DUDLEY HALL — Eugene Peterson’s version of the apostle Paul’s instruction to his protégé Timothy regarding the agenda for Christian worship is helpful.
The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.
He wants not only us but everyone saved, you know, everyone to get to know the truth we’ve learned: that there’s one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us — Jesus … (I Tim. 2:1-5, The Message).
Before anything else prayer is the priority — all kinds for all kinds of people. Since everything is under his control and our highest honor is getting to work with him, prayer is essential. In fact it is through prayer that we find our proper relationship with both God and our surroundings. He designed humankind to walk with him and work with him in developing creation. When sin prevented our walking with him, work felt secular — isolated. Because of the reconciliation through Jesus we can get back to work as we accept our role as his earthly partners dependent on him for wisdom and resources.
Our prayers express our trust, our gratitude and our worship. We have a huge job to do, and we need resources far beyond anything we got from eating the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Pray especially for rulers… Why? Is God interested in human governments? Isn’t he only concerned about the kingdom of God as it relates to personal salvation? Actually, He wants his created people to live in peace — even those who don’t yet know him as Savior. He wants governments to function for the peaceful benefit of the people. He has not given up on his creation and is not eager to judge it with burning destruction.
He also wants those living in peace to promote the mystery of the gospel that alone produces peace in the heart of all people. After all, a society of people whose hearts are at war cannot produce a sustainable culture of peace. However, peace in the heart can promote a peace in the public square.
Since we know what God wants, we can pray with the confidence that we are cooperating with him as we pray. What an honor!
It is no wonder then that Paul would say, “The first thing to do is pray.”