STUDY 2: EXIGENCIES.. WHY PRAYER SOMETIMES DOESN'T SEEM TO WORK
At the conclusion of my introductory remarks last time, I left you with a passage of scripture (I Timothy 2:1-4) along with questions about the words it contained about the topic of prayer. Prayer is such a vital part of the believer's life, it's no surprise that this word is referred to over 120 times in the New Testament alone. Well, since there so many wonderful verses to choose from, why would I select only one in particular to begin our study? Quite simply because it directly relates to the purpose of this series: to intercede for "those in authority".
With the recent U.S. Presidential election still fresh in our minds, especially if you consider the results an answer to prayer, then we now have even more prayer work than ever still ahead of us. Over the next two months, the President-elect will be making crucial decisions on policy, cabinet members, appointments and the new course his administration will set for the country's future. Eventually, this will include judicial nominations and congressional approval of candidates to the country's moral compass: the Supreme Court.
This presents an unprecedented opportunity for us to play a significant role in the whole process through daily prayer. Intercession, along with its implied exigencies, is the powerful tool which we can use to help shape our nation's course and vision for the future. That sounds pretty simple, doesn't it? Well, before you answer, take a closer look the phrase: implied exigencies. This simply means that the act of biblical prayer carries with it several intrinsic requirements or conditions which must be satisfied before the hand of God will move in answer. So if we expect our prayers for "those in authority" to have any real effect, we need to understand what those requirements are. To find them, thankfully, we don't have to look any further than our selected passage for today: I Timothy 2:1-4.
As I prepare these brief studies, I always wonder how effective they are for each reader. So, just to keep things interesting, I'm going to present the next couple of studies in different formats to see which are the most helpful. This page today, will introduce you to a Word Study of our selected Scriptures. Next time we'll look at the topic of prayer in Comparative Study, ending the series with a Contextual approach. Each of these styles will take us into a better understanding of the Word but from different perspectives. But before we move ahead with our inquiry of the "who, what, when, why, where" of prayer, I'll make mention again of the links you'll find in each of these studies. As you read through this page, you'll find occasional underlined links which will take you to a related page for further details on the topic at hand.
WORD STUDY: So today, we'll take you on a short journey through two verses of Scripture by means of a Word Study. By that I mean, we'll spend most of our time looking into the deeper meaning of key words in these verses. So let's begin by taking these verses apart, word by word, to uncover what the Apostle Paul was teaching Timothy in this instructive letter . First, read through the passage, either using your own Bible or the King James version below.
I Timothy 2:1-4... "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. "
Normally, if I were teaching a Bible study or preaching on these verses, I'd take a few moments to give you some background on the first three words: "I exhort therefore..." That's a whole sermon in itself. However, to keep our study on point, I'll just remind you that "I" refers to the Apostle Paul who, on this occasion, is writing to his spiritual protege in the faith, a young man named Timothy. As part of Paul's charge to this young minister (see I Tim.1:18) Paul instructs him to "first of all" (most important of all) practice four important actions:
1) supplication, 2) prayer, 3) intercession and 4) giving of thanks for everyone (all men) in general and the country's leadership (those in authority) in particular. Now, one of the questions I left you with last time was: What's the difference between "supplication, prayer, intercession and giving of thanks"? That's exactly the question we'll try to answer today. We often use these words interchangeably but, in fact, each one has a unique meaning which helps us better understand the full meaning of prayer.
WHAT IS PRAYER TO YOU? If we were sitting right now in a home Bible study and I asked you to define the biblical word "prayer", what would you say? I think your answer would likely center around the idea of asking God for some kind of favor. In our own prayer group, for example, we are asking God to bless our Nation, guide our leaders, give wisdom to those in authority, keep us safe, stop the tide of ungodliness that has crept into our society and turn our country back to the "Faith of our Fathers". Right?
Well, actually the answer is "yes".... and "no"! Let me explain. If asking God for all those things is all that we're doing in prayer, then we're omitting the key to getting those prayers answered. "And what", you ask, "is that?" Read on and find out.
First of all, as you read each of the numbered sections below, you'll see the word we're going to study written in capital letters, followed by an English spelling of the Greek word. Then comes a definition of the original root meaning of the word along with a few synonyms. Now let's get to it!
1. SUPPLICATIONS: (gr: deesis ) in New Testament Greek it means; "to be in want, lack; praying for a specific, felt need") – heart-felt petition, stemming from a deep personal need, lack or want that is urgent.
So then, supplication is the first of these four actions Paul shows us in verse 1. In English, we often associate this word with "needy prayer" or a "impassioned request". In the original language, it meant a petition to our heavenly Father based on a felt need coming from a deep personal need or wish. It implies a seeking, asking, entreating by a request addressed to God, imploring His help in some way. It reminds us of a child, in complete dependence and trust, asking a need or desire be met by a loving parent.
How wonderfully intimate it is to picture the family relationship we have with an almighty Heavenly Father. We come to Him in our human frailty, sharing the deepest, most intimate needs of our hearts. So, as we join together in prayer for our President-elect and "those in authority", it's important we give thought to what those needs might be... both theirs and ours. Thus, praying for "those in authority" is much more than just saying, "God bless our President". We must take some time to identify with the human being occupying these positions of leadership and ask God to help you understand what their needs might be. Then take their needs to Him in prayer with heart felt love and compassion. You may or may not like the newly elected President but you are commanded to love and pray for him never-the-less!
2. PRAYERS: (gr: proseuch) Literally, a synagogue, prayer addressed to God, a place set apart or suited for the offering of prayer.
The second word is prayers. This is the most common word translated "prayer" in the New Testament, occurring over 120 times. Like many other interesting Greek words, it's a compound of the words "pros" and "euche". The "pros" part means toward or leaning forward and suggests a sense of confidence and closeness. We use this prefix frequently in English to indicate that we are leaning in favor of something as in "pro-life". But in Scriptures, it takes on a deeper meaning.
For example, "pros" is the word used to portray the closeness of an intimate relationship. This is seen in John 1:1, as the word "pros" is used to describe the intimacy between Christ and the Heavenly Father. When we read: "the Word was with God", realize that the word "with" is taken from the word "pros". A more accurate translation might be, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was face to face with God.…"
So, as Paul uses it in this verse, it carries a deeper meaning by portraying prayer as an intimate exchange with God which, through the intermediacy of Christ, we come face-to-face with our Heavenly Father. From this perspective of the word prayer, we move from the idea of a one way conversation with God to a two-way, face-to-face intimacy with Him. It's no longer the believer who is doing all the asking and God who is doing all the answering. Prayer is meant to affect both parties involved. It's true that prayer changes things... and that includes US. If this element of prayer has, to date, been lacking in your life, then you have yet to experience the wondrous process of renewal promised to those who come face to face with Him in prayer.
The second part of the word (euch), is a tricky one to understand, so bear with me. This is an ancient Greek word often used in pagan religions, and as such, it was used to describe a wish or desire. When you put the two words together, it means "telling God what you desire face to face". But it also carried with it the idea of "making a vow to sacrifice something of great value to God in return for an answer to prayer."
This sounds very much like striking a "bargain" with God to persuade Him to answer our petition, doesn't it? But that is not the meaning as used in this verse. Instead, as it appears in Scripture, this word builds on the concept of "sacrifice" and "vows", but in a new and powerful way. As found in this particular passage, the word now conjures up the picture of an individual who desires so intensely to see his prayer answered that he was willing to sacrifice of himself to see it answered. In other words, it includes the willingness to get personally involved both in the asking part as well as the answer to that prayer. So, in New Testament usage, it embodies the concept of "sacrifice" and "vows" but in the sense that the believer's life is willingly placed on the altar of sacrifice and yielded entirely to God. This is part of the Christian's growth process as God brings us, in prayer, to a place of consecration where we meet with Him face to face and surrender every area of our lives to Him. (see Romans 12:1-2)
3. INTERCESSIONS: (gr: enteuxis) Definition: means to "hits the mark", from the root "to hit the bulls-eye". It is used in classical Greek as an antonym to the word for sin (harmartia; which means "to miss the mark"). This presents us with a unique view of biblical intercession: the act of waiting on the Lord to learn His Will on the matter, to pray "spot on" in accord with His purpose. This is reminiscent of Christ's prayer in Gethsemane, " if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." Stop and consider how futile it would be to pray for something or someone contrary to God's purpose and will. Conversely, how efficacious it is to pray in accord with His wishes, plans and purposes in the lives of "all men".
Of course, this raises a question; "How to we discover the will of God so we can intercede accordingly? Not surprisingly, the Apostle Paul addresses that very question too, but not in this passage. Let's look again at Romans 12:1-2: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. and be not conformed to this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect Will of God".
In contrast to the Old Testament practice of sacrificing animals on the altar of consecration, Paul shows us that the sacrifice God's wants from us is the willing presentation of ourselves on the altar of consecration. Such a sacrifice is not only a reasonable thing for us to do, but also a necessary step in discovering what is that "good, acceptable and perfect will of God". So then, after drawing near to God and agreeing with His revealed will, true intercession seeks to pray accordingly with a willingness to carry out His will as He leads.
GIVING OF THANKS: I'm going to stop here and let you digest today's study before moving on with this final action.
Next time we'll do a Comparative Study as we learn "The Missing Piece of Peace"