7th Sunday after Pentecost
July 19, 2020
1 Timothy 2:1-7
Are you sitting there thinking: ”Not another sermon on prayer!” I wouldn’t blame you if you were. You know you should pray, you think prayer is beneficial, and many of you spend significant time in prayer or meditation. Are you thinking “been there, done that.” Over the years how many sermons have you heard on prayer? Is there anything new I can tell you about prayer? William P. Matthews began his commentary on this lectionary reading of 1Timothy with the following:
Good grief! Not another sermon on prayer! Last year, preacher, in your nine-part series on the Lord’s Prayer, you examined prayer from every angle and said that Jesus’ word on the subject is the best word. Now, these words to Timothy. Tell me, at least, that this is not going to be a series!
Well I don’t know if this sermon will shed new light on prayer but maybe something I say will spark a new enthusiasm for prayer and maybe, just maybe you might hear a challenge that would enrich your life—to lead a contemplative prayerful life.
In Timothy’s time, Christians were being persecuted for preaching “the new revelation of God in Christ Jesus. ” Neither Jews nor Gentiles accepted them. An easy decision for them would have been to retreat from society in order to live a “quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity” (v. 2). Instead they chose to engage fully in the world. Why? to preach God’s radical desire for wholeness for everyone.
There are no “how to-s” given to Timothy. The writer seems aware that Timothy has received a great deal of how to-s in the past. Therefore, he goes right to the heart of the matter. Pray for everyone! Prayer pleases God! Remember the Nike commercial that said, “just do it?” Well, that is what the writer is telling Timothy—just pray.
That seems easy. We pray for each other, members of our family and friends, our community, our country and its leaders, and perhaps our environment. Yet, the advice, from the writer of 1 Timothy, is for Timothy’s community to pray for all. “This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (vv. 3-4). Thousands of years later the writer is speaking to us also.
Here is the challenging part. To pray for everyone calls us to come face to face with what it means to do God’s will—God’s yearning for salvation for all. Praying for all challenges us to be open to and accepting of the “other” in radically different ways. The God of 1 Timothy calls us out of our comfort zones and to be conduits for God’s love for all God’s children.
Some examples of what is expected of us within our faith community:
Democrats praying for Republicans and vice versa
Conservatives praying for liberals and vice versa
Those who find change in the church upsetting praying for those who are thinking outside the box
It must be acknowledged that there are some who have been harmed and are unable to forgive such hurts never mind being able to pray for those who hurt them. But that does not excuse them from praying for others. In time transformation will happen and God’s grace will open their hearts—they will be made whole.
Praying for the differences among us can lead us to love one another in deeper ways as we see each of us as a person of value to God.
So far not so difficult but here are more examples outside our faith community:
Pray for those who are radically different than you and who might even frighten you.
Pray for the rapist, the terrorist, the murderer.
Pray for the bully, the abuser, the thief.
Pray for the drug dealers.
Pray for the dictators.
Pray for the families of these people.
If we pray as God calls us to do, if we pray with our whole hearts for salvation of all we will be come to see that person as a child of God, a person sought after by God, a person created in God’s own image, a person who God desires to restore to wholeness. Our prayers will transform us.
There is one more important ingredient for praying—gratitude. “Timothy, most of all pray with gratitude for everyone.” We too must have an attitude of gratitude in our prayers for everyone.
“John Buchanan once wrote, in the Christian Century, a tribute to the Russian Mstislav Rostropovich who was a cellist and conductor. He was considered one of the greatest cellists of the 20th century. Buchanan admired Rostropovich’s courage. In 1970 Rostropovich expressed his support for artistic freedom and human rights in a letter to Pravda, the state-run newspaper of the Soviet Union. In response, the Soviets stripped him and his wife of citizenship.
Buchanan saw Rostropovich play a Dvorak cello concerto in Chicago. As the last note faded, the audience sat mesmerized. Rostropovich did an extraordinary thing: he stood up and kissed his cello, the audience erupted. Then he hugged and kissed the surprised conductor. Then he hugged and kissed the entire cello section before moving on to the violins. He hugged and kissed most of the orchestra” (FTW, vol. 4. pg. 91).
Gratitude! What would life be like if we prayed like that. If we prayed with our whole heart in gratitude, might our prayerful life better reflect the image of Christ?
For a prayerful life:
Just do it.
Pray for everyone.