is your prayer life? Would you describe it as alive and even passionate, or is it dry and lacking? Are you consistently broken for the lost, praying for them to Christ? This morning we will examine this topic of praying for the lost. Our central theme–the lost are perishing, we must pray.
In these eight verses, Paul attempts to motivate us to pray for the lost. He gives us six reasons to pray. Listen carefully, guilt is not one of them. If you need to, take a moment now to confess this to the Lord, and then tune in to see how God wants you to pray. But don’t wallow in guilt and shame.
By way of review, we are in our fourth week in 1 Timothy, and I am the fourth preacher. Chris introduced the epistle, Nigel dealt with false teachers in chapter 1, and last week through the testimony of Paul, John showed us the grace of God that turns sinners to servants and servants to saints. If you remember, Paul wrote this letter to Timothy for a very specific purpose which we find in 3:14, “I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.”
In a nutshell, Paul is laying out instruction for how believers should behave in the Church, in a way that honors God. That is how you and I are to live in the context of the gathered and assembled church. To keep it simple, our theme is House Rules. And this morning, we will examine the way the assembled church is to pray for the lost.
1. Praying for the Lost is your Priority Verse 1
Look again at verse 1, “First of all then, I urge you to pray.” Of all the topics to begin with as he transitions into his instruction for the gathered church, Paul begins with prayer. Prayer is not a new thought or a novel idea. Examples of prayers, instructions for prayer, and the summons to pray are spread throughout the Bible.
Colossians 4:2, “Devote yourselves to prayer.” First Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.” Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Prayer is a part of our life as Christians. Martin Luther said, “As it is the business of tailors to make clothes and of cobblers to mend shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray.”
Notice in verse 1 that he does not issue an authoritative apostolic command. He does not try to force prayer. He says, “I urge you”–that is I entreat you, I appeal to you, I beg you. He leads with his heart. He comes to exhort and to encourage his young friend and the congregation at Ephesus to pray.
Here in verse 1 we see that prayer is our priority. It is the first instruction, it is the primary order. I want you to pray. And we are given four synonyms to describe the character of our praying–entreaties, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings. Using four different words adds to the overall meaning and the force of repetition brings added significance to Paul’s instruction.
For the sake of time, we won’t go into depth on each of these synonyms, but you will find definitions in your outline. Suffice it to say, when we come to God in prayer, we come with a humble and grateful attitude that brings our requests before Him. E.M. Bounds said, “Prayer is asking something definite of God.” And on whose behalf are we offering these prayers? Look at the end of verse 1—“on behalf of all men.”
Well, who is included in all men? Certainly it includes our family members, our friends, classmates, teammates, coworkers, neighbors–but the prayer described here is broader. It is universal. This phrase “all men” rips open our little prayer closet and reveals a lost and dying world. One commentator wrote, “The wider the subjects for prayer, the larger becomes the vision of the soul that prays.”
And what are we to pray for? When we go to our knees to pray on behalf of all men, what are we praying for? We often pray for health, for safety, for financial stability–all important. But what is man’s greatest need? It is salvation. E.M. Bounds said, “We usually pray more for things than we do for men. Our prayers should be thrown across their pathway as they rush in their downward course to a lost eternity.”
We live in a lost world that is in desperate need of a Savior. Greater than a cure for cancer, more urgent than a trip to the ER, more devastating than financial ruin is the state of the sinner that stands under the judgment of God. It is summed up in John 3:36, “He who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on Him.”
As we look out on the masses of lost humanity, the enormity of the need drives us to our knees in evangelistic prayer. Recognizing their desperate need, we pray, this verse says, on their behalf, for their sake, in their stead. We go to the One who, Hebrews 4 tells us, sits on a throne of grace and we plead with Him to be gracious and to give life.
This type of prayer is our priority–and of course we would agree. There is no objection from us. We are Faith Bible Church. We study the Scriptures. We are doctrinally sound. But do we pray? We spend so much time and expend so much energy serving the Lord in ministry, meeting with people, desiring to be used by God. But do we pray?
S.D. Gordon said, “Prayer strikes the winning blow; service is simply picking up the pieces.” And Oswald Chambers said, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” The lost are perishing–we must pray. Not only is praying for the lost our priority, but . . .
2. Praying for the Lost Fosters Dependence Verse 2
In verse 2, Paul singles out a particular group of people who would otherwise be neglected in our prayers. We are to pray for kings and all who are in authority. That is, we are to pray for those who have charge over us. In our vernacular, this includes our president, the congress, the Supreme Court, even our state and local governments.
And while we are prone to criticize, reprimand, and even bad mouth our elected officials, we live in an unprecedented time of liberty and democracy. But the situation was very different for these first century Christians who were under the power and authority of Nero. He was a wicked and evil man who had his own mother murdered. He castrated a boy and made him his wife.
Church history tells us that he was responsible for the death of both Peter and Paul and that Christians served as candles to light his garden parties. His rule was defined by tyranny and extravagance and came to a screeching halt when he took his own life by putting a dagger into his neck. What does it take to pray for someone who had made your life a living hell? Imagine praying for the man who crucified your son . . . the man who burned your mother to death . . . the man from whom you lived in constant fear.
To pray for them is to put yourself fully in the hands of God and to trust Him in total dependence. It is to recall what Paul said in 1:17, that He is “the eternal King, immortal, invisible, the only God.” God is sovereign. He is in control. His ways are perfect. His plan is wise and His dealings are just.
Daniel 2:21 says, “God removes kings and establishes kings.” And Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.” And when the Christian prays for his rulers, he is acknowledging his complete and total dependence on God.
We model the example set for us by Jesus Christ who, “while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23)–to put ourselves under His mighty hand and trust Him.
To heed the words of Christ, who in Matt 5:44 said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” And what is the first and foremost prayer for our leaders? No, it is not reduced taxes–nice try. It is not policy change–it is heart change. It is salvation.
And Paul adds in verse 2, “so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” To sum this up, it is so that we can live godly lives of peace, not inciting rebellion but in humble submission to their authority.
Before we leave this verse, let me drive a specific application. Christians are quick to demonize politicians, we have a hair trigger that is aimed at democrats, Supreme Court justices, and others that serve in public office. We talk often to others about the ills of our country and we are quick to throw our leaders under the bus.
Next time your blood begins to boil as you listen to talk radio or watch Fox news, can I encourage you instead to pray? We have all made comments about our president, laughing at him, questioning him, criticizing him–but when was the last time you prayed for him? My prayer throughout this study has been that God would radically transform his heart and that like Zaccheus, the result of his salvation would be the obvious fruit of repentance as he publicly makes known the mercy of God. Let’s move on.
3. Praying for the lost Aligns your heart with God’s Verses 3 to 4
Our prayers offered on behalf of all men are, look at verse 3, “good and acceptable to God.” The word good can be defined as beautiful, praiseworthy–even noble. The word acceptable can be defined as something that is pleasing. What this verse is telling us is that your prayers for the lost are received in Heaven with gladness. It is a sweet aroma to God.
Imagine we’re in New York when Hurricane Sandy made landfall, and you witnessed the mother who was trying to outrun the storm in her SUV. She had her 2-year-old and 4-year-old sons in the backseat, and as the ocean surged across the road, her car stalled and wouldn’t start.
Stuck there, with the ocean rising around her, she did the only thing she could think of and put her sons as high as she could, on the roof of the vehicle. But then a rogue wave hit the car and ripped both of her sons out of her hands and they were lost in the night. Their tiny, lifeless bodies were recovered the next morning.
Now if you were standing there and had the opportunity to help, I am sure that every one of us would have done everything in our power to help her. Why? Because it is the right thing to do. Our conscience tells us, the law of God tells us. To help the helpless and rescue those in need is part and parcel of being a Christian.
The same is true of praying for the lost. It is noble. It is good. It has moral value and is right. Why is this type of prayer acceptable to Him? Verse 3 tells us, “He is God our Savior.” Paul describes Him not as the eternal Father or the judge of all men or the leader of the host of Heaven–he highlights the fact that God is a Savior.
In Isaiah 43:11 God says, “I, even I, am the Lord, and there is no Savior besides Me.” Throughout redemptive history God has described Himself as Savior, and Paul uses the phrase God our Savior six times in the Pastoral Epistles alone. It describes His very nature. And here He is described as our Savior. Notice the personal pronoun–this is personal. We are His and He is ours. Such a good truth, isn’t it?
Let’s turn our attention to the phrase, “He desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Wow. Think about that for just a minute. This is a massive declaration. God desires all men to be saved. Let it sink in. It is an amazing truth. But what does this mean? How are we to interpret this? It is a difficult passage that we need to interpret rightly. Let me briefly walk through the four most common interpretations.
“All men” means that everyone goes to Heaven–this is the message that some, like Rob Bell have taught. Listen to what he said in the intro to his book, Love Wins. “A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better… This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’s message of love, peace, forgiveness, joy that our world so desperately needs to hear.”
We can be quite certain that when we read that “God desires all men to be saved,” it does not mean that He desires it with the force of a decree or a divine purpose, because if He did, then all men would be saved. Think about it. He says to a storm, “Hush, be still,” and it listens. He commands demons to depart and they can do nothing but obey.
And he speaks to the dead, “Lazarus come forth,” and in an instant death flees and His friend returns from the grave. Make no mistake, when God wills something with the force of divine sovereignty, there is nothing in this universe that can stay His hand.
We know from the rest of Scripture that not everyone goes to Heaven. There is a lake of fire that has been prepared. There is a day of judgment in which every man and every woman will stand before the Judge to give an account for their actions. And to some He will say, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.”
To say that all will be saved contradicts much of what is written in Scripture. And so we see something of this word desire. It is not the word used for the decree of the sovereign will of God, but rather for the heart and the desire of God.
“All men” means all groups of men (Jews, Gentiles, etc.). Those that hold this interpretation see it in the context. God desires all types of people or all classes of people to be saved, which is why we pray for a category of people in verse 1—“kings and all in authority.” And why Paul designates his calling, verse 7, as a teacher of the Gentiles.
Those that hold this interpretation rely on Revelation 5:9, which says, “He purchased for God men from every tribe and tongue and people and nations.” But to interpret this way removes some of the force of the passage and really doesn’t change the end result.
“All men” means some men (Paul is speaking of the elect). This is the hyper-Calvinistic interpretation. The reference to all men means some men–the elect, the chosen, the predestined ones. And that takes us to what I believe is the correct interpretation. All men means every single, individual person in the world. This is the most plain way to read this verse. God’s desire, His heart, His wish is that every child of Adam would be saved. “All men” means all men. Do you get this? God desires all men to be saved.
“Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’” Ezekiel 33:11. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9.
This is the heart of God toward sinners. It is a staggering thought, particularly when we think about the fact that not all will be saved, that some will be lost. There is a tension here between divine sovereignty and human responsibility, between the universal offer of salvation and the doctrine of election.
I do not seek to relieve you of the tension this morning. Charles Spurgeon said, “These two doctrines are friends with one another; for they are both in God’s Word.” Instead of seeing contradiction or in some way manipulating these teachings to make them fit into a theological box, we acknowledge these truths. We study them. And in the end, we are left with the simple reality that our minds are unable to resolve this.
Brian Chapell said, “It is not our responsibility or capability to solve the puzzle of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. It is our task to preach the gospel universally—to every tongue and people regardless of class or rank.” We don’t have any more time to devote to this, but I have included some verses on the back of the outline for you to work through on your own.
A while back I read an article about an experiment scientists performed on individual cardiac cells. Your heart is a muscle that contracts or beats 60 or 70 times per minute, pushing blood out to your body. The beating of your heart is controlled by an electric impulse that is regulated by a small bundle of cells in the upper right corner of your heart. When isolated from the rest of the heart, individual cardiac cells will continue to beat on their own.
In this experiment, scientists isolated individual cells and placed them in a petri dish together. Each cell had its own individual, intrinsic beat. What they observed next was fascinating. Slowly but surely, each individual cell came into rhythm with the other cells. Before long, there was only a single beat. All cells were beating in unison together.
So it is with each of us. We often beat to the rhythm of our own drum, pursuing our own aims, moving in our own direction. But this morning, we have seen the heart of God. He desires all men to be saved. This is the beating of His heart. And it is our desire to align ourselves with His heart. And when we pray for the lost, our heart beats in rhythm with God’s. Praying for the lost is our priority–it fosters dependence, it aligns our heart with God’s and . . .
4. Praying for the Lost Acknowledges our only Hope Verses 5 to 6
For there is one God. This is the declaration of Deuteronomy 6:4. Moses said, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” Jesus reiterated this in Mark 12:29, “The Lord our God is one Lord.” James 2:19 tells us that even the demons know that there is one God and they are so afraid they tremble.
And this one God is eternal, He is all-powerful, all knowing, and ever present. He has sovereign, has infinite wisdom and holds the universe together by the word of His power. And He is holy. That is, He is completely without sin. “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You cannot look on wickedness with favor,” Habakkuk 1:13.
Now listen, every single one of us has sinned. Every one of us has fallen short of God’s perfect standard. We have violated His holiness. And for that, every man and woman will be held accountable and will stand before Him stripped of human accomplishments, religious efforts, and even your best works. Because in the eyes of a holy God, Isaiah 64:6 says, even our best works are like a filthy rag.
Even the very best of us, who spend their entire life helping the poor and sharing with those in need and living a caring and compassionate life are still separated from a holy God by an infinite chasm. Sinful man, no matter how hard he tries to make himself presentable to God, can never be right with God on his own.
So the question that remains is, how can a sinful person come to God? This is the question Job asks in Job 9. Look at our outlines. “But how can a man be in the right before God? If one wished to dispute with Him, he could not answer Him once in a thousand times. If it is a matter of power, behold, He is the strong one! And if it is a matter of justice, who can summon Him? For He is not a man as I am that I may answer Him, that we may go to court together. There is no umpire between us, who may lay his hand upon us both” (Job 9:2, 3, 19, 32-33).
This is how the Old Testament ends–sinful man standing condemned before a holy God. But God didn’t leave humanity there. No–He desires all men to be saved. And so He sent someone to help. Look at verse 5, “There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
A mediator is a person who brings two groups together. It can be defined as occupying a middle position. I like that. Jesus Christ occupied the middle position between sinful man and a holy God. And the only way to mediate between God and man is to be both God and man. He had to be God in order to deal with the infinite wrath of God. He had to be man in order to offer an acceptable sacrifice on behalf of men.
To deny either the humanity or the deity of Christ is to strip His ability to be mediator between God and man. Listen carefully, it is a damning heresy–you get Jesus wrong and you get everything wrong.
Jon Stead is our awesome junior high pastor. This picture is a permanent fixture in my garage. It is about 5ft x 5ft and was part of a game we did at summer camp. Steady is prone to getting fever blisters–we would gauge the success of our camps by how many pre-camp fever blisters Jon gets. In this game, students were blindfolded and given a large red paper circle and they had to pin the fever blister on the Stead.
Jon is a dear friend and partner in ministry and a gifted evangelist who desires to see the lost saved. I found this picture on the white board in his garage. It describes the two ways people come to God. The first is through religion. All world religions are set up the same way–do as much good as you can throughout your life and work your way up to God. It is all based on your own effort. Biblical Christianity is different. It admits that we cannot do it on our own, but instead relies on the work of another, the work of Jesus Christ who offered His life on our behalf.
He stood between sinful man and a holy God as the acceptable sacrifice for our sin. Verse 6 says that “He gave Himself as a ransom for us.” That is–He traded His life for ours. He was the payment that was used to give us our freedom. He gave the greatest gift–Himself. The picture is so sweet and so unforced.
Listen to Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” It is a demonstration of His love for us. And notice, there are not many ways to Heaven. You cannot climb this mountain through Mohammed or Confucius or Joseph Smith or Mary. “There is only one name given under heaven by which we must be saved.”
Notice verse 5 says, “There is one mediator.” He has no competitors, He has no rivals, He has no successors. There is no one else. And He declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me,” (John 14:6). When we pray for the lost, we acknowledge that Jesus is our only hope. And we come to Him asking that He would save sinners.
5. Praying for the Lost Clarifies your Purpose Verse 7
Look at verse 7, “For this, that Jesus is our mediator and has offered forgiveness to all, I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.”
In 1:13 he called himself a blasphemer, persecutor, and violent aggressor–now he is a preacher and apostle and teacher. He was commissioned to take the saving message of Jesus Christ to the world. None of us are apostles–only a few are preachers and teachers, but every Christian has been given the same task, to take the saving message of Jesus Christ to a lost world.
Praying for the lost reminds us of this. It re-centers us, it clarifies for us what we are here for. David Platt said, “Every saved person on this side of heaven owes the gospel to every lost person this side of hell.”
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). This is a high call. But it is also a great privilege. You have been chosen by God to deliver the good news of His salvation. When He saved you, He commissioned you to be a part of His plan to save others.
He wants to use you to wake the dead, to shake the gates of Hell, and to build His Kingdom. You, who will never write a book, never preach a sermon, never become famous. You who the world will look at as insignificant and unimportant.
You women who will be wives and mothers in your homes. You men who will go to the same job every day of your life. The ordinary. The normal. The commonplace–you are God’s chosen instrument, His preferred vessel. You are His hands and feet. You are His voice. And you are the conduit which He will use to bring the good news of salvation to a lost and dying world–what a privilege.
In the Old Testament, God spoke through prophets, priests, and kings. In the New Testament, He used His disciples and apostles. In the end times, He will even use an angel from Heaven. But today, right now, in this age, He has chosen you. “For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:14 to 17).
Do you feel adequate? I certainly do not. And so we pray. We enter God’s presence, we appeal to God’s mercies, and we ask for God’s help. We ask that He would empower us, give us opportunities, that He would soften hearts and save the lost. How about you, is your purpose clear or have you forgotten your calling as a soul winner? Let this verse clarify our purpose. We are to pray for all, we are to preach to all, and we are to let God do His work.
So, we have seen that praying for the lost is our priority, it fosters dependence, it aligns our heart with God’s, it recognizes our only hope, it clarifies our calling, and finally . . .
6. Praying for the Lost Requires a Transformed Life Verse 8
Look at verse 8–it is Paul’s summary statement. Therefore, because of everything laid out in verses 1 to 7, “I want the men in every place to pray.” Once again, Paul calls for prayer. The term in every place is a direct reference to the gathered and assembled church.
His instruction is that men are to lead in praying for the lost in the church. Said a different way, men and women have different roles in the church. Men are to take their role as leaders, and women, as we will see next week, are to assume a different role in the church. We don’t have time to dig into women’s roles any deeper, but come back next week to see an amazing passage of Scripture and ladies you will be challenged and so encouraged by God’s direct instruction to you.
As a footnote, don’t you love having our men pray each week during the service? It draws our heart to worship, it encourages us, it teaches us how to pray, and it allows us to bring our requests before the Lord in a corporate fashion. So cool.
Back to our text–Paul finishes verse 8, “I want the men to pray lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.” The phrase lifting up holy hands refers not to the outward posture of prayer, but it represents a holy life, a life transformed by God.
The physical posture of prayer is irrelevant–on your knees, standing up, face in the dirt, eyes open, eyes closed, head raised, head bowed. It doesn’t matter–that is not what Paul is referring to. He is calling out the character of the man who prays. John Stott clarifies this by saying, “It is useless to spread out our hands to God in prayer if they are defiled with sin.”
The issue is not the posture, the issue is the heart. Does the character of his life match his claims in prayer? The outward sign of hands raised must match the inward quality of a pure heart. Listen, it is easy to pray like the Pharisee in Luke 18, who said all sorts of verbose statements in a public spectacle of his own righteousness. In actuality, the publican who didn’t even raise his eyes to Heaven prayed with a broken and contrite heart and was heard by God.
How can you approach God in prayer if you harbor resentment, bitterness, or anger against others? Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” James 5:16 says, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” Gentlemen, you must be holy in heart and in deed. Only with a right heart can we pray for the lost.
E.M. Bounds said, “It is man’s business to pray; and it takes manly men to do it. It is godly business to pray, and it takes godly men to do it. It is intense and profound business which deals with God and His plans and purposes, and it takes wholehearted men to do it. No halfhearted, half brained, half spirited efforts will do. Gentlemen, will you pray?
Lets wrap this up. This morning we have been reminded that the lost are perishing and we must pray.
- Praying for the lost is your priority
- Praying for the lost fosters dependence
- Praying for the lost aligns your heart with God’s
- Praying for the lost acknowledges our only hope
- Praying for the lost clarifies our purpose
- Praying for the lost requires a transformed life
As we close, can I encourage you to take deliberate steps to pray? Set a plan–ten minutes of dedicated time a day. Get a pad of paper and make a prayer list. Write on it the top five people that you want to see God save. Write the name of our president and other government leaders. Join us each Sunday morning at 8:10 for our pre-service prayer meeting. May the Lord help us as we seek to grow in this area. Let’s pray.