Deep within the subculture of the churches of the First Century, where the apostle Paul had thrust Timothy, laid some misconceptions about worship; much like there may be in some of our churches today. (It’s our human nature to wander from God’s intended purpose for worship.)
Timothy is instructed:
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone.”
~1 Timothy 2:1 (NRSV)
Paul tells Timothy, that, in supervising the churches, there must be a focus, first-of-all, on a God-centred worship—more appropriately, Christ-centred (see 1 Timothy 2:5). Corinth wasn’t the only place getting worship wrong. The churches Timothy was superintending struggled, too, in centring their worship on God.
That’s the value of prayer. It’s much harder to pray not focusing on God than it is to do other church-related things, some of which are easily done without a focus on the Lord.
Praying For Everyone
The body of believers that seriously attests to pray, taking God at his Word, believing upon the name of Jesus Christ and praying faithfully, is a blessed body of believers. More than that, they put themselves, as Paul puts it, in a position of life that’s quiet and peaceable in all godliness and dignity (1 Timothy 2:2). These features of the quiet, peaceable, godly, and dignified life are a personal and interpersonal blessing.
The church that masters prayer, keeping it genuinely central within their worship (which is beyond a Sunday-thing), is the church that finds themselves right and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour (1 Timothy 2:3).
Not all churches can claim this. Some run hot on evangelism; others on a worshipful experience; others again hone in on discipleship. All these are important, but without prayer as the centre of all things, the worship falls flat. All church activities ought to be worshipful.
And worship is about God; nothing else.
Paul’s very point is when prayer—via pleas, drawing near to God, intercessions and thanksgiving—is given first-of-all precedence, God is pleased and the church is blessed. And the outworking of that blessing is less dissension, bickering, and indifference within the church and the people’s devotion is both godly and dignified.
Praying for everyone and everything that God lays on our consciences to pray about is filling the relational void. It’s taking our somewhat empty focus and placing it on our perfect God, rather than fixing our judgments on imperfect people. And in that God teaches us grace.
Prayer fills the God-shaped hole in our hearts. It completes our focus, because the Lord is first-and-most-of-all. Prayer, therefore, is the centre of worship. Through prayer we learn grace.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.