Shaped Through Prayer

1 Timothy 2:1-7

by Laurie Chandler

September 22, 2013

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, 2for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. 3This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, 6who gave himself a ransom for all?this was attested at the right time. 7For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

Ken?s sermon last week was entitled Shaped to Serve.? Building on the story of the potter creating a vessel, or God shaping our lives through grace, we looked at our call to serve.? Logically, then, this week?s message could have been called Shaped to Pray.? Shaped by God, then Shaped to Serve, then Shaped to Pray?it has a good rhythm. ?But it is my hope that we can go even further this morning.? Not just talk about being called TO pray, but how we can be changed THROUGH prayer.

Our scripture this morning comes again from 1 Timothy, a letter from Paul to Timothy, from a mentor to a young pastor, teaching and encouraging him in his work and his personal faith.? In this passage, Paul addresses prayer with some very concrete instructions.? As we will see, we are supposed to pray and are given some good guidance on how to do so.? And when we answer Paul?s call to pray, I believe, we will be changed, shaped, and turn out a little differently.

In the first verse, Paul uses four Greek words for prayer, rather than simply saying I urge you to pray.? The first, ?deesis,? is translated here as supplication.? It can also mean a request.? This Greek word was not strictly a religious word, but was also used in everyday matters.? Perhaps you?re baking cookies, and realize you are short one egg.? Next door you go to borrow one from your neighbor?that?s deesis.? But underlying your journey for the egg or a prayer of supplication, is a sense of need.? We pray to God at times out of a sense of need, requesting help with something we cannot solve by ourselves.? Often, it is fairly easy to pour out our hearts to God from a sense of need because we feel the urgency.

The next Greek word, ?proseuche?, translates simply as prayer.? It was always a religious word.? Paul could have chosen to use just this word, but he didn?t.? I believe he meant for us to pray in different ways and for different purposes.? He was reminding Timothy and us that there are many reasons to talk with God.? When I think of prayer, just like in our children?s message, I think of a conversation.? We should listen as well as speak.? Perhaps we ask for forgiveness and feel an inner reassurance, a greater peace as a result of our conversation with God.? Perhaps it is guidance we seek.? After explaining it all to God, suddenly our path seems clearer or another solution comes to mind.

?Enteuxis? is next, translated here as intercession, but in other translations as a petition.? Here we have the Greek word that was used when someone entered a king?s presence to submit a petition to him ? a ?royal request? if you will.? I like this thought, most of all because it reminds me of the power that is God?s.? Our God is powerful!? Zephaniah 3:17 says, ?The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.? He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.?? Just a beautiful verse, but do we believe it, that God is indeed ?mighty to save??

Last comes a lovely word, ?eucharistia,? translated thanksgiving.? These are our prayers of thanks, our naming of blessings, the time when we praise God for all that he has given us.? Think of Thanksgiving dinner, when you might go around the table as each person names something for which he or she is thankful.? Or the psalms, which praise God so eloquently for the gifts he has given us.

So, let?s review?at times we pray from a sense of need, we listen for God, we call upon God?s almighty power, and we never forget to give thanks.

So Paul begins by saying, ?First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone.?? Wait a minute!? Not only are we to pray all these things for ourselves and our lives, but for others.? And not just for our family, our friends, our church, those on our prayer list or those we sympathize with, but for EVERYONE.? Later in verse 4, Paul goes on to say that God ?desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.?? This is huge.? God?s word, God?s shaping, the life-changing hands of the potter are for everyone.? Here we see God?s plan for humankind?that everyone be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. ?And we have a part to play in this plan, through prayer.

To prove his point, that we should truly pray for EVERYONE, look at the example that Paul gives. ?In verse 2 he continues, ??for kings and all who are in high positions.? ?In the early church, this would have included your worst enemies, those who persecute you, sabotage your work, imprison you, and endanger your life.? And yet, even those people are included.? Those people, in fact, are specifically mentioned. ??In Matthew 5:44, Jesus told us the same thing when he said, ?But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.?

Continuing in verse 2, Paul tells us why we should do this difficult task??so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.?? Here is one place where we can be changed through prayer.? Pray those difficult prayers to find resolution and also to find inner quiet and peace.? It?s kind of like talking something over with a good friend.? You always feel better afterward.

How does this work?? What changes in us when we begin to pray for challenging people and situations?? First, there is good evidence that there are positive changes in a part of the brain that regulates emotion, called the amygdala.? Prayer and compassion meditation have been shown to decrease depression and increase empathy for others.? God promises it and science demonstrates it.? And let?s return for a moment to our Call to Worship and the passage from Ezekiel.? It?s Ezekiel 36:26 if you?re taking notes.? ?I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.?? I know there have been times in my life when I needed to have a change of heart just like that.? God uses our prayer time to change our hearts, to replace hard hearts with softer ones.

As you might imagine, I have spent a lot of time this week thinking about prayer and how it might change me.? And into the midst of all this thinking came a great chance to try it out.? Someone wrote to me about an issue that was definitely beyond my control.? You know the type of note?with underlining and capital letters for emphasis!? My first response was simply hurt feelings.? At first I didn?t think about practicing what I?m preaching!

But once the thought of praying did pop into my head and I found some of that ?Aaah, quiet? time, I decided to see if all four kinds of prayers could be lifted up to God for this situation.? First I made a request.? God, please let me have an opportunity to talk calmly with this person and say what I want to say kindly.? (Which I later did have the opportunity to do).? Then I listened for an answer, remembering God?s mighty power and asking for peace to replace my hurt feelings.

Last came the thanksgiving prayer?finding the blessings? and I found this the most helpful.? Putting myself in the other person?s shoes, I saw quickly why this issue had provoked such strong emotions.?? Those words had been written for reasons that were all good?love and concern and hope were at the heart of the issue.? ?Most of all, this process showed me that this small conflict in my life was not even about me, and the hurt began to fade.? Of course, each situation is different?some challenges certainly do involve us and will not resolve themselves so simply.? But prayer brings a different perspective, allows us to see how God can work for good in the difficult places in life.

In my reading, I found a little story by Dr. David Abbott, that spoke to me, of course, because it was about a boat.? Picture yourself in a boat, tossing a line to shore.? A friend makes the line fast, and you begin to pull.? When you do this, you don?t pull the shore toward you, you pull your boat to shore.? So it is with prayer.? When you pull on the rope connecting you to God, you don?t pull God to your way of looking at things.? You pull yourself to God?s way of looking at things.? You align yourself with God?s plan for your thoughts and actions.? And God?s way of responding is often healthier.

?But what if I have trouble praying?? you may ask.? The last verse we will look at is verse 5, which reads, ?For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human.?? When we have trouble finding the words to pray, Jesus will be there to help.? Paul reminds us here that Jesus is human, as well as divine, that he appreciates what we are going through.? And although God?s word assures us that God has searched us and known us and understands what is in our hearts, we still need to have the conversation.? It is through the process of prayer that we will be shaped and changed.? Your good friend may know that something is troubling you, even what it is, but you still need to have that heart to heart chat.

This morning, I would encourage you to think of something in your life that needs the life-changing power of prayer.? It may be big, it may be small, it could be anything. ??Remember the letters of the word T-A-L-K.? Take time to pray about it, in a quiet place and with a quiet heart, listen for God, and keep thinking of others and you will probably find thanksgiving in there, too.? And may Jesus Christ our mediator guide you into places of prayer that are truly life-changing.? Amen.