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Steadfast in Prayer

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Failure to continue steadfastly in the ministry of private and public praying is the sign of spiritual indolence and feebleness.

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Introduction

Acts 2:42 KJV 1900
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
It is surely significant that in the means of grace listed in our text, public prayers should be mentioned last, for such praying is the end product, the overflow of steadfast continuance in Christian teaching, in church fellowship, and in the breaking of bread. If first three aspects of Christian faith and practice are not vital factors in our personal and corporate church life, then public prayers are nothing more than a farce.
The Lord Jesus made it quite dear in His teaching that failure to continue steadfastly in the ministry of private and public praying was the sign of spiritual indolence and feebleness. He said, “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1).
The popular idea that a multiplicity of activities in the program of any church is an evidence of spiritual life is a deadly fallacy. The most careful organizing without prayerful agonizing results in spiritual atrophy.
To interpret our text in the most helpful and comprehensive manner, let us turn to Paul’s magnificent and masterly treatment of this subject in his first letter to Timothy, Chapter 2, verses 1–8. An examination of this portion of Scripture reveals that the apostle’s statement is a glorious exposition of our general text.

I. The Attributes of Public prayer (1 Tim. 2:1)

1 Timothy 2:1 KJV 1900
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men” (1 Timothy 2:1).
Paul intends that public praying should be intelligent and all-embracing.
So he outlines the distinctives that should characterize any gathering for praise, prayer and worship.

A. There Are Supplications (v. 1a)

“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications … be made for all men” (1Tim. 2:1).
This is praying on the basis of the mercy of God.
A father may supplicate God for the recovery of his sick child, but the outcome rests entirely with the Father of mercies as to whether it is better to take or heal the child.
So we have many appeals to mercy throughout the Scriptures.
Think, for instance, of David when he cries, “Lord, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee”; and again: “But thou, O Lord, be merciful unto me, and raise me up” (Psalm 41:4, 10).
Psalm 41:4 KJV 1900
I said, Lord, be merciful unto me: Heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee.
Psalm 41:10 KJV 1900
But thou, O Lord, be merciful unto me, And raise me up, that I may requite them.
1. Amplify
… the concept of supplication, showing that supplication is the golden key that opens the wicket of mercy, and the slender nerve that moves the muscles of Omnipotence.

Proseuche is used of “prayer” in general; deesis stresses the sense of need; it is used sometimes of request from man to man.

B. There Are Prayers (v. 1b)

“I exhort therefore, that, first of all.… prayers … be made for all men” (1 Timothy 2:1).
This is praying on the basis of the promises of God.
Although this is a more general form of praying, it is an aspect of prayer which is seldom used nowadays.
People are too ignorant of the Bible to know what God has promised in His Word.
We are told that “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”
Often we stop there, in our reading of this passage, but the Bible goes on to say, “God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:9, 10).
1 Corinthians 2:9–10 KJV 1900
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
Then there is that great key verse to all the promises of God: “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
2 Corinthians 1:20 KJV 1900
For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.
Weymouth’s [commentary to his translation on this] makes that verse even more meaningful: “For all the promises of God have their ‘Yes’ in Him; and therefore through Him also we utter the ‘Amen’ to the glory of God.”
2. Amplify
… to show what an important part the Word of God and the Spirit of God play in the process of prayer (see John 15:7; Romans 8:26–27).
John 15:7 KJV 1900
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
Romans 8:26–27 KJV 1900
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

C. There Are Intercessions (v. 1c)

“I exhort therefore, that, first of all.… intercessions … be made for all men” (1 Timothy 2:1).
This is praying on the basis of the purposes of God.
It is the most intimate form of praying, a drawing near to God and an entering into free and familiar speech with Him.
3. Illustrate
… intercessory prayer by recounting and applying the story of Abraham interceding for Lot and his family (Genesis 18:23–33; note also Isaiah 59:16).
Isaiah 59:16 KJV 1900
And he saw that there was no man, And wondered that there was no intercessor: Therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; And his righteousness, it sustained him.

D. There Are Thanksgivings (v. 1d)

“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, … giving of thanks be made for all men (1Tim. 2:1).
This is praying on the basis of the goodness of God.
This characteristic ought never to be absent from our praying.
...Trench of prayer “will subsist in heaven when in the very nature of things all other forms of prayer will have ceased.”
We must always remember that thanking God in prayer is really trusting God in prayer.
4. Illustrate
… e.g. A Christian in great perplexity prayed but found no relief in prayer. Looking up from where he knelt his eve spotted a motto on the wall which read, “Try thanksgiving.” He did, and the Lord gave him peace and removed his anxiety. No one has truly prayed unless he can say, “Thank you, Lord.”

II. The Breadth of Public Prayer (1 Tim. 2:1-4)

1 Timothy 2:1–4 KJV 1900
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. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all me for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1Tim. 2:1–4).
Here we see both the subjects and objects of comprehensive praying.

A. The Objects of that Breadth in Praying (1 Tim. 2:1-2)

“all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority” (1Tim. 2:1-2).
This means all kinds and conditions of people are to be prayed for.
The task is not a simple or easy one, but it is clearly our Christian responsibility.
5. Illustrate
… e.g. In the second century, Polycarp of Smyrna bears testimony to this practice in the church. He says: “Pray for all the saints. Pray, too, for all kings and powers and rulers, and for your persecutors, and those that hate you, and for your cruel enemies.” Those words well sum up what is meant by “all men, kings, and all rulers.”

B. The Objectives of that Breadth in Praying (1 Tim. 2:3-4)

1. First, there is God’s pleasure in national righteousness.

We are to pray that “we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God” (1Tim. 2:2–3).
...Ellicott has written: “St. Paul knew whom he was addressing for the congregation of his day were largely Jews who were filled with and intense longing to throw off the Roman yoke. And yet, when the terrible events of a.d. 70 (only four or five years from the time of writing this letter) took place, it was found that no Christian was implicated in the fatal rebellion. Paul’s teaching had been so thorough that instead of rebelling, these Christians were praying”
Since that time, practically every century records a period when revolution has been turned into revival by the effectual fervent prayer of righteous men and women.

2. The second objective of comprehensive praying is God’s purpose in personal salvation.

God has ordained that through praying He “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1Tim. 2:4).
6. Illustrate
… Spurgeon on the secret of the power behind his preaching.
Foremost of all, Spurgeon was a man of God. The depth and breadth of his spirituality was profound. He quoted medieval mystics as well as John Law, John Wesley, and other spiritual giants of European Christianity. He was devoted to prayer. When people would walk through the Metropolitan Tabernacle (as New Park Street Church became known), Spurgeon would take them to a basement prayer room where people were always on their knees interceding for the church. Then the pastor would declare, “Here is the powerhouse of this church.” Devoted to the Scriptures, to disciplined prayer, and to godly living, Spurgeon exemplified Christian commitment when he stood in the pulpit. This itself gave power to his preaching. [Lewis A. Drummond, “The Secrets of Spurgeon’s Preaching,” Christian History Magazine-Issue 29: Charles Spurgeon: England’s “Prince of Preachers” (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, 1991).]
… e.g. Stephen Olford recounts that the more evangelistic work he does, the more he is convinced that what brings men face to face with eternal realities is not the preaching, but the praying. Preaching is certainly necessary. Indeed, God has seen fit to use the foolishness of preaching to save those that are lost.
But such preaching is powerless without praying. It is prayer alone that resists the power of Satan, releases the power of God, and reclaims the power of man.

III. The Prerequisites of Public Prayers (1 Tim. 2:8)

1 Timothy 2:8 KJV 1900
I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
“I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting (1Tim. 2:8).
Whether in private or in public, there are certain conditions which determine effectual praying; Paul makes it clear what those conditions are for you and for me.

A. The Prayer Life Must Be Without Defilement (v. 8a)

“Pray … lifting up holy hands” (1Tim. 2:8).
It was the Jewish practice not only in taking a solemn oath or in blessing others, but also in praying, to lift up the hands.
In such an attitude of prayer, however, the hands were to be holy; that is, unstained with deliberate sin.
7. Amplify
Psalm 23:3–5 KJV 1900
He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Psalm 26:6 KJV 1900
I will wash mine hands in innocency: So will I compass thine altar, O Lord:

B. The Prayer Life Must Be Without Indignation (v. 8b)

“Pray … without wrath” (1Tim. 2:8).
Bitterness toward God, or an unforgiving spirit toward your brother or sister, is the undoing of prayer.
The Psalmist reminds us: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psalm 66:18).
Psalm 66:18 KJV 1900
If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear me:
8. Amplify
… to show the need of reconciliation and forgivingness (Matthew 5:21–26; 6:9–15).
Matthew 5:21–26 KJV 1900
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
Matthew 6:9–15 KJV 1900
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

C. The Prayer Life Must Be Without Doubting (or Disputing) (v. 8c)

“Pray … without … doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8).
James tells us that prayer must be in faith, nothing wavering.
The will of God, or the power of God, or the Word of God, must not be disputed.
“He that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed” (James 1:6).
James 1:6 KJV 1900
But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
Such faith not only rests in the will of God, but turns promises into prophecies, which, in God’s time, become performances.
9. Illustrate
… e.g. C. H. Spurgeon tells the story: The, other evening I was riding home after a heavy day’s work. I felt very wearied and sore depressed, when swiftly, suddenly as a lightning flash, that, text came to me, “My grace is sufficient for thee. I reached home and looked it up in the original, and suddenly it came to, me in this way: “My grace is sufficient for thee,’ and I said, “I should think it is, Lord,” and I burst out laughing. I never fully understood the holy laughter of Abraham until then. It seemed to make unbelief so absurd. O brethren, be great believers! Little faith will bring your souls to heaven but great faith will bring heaven to your ‘souls.

Conclusion

Here, then, are the conditions, the breadth, and the attributes of public praying.
To neglect such praying is not only a sin against our own souls and those of our fellow men, but against God.
Samuel recognized the great responsibility involved when he declared, “As for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you” (1 Samuel 12:23).
1 Samuel 12:23 KJV 1900
Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way:
[Outline Adapted From: Stephen F. Olford, Institutes of Biblical Preaching, Volume One (Memphis, TN: Olford Ministries International, 1980).]
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