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October 09, 2020

A Gospel-Centered Church is a Praying Church


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Gospel ministry is ministry in which we share Christ’s passion for the world. The gospel did not come to us so that it could end with us. Christ trusted it to us so that we could bring it to others. A gospel-centered church is a missional church with a passion to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to all people. And this mission begins with prayer.

The church’s ministry of prayer is one of the themes of 1 Timothy 2. Paul speaks about the place of prayer in public worship. When the congregation gathers, we are to bring requests, prayers and intercession with thanksgiving. Committing to intercessory prayer in public worship is increasingly out of fashion. But God has given this ministry to the church. If Christians do not pray for the world, who will?

Prayer Reflects God’s Heart for the World

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people… (1 Tim. 2:1)

Paul clearly does not mean that we are to pray for each of the 7.8 billion people in the world. That would be impossible. When Paul says that we are to pray for “all,” he means “all kinds of people.” Philip Ryken describes how the public prayers of the church should have a “global perspective.”

They should include the great issues of the day and the vast nations of the world. Intercession should be made for renewal, revival, and reformation in the church… [and] for missionaries, evangelists, and church planters. The sufferings of the persecuted church and the desperation of unsaved humanity should be brought weekly before the throne of grace. [1]

In verse 8, there seems to be a strange jump when Paul speaks about men arguing and disputing. But notice that Paul is still speaking in relation to the prayer ministry of the local church: “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling” (v. 8). The ministry of prayer flows from the atoning death of Jesus. It is our sacred trust and it must not be hindered by arguing or disputing.

A gospel-centered church is not about us; it is about the gospel. God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3-4). So, when we gather, our public prayer can reflect God’s heart for the world.

Pray for Those in Authority

…for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way (1 Tim. 2:2).

All the rulers in Paul’s time were pagans, so it is striking that Paul says Christians should pray for these pagan rulers with thanksgiving! Imagine praying for Nero with thanksgiving!

For us today, this means that we are to pray for our president, our senators, and our representatives. We are to pray for those who hold public office, whether we voted for them or not, and we are to do this with thanksgiving.

Notice what we are to pray for those in government: that we may “live a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:2). Our objective is not that politicians will change society. It is that we should live in peace so that the gospel will change society.

The Bible does not encourage us to put high hopes in human government. We do not pray that the government will lead us into godliness. Only the gospel can do that, and the gospel is not trusted to the government; it is trusted to the church. God’s purpose for government is that there should be stability and peace.

I thank God for all those who are called to serve in public life. We need more Christians in politics—a high calling for our most able people. But it is not the calling of the church.

The church is not a campaigning organization for social or political change. Our calling is gospel ministry that changes human lives—not by the imposition of human laws, but by the regeneration of human hearts. Thank God that politicians write laws that restrain evil. But that’s all the law can do—restrain evil. Christ pours out grace, faith, and love. Our hope is in Christ changing human hearts through the gospel.

Philip Ryken explains the connection between prayer and peace:

Christians who do not pray for their political leaders tend to disturb the peace. They are cynical about their political opponents and rejoice when they fall into disgrace. Since cynicism about the government is so prevalent in the evangelical church today, we may well conclude that Christians are not always diligent in prayer for people in authority. [2]

If we pray for our leaders in the nation or church, it will affect the way we speak or write about them. You can disagree with the people for whom you pray, but you will not be cynical or unkind about them. You will pray for God’s blessing on them. You will rejoice in any success that God gives to them. This kind of praying is good, and it pleases our God and Savior.

Men, Don’t Be Passive in Prayer

I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing (1 Tim. 2:8, NIV).

The ministry of prayer is a privilege given to men and women. But Paul is calling men to take the lead here. Women have often excelled in this ministry. Paul says to the men, “Don’t be passive here. I want you to lead in prayer.” Here is what God is calling us to do in verse 8:

1. Lift up holy hands. 

You can’t pray effectively as long as you are holding onto a sin or grudge. The only way to pray is to come before God in faith and repentance in the name of Jesus Christ, who alone has clean hands and a pure heart. He is at the right hand of the Father, and He is there for you. You can pray because of Him.

2. Pray without anger. 

Divided churches cannot advance the gospel. Christians in dispute with each other cannot accomplish much in mission. Husbands are to treat their wives with gentleness and respect so that nothing will hinder their prayers (1 Pet. 3:7). Our Lord tells us: If you come to pray and remember something between you and your brother, go away and put it right first (Matt. 5:23).

3. Pray with faith. 

The word translated “disputing” is the word from which we get the English word “dialogue”—a conversation with two voices. It can mean argument or doubt. So, pray without a second voice! In other words, pray with faith. Don’t be double-minded.

Paul says, “There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men” (1 Tim. 2:5). If there is one mediator, there must be one gospel. If there is one gospel, it must be for all people. Therefore, let’s renew our commitment to a ministry of prayer on a global scale. That’s the passion of a gospel-centered church.


This article is adapted from Pastor Colin’s sermon, “Gospel Ministry”, from his series, 10 Distinctives of a Gospel-Centered Church.

1. Philip Ryken, 1 Timothy: Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2007), 59.
2. Philip Ryken, ibid., 62.
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Colin Smith

Founder & Teaching Pastor

Colin Smith is the Senior Pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. He has authored a number of books, including Heaven, How I Got Here and Heaven, So Near - So Far. Colin is the Founder and Teaching Pastor for Open the Bible. Follow him on Twitter.
Colin Smith is the Senior Pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. He has authored a number of books, including Heaven, How I Got Here and Heaven, So Near - So Far. Colin is the Founder and Teaching Pastor for Open the Bible. Follow him on Twitter.