After initial greetings to Timothy, warnings against false teachers, a summary of the Gospel, and admonitions to remain faithful, Paul writes “first of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…” (1 Tim. 2:1). These directions are not for Timothy alone, but for the congregations and ministers under his care (1 Tim. 3:14; 1 Tim. 4:13). Paul desires these sorts of prayers “in every place” (1 Tim. 2:8).
“Supplications” and “prayer” are paired together throughout the New Testament (Eph. 6:18; Phil 4:6; 1 Tim. 5:5; Heb. 5:7). They are the most general terms for addressing God. In Ephesians 6:18 and Philippians 4:6, prayer and supplication are tied to the idea that we ought not to be anxious. Our Heavenly Father promises to hear our prayers and give us what we need (Matt. 7:7-11). Worry accomplishes nothing (Matt. 6:25-34).
“Intercessions” are prayers to God on behalf of others. Our Lord Jesus intercedes for us before the Father (Rom. 8:37; Heb. 7:25). As priests, all Christians are to follow Christ in praying for “all men” with all manner of prayers (1 Peter 2:5-9).
It is only proper that in addition to requesting things from God, we also return thanks to him for his blessings.
These various prayers are to be made for “kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceable and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (1 Tim. 2:2). The ruler is “God’s servant for your good” who “carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” (Rom. 13:4). Our God is a God of law and order. He puts food on our table through a variety of means, not the least of which is through the rule of law and a well ordered society. Rulers—even bad rulers, even rulers we might not like—do the Lord’s work and bring us great blessings.
Secular power, the use of force, and worldly laws are servants to peace. But peace is not an end in itself. A peaceful and quiet life is not to be squandered on indulgence. Rather, the pilgrimage of the Christian this side of heaven is to be “godly and dignified in every way.” (1 Tim. 2:3). The freedom of the Christian is not the illusory “freedom” of the anarchist or the libertine. Rather, the Christian is liberated from the dead-end of selfish indulgence in order to pursue that which is pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise (Phil. 4:8). We who believe in God are to “devote ourselves to good works” which are “profitable for people.” (Titus 3:8).
Peace and good order on this earth serve yet an even greater purpose—and eternal purpose. Through worldly rulers, God maintain peace so that we may lead a quiet life—so that we can hear the Gospel. “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:3). Just as women are to “learn quietly with all submissiveness” (1 Tim. 2:11) so the church, the Bride of Christ, humbly submits to Jesus, listening to his teaching at his feet.
On Thanksgiving Day, we remember God’s blessings, which are too many to count. Let us strive to be content with—and even more, thankful for—our allotment in life, for “godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” (1 Tim. 6:6-7). We should continue in various types of prayer to Our Father in Heaven. Most especially, we should remember our Mediator, “who gave himself as a ransom for all” (I Tim. 2:6), and let our gratitude overflow in thanksgiving for God’s grace.