Isn't it true that people tend to be most concerned for those on the outside when they happen to be outsiders themselves—that once on the inside they tend to forget whence they came? It seems to me that we who have experienced God's grace ought to be all the more concerned for those who have yet to do so. Although we cannot be certain of the reason, the church in which Timothy was ministering apparently had been neglecting to pray widely for the salvation of people in the world. In response, Paul does not lay down a detailed, four-stage program of prayer in asking that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone. Rather, he calls for prayer in a comprehensive sense that attends to all details. In fact, seeing this removes the apparent vagueness from the command to pray for everyone. He does envision a prayer ministry, one that will be attentive to every aspect of the gospel enterprise, from the initial planning and opening of doors for preaching (Col 4:3), to seed-sowing and boldness to preach (Eph 6:19), to thanksgiving for changed lives (1 Thess 1:2). The prayer he has in mind is specifically related to the evangelistic mission. Notice the rationale given in verses 3-4: the will of God our Savior is that all men . . . be saved. This prayer is expansive in scope, reaching to all people, and the repeated occurrence of all throughout the passage reminds the readers to "think big" when they pray this prayer (vv. 1, 2, 4, 6).
Two obvious conclusions may be drawn from this instruction. First, all believers have a necessary part to play in the church's worldwide mission. Second, each local gathering of believers is to participate directly and corporately in this work when coming together for worship. Since Paul mentions this as being a matter of first importance, we ought to give careful thought to the place we give this task within our worship service and other church activities.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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