The Priority of Prayer

“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;" (1 Timothy 2:1)

Paul, when writing the first letter to Timothy, encouraged the young pastor to pray. In chapter two Paul puts a great emphasis on the priority of prayer in the believer’s life. In verses one through three Paul teaches that as Christians we must talk to God about man, or pray. Then in verses four through eight Paul exhorts Timothy to tell man about God, or preach. But the first is vital to the success of the second. The second has no power without the first. If we do not labor in prayer to God for our brethren, for the lost, and for our leaders, then we will not have the power, unction, or love necessary to effectively minister in the church, community, or country where we live.

Paul exhorted Timothy to pray. The word “exhort” is “parakeleo” in the Greek, from which we get the English word to “comfort” or “encourage”. The Holy Spirit is called the “Comforter” and that is the Greek word “parakletos’.” This is a very strong word and is translated “exhort.” Paul, in spirit, came along side Timothy to “exhort” him to pray.

He says “first of all.” This is not necessarily first in the time or space, not first in order of worship, but it is first in priority, first in importance, first in securing a quiet and peaceable life. Prayer must be at the top of our list of things to do every day. It must take precedence over all other earthly activity, secular responsibility, or spiritual duty. Saying, “I don’t have time to pray” is like saying “I don’t have time to breath.” Without prayer, Christians are spiritually weak and powerless. Prayer is the vital key to having the power of God in our lives and in ministry. We should pray early, often, and earnestly.

E. M. Bounds said, “Our laziness after God is our crying sin. The children of this world are far wiser than we. They are at it early and late. We do not seek God with ardor and diligence. No man gets God who does not follow hard after him, and no soul follows hard after God who is not after him in early morn.”

How we need praying saints today! If we truly understood how important prayer was, we would pray more. In this verse Paul describes prayer in four different ways: supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks.

(1) We need an earnest spirit of prayer. This deals with our desperation. “Supplications” means “to petition, beg, or entreat man or God with a great need.” It carries the idea “to be desperate.” You have to have an answer and will not stop until you get it. When you pray, express your desperation and dependence on God for whatever you are praying for. (2) We need to exhibit substance in our prayers. This deals with our desires. “Prayers” is defined as “good wishes and desires, an asking from God for all the necessities of life.” We should not generalize our prayers but instead pray specific, precise, detailed prayers. (3) We need to engage in the service of prayer. This deals with our duty. “Intercessions” is a word that carries the idea of “coming into conference with another.” In the context it means clearly that we are coming into conference with God on the behalf of others, whether the need is spiritual or physical. (4) We need to enjoy the sweetness of prayer. This deals with our delight. “Giving of thanks” simply means we are to thank the Lord for prayers answered. We should worship the Lord for what He has done and praise Him in anticipation for what He is going to do.

In conclusion, Paul in verse three says; “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.” The word “acceptable” means “to be pleasing to another.” Paul is saying, “Christian, you are never more acceptable, satisfying, or pleasing to God than when you are on your knees in prayer.” Dear reader, if you will have the power of God to live the Christian life and minister effectively, you must be a person of prayer, and if you pray, it will be pleasing to our Lord.