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Pray for Others to be Enlightened – 09/22/13

I Timothy 2:1-8 (GW)   First of all, I encourage you to make petitions, prayers, intercessions, and prayers of thanks for all people, for rulers, and for everyone who has authority over us.  Pray for these people so that we can have a quiet and peaceful life always lived in a godly and reverent way.  This is good and pleases God our Savior.  He wants all people to be saved and to learn the truth.  There is one God.  There is also one mediator between God and humans – a human, Christ Jesus.  He sacrificed Himself for all people to free them from their sins.  This message is valid for every era.  I was appointed to spread this Good News and to be an apostle to teach people who are not Jewish about faith and truth.  I am telling you the truth.  I am not lying.

I want men to offer prayers everywhere.  They should raise their hands in prayer after putting aside their anger and any quarrels they have with anyone.

When we think about what is going on in the world, sometimes we may wonder how long the world will continue in its present state.  Sometimes we might think we have already surpassed the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah and wonder if society could ever change the way it thinks and acts.  We might be tempted to throw up our hands in despair and say, “Oh Lord, how long will it be before You return?”  It sure seems that the world has become much more sinful in recent years than one can remember.  Part of that attitude is because we live in a society that is impatient and wants to see things done now or sooner.  We need to be reminded that the Lord has His own time according to His own plans.  From the passage for today we hear that God wants all people to be saved.  We also find in II Peter that (3:9) The Lord is not slow to do what He promised, as some people think.  Rather, He is patient for your sake.  He does not want to destroy anyone but wants all people to have an opportunity to turn to Him and change the way they think and act.  So the world goes on and the Lord patiently waits for more to come to repentance.  Because we know that God our Savior wants all people to be saved, He gives us direction and encouragement to be a part of God’s great saving plan.

Paul was writing today’s passage at a time when he was about to leave for a new mission area and was leaving his partner Timothy behind at Ephesus.  In giving advice and encouragement, Paul gave instructions about personal worship life to Timothy and to the congregation.  Paul said:  I encourage you to make petitions, prayers, intercessions, and prayers of thanks for all people.  He used 4 different words that have very close meanings.  Paul said pray, pray some more, and pray constantly.  The last word was to give prayers of thanks for everyone even: for rulers, and for everyone who has authority over us.  Prayer should be a part of every Christian’s life even to pray for those in authority.  At the time Paul wrote this Nero was the ruler in Rome.  If you remember Nero in history, he was the one who abused Christians brutally.  Paul said to pray even for him, praying that his heart may be changed.  God is able to do that.  This would benefit them.  If the unbeliever’s heart is changed, certainly life for the believer would be better able to be live in quietness, holiness, and godliness.  God is able to change the hearts of those who oppose Him.  Remember how God did this in Saul who became the missionary Paul.  Paul knowing that all things are possible for God encouraged Timothy and all believers to pray constantly for all people.  At the end of the passage Paul wrote: I want men to offer prayers everywhere.  They should raise their hands in prayer after putting aside their anger and any quarrels they have with anyone.  In the unity of the Christian faith we are to pray for everyone, even authorities and those oppose to the Gospel.

Sometimes we forget to pray for those who stand against us.  Sometimes we forget to pray for those who are enemies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The enemies stand all around opposed to what Christ has taught and said.  For example,we are to pray for those who are enslaved by the false teachings of Islam that strive for only one purpose.  That one purpose is to put to death everyone who does not follow Allah.  We have learned that in the terrorism that is around us today.  How sad it is for them, because they are uncertain about their future.  The Lord says we are to pray for them that their hearts would be changed, that they come to see the light in the knowledge of eternal salvation.  Matthew wrote what Jesus said: (5:44-45) … Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.  In this way you show that you are children of your Father in heaven.

Our Lord wants us to pray and pray some more, not just for people we know, but even for those we do not know, especially for those who stand opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Lord can change their hearts!  The Lord encourages us in prayer, because we realize our prayers are not offered in vain.  Our Lord encourages us in prayer, because He is anxious to hear us.  Our Lord encourages us to pray because He is ready to answer our prayers.  It is as the prophet Isaiah wrote: (65:24) Before they call, I will answer.  While they are still speaking, I will hear.  Imagine that!  He is unlike any other God.  He is God our Savior who wants all people to be saved.  He wants us to come to Him constantly in prayer.

As we come to our Savior constantly in prayer and we pray for those who oppose the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we can also pray for those who are already members of God’s Kingdom.  Pray for one another, He says, that you and I will be strengthened in the faith so that you and I would grow in the knowledge of salvation that we who are sinners who have been saved by God.  We have been saved by His grace.  It says in the letter to the Hebrews (3:13) Encourage each other every day while you have the opportunity.  If you do this, none of you will be deceived by sin and become stubborn.  Yes, we need to have encouragement and prayers daily, because the deceitfulness of sin can sneak up on each one of us.  Just like anyone else, as long as we are on this side of Heaven, we struggle with our earthly sinful nature.  We can fall into Satan’s snares of sin.  We can be tricked by the wickedness of the world.  We may even fall prey to the failings of our human desires.

All the more reason we are reminded of the blessed fact that God our Savior wants all people to be saved and we are to pray.  We are to pray for one another, pray for our enemies, and pray for ourselves.  In that way we are encouraged to take the next step – to proclaim God’s Word of truth.

Paul realized how many people were praying for him.  He admitted being among the worst of sinners.  He had been a great persecutor of believers in Jesus.  By the power of God he became a proclaimer of Jesus Christ.  God wanted all people to be saved.  Paul who was once against God was now one sent by God.  There were some who still doubted Paul was a true believer.  But he continued to teach the message of Jesus Christ.

What was that message?  It is a very simple message.  Paul explained: There is one God.  There is also one mediator between God and humans – a human, Christ Jesus.  Our sinful human nature separates us from God but there is one mediator between God and human beings who speaks on behalf of us sinful humans.  It is the Savior Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ gave Himself as the ransom for all people.  Jesus has paid the price so there is no more punishment required.  The judgment for sin was put on Christ rather than the sinner.  We are offered the gift of salvation through faith in what Jesus did.  That is the message you and I are able to proclaim, that Word of Truth which some refuse.  But it is still the truth.

It is easy for us today to say, “Yes, we can pray.  We can always do that.”  The Lord wants us to take our prayers seriously as we pray for encouragement to proclaim His word of truth.  Without hearing that message, there cannot be any believers.  Paul asked, (Romans 10:14) … how can people call on Him if they have not believed in Him?  How can they believe in Him if they have not heard His message?  How can they hear if no one tells the Good News?  It takes the Word of God proclaimed so people and hear, and faith comes by hearing, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.  Sometimes you and I forget that awesome grace God has shown us that He wants all people to be saved.  That is simply and purely by God’s grace.  God has saved us that we might pray for others.  God has saved us that we may proclaim His Word of Truth to others.

Again the world today, which demands instant gratification, does not always want to listen to our words.  We know someone who needs to hear the message, someone who needs to be encouraged.  But they are not always anxious to hear what God has to say.  What do we do?  Let them see our lives.  Often our actions preach a louder message than our words can ever say.

Let us be encouraged by what Paul wrote to the Colossians: (4:5-6)  Be wise in the way you act toward those who are outside the Christian faith.  Make the most of your opportunities.  Everything you say should be kind and well thought out so that you know how to answer everyone.  Now is the time we can proclaim our Savior with our words and actions.

As believers, we plant seed and God reaps the harvest.  We know how little control we have once that seed is planted in the ground.  We trust in the Lord to do the rest.  It is the same when we proclaim the message of Jesus Christ.  We proclaim it and then we trust God to do the rest, because we know when it come right down to it, not all people are saved.  Some in the hardness of their heart are always going to deny the Lord.  They choose for themselves the path of destruction.  It says in Ephesians 4:18  They cannot understand because they are in the dark.  They are excluded from the life that God approves of because of their ignorance and stubbornness.  In the example of Paul, his heart was hardened for long time until God by His grace brought him into the light of the knowledge of salvation.  The simple desire that God has is our simple mission in life.  God wants all people to be saved and to learn the truth.  In the truth of God’s Word of ourselves we are sinners.  But we are sinners saved by the ransom that Christ has paid.  It is something we ought to pray for constantly – to pray for other people to be enlightened.  Pray for the enemies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that God change their hearts to love Him.  Pray for other believers to remain strong in the Christian faith.  Pray for ourselves that we be encouraged to proclaim the Word of Truth.  Then we will pray for patience as the Lord is patient.

This is the joy of our earthly life.  These are the blessings we have realizing that there is so much more for this life than eating and drinking and making a living.  There is the joy of our eternal salvation.  When Simeon saw the baby Jesus brought into the temple, he realized that the Lord had kept His promise of salvation and proclaimed (Luke 2:30-32) My eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared for all people to see.  He is a light that will reveal salvation to the nations and bring glory to Your people Israel.”  He reminds us once again that the light of salvation is for believers and unbelievers.  God wants all people to be saved.  He encourages all Christians to pray constantly for all people.  He encourages us as Christians to proclaim that Word of truth so that all people can come to the knowledge of the truth that Christ has died for the sins of the whole world.

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