Public Prayer

by Stephen Olford

Text: “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men” (1 Tim. 2:1, see also vv. 2-7).

Thought: In spite of the call to prayer that followed 9/11, the subsequent weeks and months have shown falling numbers at prayer meetings. In fact, the century just ended has been called one of the most “prayerless” in the history of the church. Paul must have sensed this proclivity of human nature to neglect the discipline of prayer when he wrote the words “first of all, I exhort that prayer be made.” Then follows:

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1. The Aspects of Public Prayer: The New American Standard version reads “entreaties, prayers, petitions, and thanksgiving” (v. 1). These words are not redundant or hyperbolic; on the contrary, they are carefully chosen by the Holy Spirit.

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2. The Subjects of Public Prayer: “…all men; for kings, and for all in authority” (vv.1,2). Included in this sweep are all races of people and all ranks of people. What a call to pray for all men and, especially, our president. Even as I write these words, we here at the Institute for Biblical Preaching, Memphis TN, have joined the Presidential Prayer Team. Over a million have signed up already. How about you?

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3. The Objects of Public Prayer: We are to pray “that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and reverence for… God will have all men to be saved…” (vv. 2 & 4). When you sum up these words, the objects of prayer are church-wide revival and world-wide repentance. Could any thing be more important in the light of what is happening both nationally and globally?

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4. The Precepts of Public Prayer: “Therefore I desire that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” (v. 8). Whether in private or in public, prayer must be without defilement (v. 8; cf. Ps. 26:6); disharmony (v. 8; cf. Ps. 66:18); and doubt (v. 8; cf. James 1:8). This is a challenge to all of us! God give us the grace to pray with Samuel of old: “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you” (1 Sam. 12:23).

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There’s a high and holy office,

Needing workers everywhere;

‘Tis the highest form of service,

‘Tis the ministry of prayer.


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