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The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know.... He wants not only us but everyone saved, you know, everyone to get to know the truth we've learned: that there's one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us -- Jesus, who offered himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free. Eventually the news is going to get out. This and this only has been my appointed work: getting this news to those who have never heard of God, and explaining how it works by simple faith and plain truth. Since prayer is at the bottom of all this, what I want mostly is for men to pray -- not shaking angry fists at enemies but raising holy hands to God.
According to 1 Timothy 2, there are 5 things that have to be in place in order for your prayers to make an impact in those lives.
First, you must maintain the right priority. Verse 1 says, "The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know...."
There's an old saying among prayer giants: "There are a lot of things you should do after you've prayed; there's not a thing you can do until you've prayed." There are many things that can and should be done after you've begun praying for your lost acquaintances, but there's not a thing you can do until you've begun praying for them.
Second, you must have the right perspective. Verse 4 goes on to say, "He wants not only us but everyone saved, you know, everyone to get to know the truth we've learned."
Note two words. First, note the word "saved." That is the perspective the Bible provides on our greatest need -- we need to be "saved." People choke on that word today, even in church. To say that people need to be saved implies that people who have not received Christ are lost, and that makes some of us uncomfortable. We'd much rather say that they're on their own spiritual path, and all roads ultimately lead to God, and each world religion is just another way of looking at God, and our friends are "spiritual in their own way." I've heard all those statements. Could it be that you've never prayed for those you know at work or in your family because you no longer believe that people without Christ are in trouble and need to be rescued?
Now, note that word "everyone" -- God wants "everyone saved." Isn't it refreshing to read in Scripture that God wants everyone saved? We have to admit that we are indifferent toward some of people around us -- in fact, we have to admit that sometimes we're indifferent toward all of the people around us. But not God. Rest assured that the moment you start praying for lost people, God will bend down toward you with intense interest in what you have to say.
Third, you must know the right solution. Once you have the right perspective that those around you without Christ are lost, you need to have the right answer to their problem. Verses 5 and 6 say, "There's one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us -- Jesus, who offered himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free."
The cross was God's way of laying a bridge across that deep ditch of sin separating us from God. Christ offered himself in exchange for us, he put himself in our place and took on the penalty we deserved for the ways we've rebelled against God. When you bow in prayer for lost people, it should be with the hope and the expectation that those you know will come to the same conclusions about the cross that you have come to. You need to know the right solution.
Fourth, you must hold to the right hope. The passage in 1 Timothy 2 continues: "Eventually the news is going to get out. This and this only has been my appointed work: getting this news to those who have never heard of God, and explaining how it works by simple faith and plain truth."
Literally verse 6 ends with the assurance that the story of the cross will be "testified in the right time." I like the way Eugene Peterson translates that phrase: "Eventually the news is going to get out." Isn't that a great phrase! Only those who really believe that and expect that and anticipate that are those who will see any impact from their prayers. Each time we end our prayer and get into the business of life, we should look for the ways God is responding to our prayer, drawing the people we've prayed for into a relationship with him.
Fifth, you must be the right person. The Scripture section concludes with this word: "Since prayer is at the bottom of all this, what I want mostly is for men to pray -- not shaking angry fists at enemies but raising holy hands to God."
It's interesting that he says he wants men to pray. In the text, the word "mostly" is connected with the word "men," not the word "pray." In other words, you don't read it, "What I want mostly is for men to pray," but you read it, "What I want mostly is for men to pray."
The Bible does not limit the work of prayer to men, of course. Notice the characteristics we all ought to have in prayer. First, he says the hands we lift up to God in prayer should be holy hands. In other words, our relationship to God should be right. Second, he turns from our relationship with God to our relationship with each other and says our hands should be united hands if we want effective prayers. He says when we pray we should be free from anger and resentment.
So, make a list of the lost people you know and then ask...
Do I have the right priority? Am I really committed to and dependent on prayer?
Do I have the right perspective? Do I really believe people without Christ are lost? Do I really believe that God wants everyone to hear the good news?
Do I have the right solution? Do I really believe the cross is the only bridge that unites us to God?
Do I have the right hope? Do I look expectantly for my prayer to be answered?
Am I the right person? In my relationship to you, Lord, and in my relationship to others, do I have anything that could hinder my prayers?
LeaderLines is a weekly "e-briefing" providing valuable information and inspiration to those who serve at Hillcrest Baptist Church.