First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all — this was attested at the right time. For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument;
Pray for everyone. That’s the advice given here and that doesn’t change. We pray for everyone because, as we are reminded, God loves everyone and so ‘desires everyone to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.’ Some things, like God’s love for everyone, do not go away, so neither should we cease to pray for everyone.
‘Everyone’ includes ‘kings and all who are in high positions’ and so today’s premiers and presidents, and all in high positions, need to be included in our prayers. Praying this way because, among other reasons, we wish to live in peace and quiet, is quite legitimate. Those who think otherwise live in fortunate places where such things can be taken for granted.
Living a quiet life does not trump the duty to tell the truth. The lives of many faithful followers of Jesus, Saint Paul being one example, demonstrate that. Sharing such knowledge of the truth can lead to inconvenience, conflict and even suffering. Sometimes this comes from the hands of those in high positions, those for whom you have been praying.
Yet, while some things, like God’s universal love, and our call to inclusive prayer have not changed since this letter was written to Timothy, others have. Unlike in his day, in ours these people in high positions now include Christians, as well as those of other faiths and those with none.
In Timothy’s day Christians might (and should) pray for those who wielded imperial authority but they were not permitted to not hold such authority. Today, truth-telling Christians are able to respond to God’s love for everyone not only through prayer but also with political action, involvement and responsibility.
Churches in our day are in a changed and changing place from those in Timothy’s day, socially and politically, so we are not limited to organising or acting in exactly the same way as churches did then. In whatever new ways we act or organise, however, we continue to pray for everyone because God still loves everyone, desiring them to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth.
Loving God, We pray for everyone, including those in high positions, including followers of Jesus. May all enjoy lives that are peaceable and quiet and may we play our part in making that so. Amen.
The Rev’d Trevor Jamison is the Environmental Chaplain for Eco-Congregation Scotland and a member of Augustine United Church in Edinburgh. .