This letter to Timothy from Paul is considered one of the first letters from a Pastor to another Pastor, instructing and mentoring Timothy in how to manage and grow the early church in Ephesus. I think it fascinating that the very first line says “First of all…” and Paul goes on to explain how the people should pray. He doesn’t say, “First of all, here’s how you raise funds” or “here’s how you help the poor” or “here’s how you get the best worship and praise band”. Teaching a parish how to pray, then, would seem to be one of the most important, if not the most important role, of a parish pastor in Paul’s eyes.
Paul then goes on to explain what they should pray about. He doesn’t say that they should pray for themselves, or the creation of more churches, or the growth of the church in Ephesus. He is very specific. They need to pray “for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity”. When I think of praying for myself to lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity, I don’t think about praying for the President of the United States. I may ask God for more time to read the Bible, or to journal, or more time with my family.
But Paul is thinking about the big picture here, and partially it was a sign of his times, but I think it is still relevant today. “Kings and all who are in high positions” meant a lot more people back then than it does today. Although there was only one Caesar who ruled over the Roman Empire, there were thousands of “kings” at many levels. It was these kings that could ruin a person’s everyday life by charging high taxes, or not allowing a certain trade, or not allowing the freedom of the new church to worship and grow. While we don’t have it so bad these days, we still are affected by many things over which we have little or no control. Perhaps it is an overbearing boss who insists that you work on Sundays, or perhaps it’s sickness and disease, or perhaps it’s an abusive spouse. We all have our “kings” who control whether or not we “may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.”
So, it is our job to determine who or what those “kings” are, and pray that those “kings” not take us away from our desire to follow Christ and his teachings.