I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — (1 Timothy 2:1)
This is, of course, not the first thing Paul has urged Timothy to do in his letter. Earlier in chapter 1 he urged Timothy to confront false teachers. This is a new priority in a new line of reasoning. While chapter one focused on false teachers, chapter two focuses on holy living.
The words used in today’s verse help us understand the purpose and power of prayer:
Requests: some people use the word “petition” here. When we pray to God, we seek His provision. God guides us, comforts us, protects us and grants favors. We don’t always know when, how, or where He will meet out need, but we trust Him to do what is best for us.
Prayers: the word used here suggests prayers that were held in a place of prayer. There is great value in participating in a regular time of prayer in a place of prayer, or making prayer a part of worship when we are gathered together.
Intercession: this is a prayer on behalf of another. Even as Jesus intercedes for us before the Father, so we can intercede for others who may not know what to pray, or may not be in a place in their lives where they are regularly seeking God. Intercessory prayer can be done with or without the person we are praying for present, and we can pray as one or many.
Thanksgiving: we thank God for His goodness and His grace, and so much more. An attitude of thanksgiving also puts us in the proper frame of mind to be open to God’s will.
There are a number of prayer tools people have developed to help us stay focused on these and other kinds of prayers. One popular prayer acronym is ACTS. Look it up on the web under “ACTS Prayer” and you should find everything you need.
I personally am not a systematic person when it comes to prayer. I tend to be more impulsive, and often pray for the same kinds of things without considering a more balanced approach. I don’t think God minds, as long as I am talking. But every now and then I go back to basics, just to make sure I am covering all of the bases…not because I think there is a magic formula for prayer…but because I don’t want to be one-dimensional.
For example, I am pretty good at thanking God and asking Him for things I need. I also pray for people all the time. But I don’t always let them know how or for what I am praying…which doesn’t make a lot of sense since I can’t read their minds.
I don’t think we can ever pray too much.
Dear God, help me pray with greater purpose. In Jesus’ name, Amen.