Friday, 16 September 2016

Public Prayer Timothy 2:1-7

Timothy was one of Paul’s closest co-workers and friends; we know this because they sent letters jointly to churches and at the end of his life Paul called Timothy to his side. We are privileged to have this letter where Paul is giving instructions to the young Timothy on how to manage the church at Ephesus. Paul is beginning to realise that he is not going travel there again and he wants to give Timothy all the help he can. Now we all know how difficult it is to pass on advice to young successors [I wonder what David’s notes to Teresa contained?]

So Paul goes for the overarching, the most important thing: “First of all,” before anything else he speaks about prayer. It is clear and obvious that every church is a worshiping fellowship but sometimes the thing that is under our noses is the very    thing we overlook. William Temple a past archbishop of Canterbury said,

“The most effective thing the Church in Christ can do in the world
is to lift up their heart in adoration to God.”

When we think of the times in which he lived, from 1881 to 1944, so through two world wars, when there was so much practical work for all in including the churches to do that he identifies prayer as the most effective activity of the church speaks volumes.

Paul’s words are very strong, “I urge you,” he says “that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for everyone,” and here he is speaking about public prayer. These prayers are for others and their purpose is less the benefit to the interior life of the person praying and more the outworking of prayer in the world. Paul says we do this “so we may live a quiet and peaceable life.” Prayer and I mean the interconnected fabric of praying souls, reaches a realm beyond our understanding. I remember as just one example when our archdeacon came home from a long spell in hospital that he spoke movingly about how he had felt spiritually and physically buoyed up by all the prayers that he knew were being said in the churches of the archdeaconry Sunday by Sunday. 

I often think of how supportive it feels to know that the readings at morning and evening worship are shared (via the lectionary) across the world; my friends and yours are hearing and pondering the same lessons and Gospels that we are, they are being inspired, puzzled and praying through the same ideas.

Since William Temple’s time the perceived idea that religion is something one does in private has gained ever stronger footholds with public prayer in schools in council chambers and even as part of a church advertisement in cinemas coming under sustained attack. Modern men and women deem it an affront but Paul did not know our strange world. For him it was natural, a reflex, to pray for all and he specifically mentions kings and people in high positions because by doing that, together, outwardly with integrity it would be acceptable to God and God would work his purposes out.

Also the kings, queens prime ministers, presidents and leaders of the world would hear the prayers of the people. So from the Book of Common Prayer for years said in every church in the land every Sunday:

“We beseech thee to save and defend all (Christian) kings, princes, governors, and especially Elizabeth our queen that under her we may be godly and quietly governed.”

Let us remember Paul’s first words of advice and seek to follow them faithfully committing all we do and everyone in our prayers.          

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