A weekish or so ago, I wrote some thoughts on some recent time spent in 1 Timothy and in particular 2:1-8. By far, my thinking on the passage has not subsided. The other day, in fact, 2:1 drew my mind in further. One translation of it reads:
So, then, this is my very first command: God’s people should make petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings on behalf of all people.
In this verse, Paul mentioned four particular types of prayers, and commentators and lexicons abound with ideas about the differences between the first three terms. Despite those best efforts, I think a good paraphrase of Paul’s main point would simply be: pray, pray, pray, and pray some more for all people in all sorts of ways.
It is straightforward, but it is also quite a daunting task. Pray and keep praying for all people.
That’s a lot of people. Well over seven billion at the present moment. It’s daunting, but do we expect any less from the same apostle who told us to pray without ceasing?
Obviously we are not meant to live in a state of 24-7 head bowed and eyes closed while off in a prayer closet by ourselves. We have to work, eat, raise families, and play. Yet, all of it is to be done in constant communion and fellowship with God. So how do we do this practically? There are several ways, of course, but I thought I would present as a challenge to any who want to give a whirl: pray as you go. I’ll explain more about this below.
Before that, just a quick list of things we can pray about (partially taken from this verse and partially taken from the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6)…:
- Pray in thankfulness for the impact they have had on your life
- Pray that they might better and more faithfully know God, follow Jesus, and live by the Spirit
- Pray that they would become a follower of Jesus if they are not one (and all that entails about the gospel coming to them, etc.)
- Pray for various needs that you know about
- Pray for their spiritual walk and their battles against temptation and sin
- Pray for them to delight in God’s forgiveness and to delight in forgiving others, also pray for your own heart and actions towards them if you need to forgive them
Now here’s the idea of the Pray as You Go Challenge:
As you go about your day, when you see someone, multi-task and at the very least say a quick and silent prayer for them. If you know them, you can make the prayer more personal, but if not then you can still pray in general.
If you have the opportunity to talk to the person, find out how they are doing and/or any other information you can about their day and pray for that. If the opportunity allows and they’re willing, then pause and pray out loud with them (or for them, if they don’t want to say a prayer at the moment but don’t mind if you do).
If you’re in a group with a bunch of people or are walking down a busy sidewalk with a bunch of people, say a silent general prayer for the crowd as a whole.
I have already tried this for a few days, and I have to admit that it is far easier to stay with the old habits of just thinking about whatever whenever I see someone else on the street, at the track, driving by, in a meeting, or wherever. However, I am trying to remember: when I see someone, say a prayer even if it has to be quick and silent because I can’t stop what else I’m doing at the moment.
Pray, pray, pray, and pray some more for all people. What if we tried it? At the very least it would probably change us and our attitudes towards others and deepen our relationship with the ever-present, ever-listening Father. And who knows…it might even change them and the shape of our churches, cities, and cultures.