I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone. 1 Timothy 2:1 (NIV)
Paul is speaking about the place of prayer in public worship. When the congregation gathers, we are to bring requests, prayers, and intercession with thanksgiving.
This is increasingly out of fashion today. But God has given this ministry to the church. If Christians do not pray for the world, who will?
A gospel-centered church is not about us, it is about the gospel. God wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (2:3-4). When we gather, our worship must reflect God’s heart for the world.
Clearly this does not mean that we are to pray for each of the nearly 8 billion people in the world. That would be impossible. When Paul says that we are to pray for everyone, he means “all kinds of people” not “every single person.”
When churches give up on intercessory prayer in public worship, it is usually for one of two reasons. One is that the pastors give up. The other is that the people don’t care. But the Lord calls us to care for one another. Effective public prayer involves your faith, your compassion, and your heart reflecting the heart of God for the world.
Paul even tells us to pray “for kings and all those in authority” (2:2). This is very striking. All the rulers in Paul’s time were pagans. Yet Paul says that Christians should pray for these pagan rulers, and that we should do it with thanksgiving! Imagine praying for Nero with thanksgiving.
For us, 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.
When your church offers public prayers, do you sit there passively, or are you bringing your faith, your compassion, and your heart?