Sunday Sermon: ‘Our Prayer for America’

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As I began preparing for today’s message, a portion of scripture came to my mind – “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3) Many of us recognize that the foundations of righteousness are quickly being destroyed; not only in our country, but around the world. Much of the world today is in turmoil and spiritual chaos. So the question we should ask is – If the foundations be destroyed, what can we do, or what should we do?

There are a lot of different ways I could have approached that question and my sermon for today.

Some would prefer that I go after all the problems in America today. Some think that I should preach today about America’s sins.

This being an election year when we will select a new president, some think that I should preach about politics.

And still others think that a 4th of July message should focus upon American history and how our forefathers used the Christian faith as a basis for the forming of this nation and many of our governmental documents.

All of this is good, but I had to ask myself the question – ‘What would God have me to preach on today? What is first and foremost on the heart of God today?’

As I prayed over that the Spirit led me to this passage of scripture –

1 Timothy 2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 5   For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. 7 Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. 8 I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

Though Paul wrote these words two thousand years ago, it contains a lot of application for us today. Much like us, Paul was living in time when government was corrupt. Rome was in charge and many of the Caesars were very wicked men. Nero was the predominant figure during much of the writing of the New Testament and history teaches us that he was morally depraved and hated Christians. He is infamously known for having many Christians covered with tar and then setting them on fire in order to give light to Rome during the night.

How are Christians supposed to react to something like this? Are we supposed to crawl into a cave and try to hide from the world? Are we supposed to take up arms and begin a revolt? What are we supposed to do? Paul wrote a letter to a young pastor named Timothy and in his letter Paul told Timothy that the first and foremost thing the church should do is to pray for all men, and especially those in authority. In other words – “Pray for Nero.” Pray what for Nero? That God would destroy him?

1 Timothy 2:2 …that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

1) Pray that God would cause him and other leaders make decisions that would allow the church to be the church and to do God’s will

2) Pray that they would come to Christ and receive Him as their Savior

To many of us, saying that we should just pray doesn’t seem like quite enough. Yet consider what Jesus said –

Matthew 5:43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

Did you see what Jesus said? Pray for your enemies. Pray for those who hate you, persecute you, and spitefully use you. Why pray for them? By praying for them we will not only have an impact upon their spiritual lives, we will also demonstrate to the world that we truly are the children of God and followers of Jesus Christ.

The Bible never commands the church to become a political force. Instead, the Bible commands Christians to live a ‘quiet and peaceable life.’ Notice what Paul says –

1 Timothy 2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

Paul wrote this to the Thessalonians – “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live…” [1]

Consider also what Peter wrote to Christians who were suffering –

1 Peter 2: 12Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.

13 For the Lord’s sake, respect all human authority—whether the king as head of state, 14 or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right. 15 It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you… 17 Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king.

18 You who are slaves must accept the authority of your masters with all respect. Do what they tell you—not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are cruel. 19 For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment. 20 Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you.

21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 22 He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. 23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered.

He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. 24 He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. NLT

Human nature calls us to become angry and argumentative.Yet instead, as followers of Jesus Christ and the children of God, we are to strive to live a quiet and honorable lives before others and especially those who are non-believers.

Let’s return to our passage in 1 Timothy and see what Paul says. I believe that this passage can summarized with two major points:

1) God’s Desire is That All Men Will Be Saved

2) God’s Desire is That Our Desire Will Be That All Men Will be Saved

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I. God’s Desire is That All Men Will Be Saved

1 Timothy 2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

A. God Desires That All Men Will Be Saved

There are some who believe that God has chosen only some to be saved – but not everyone. Yet Paul tells us that God desires for all men to be saved.

Vs. 1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;

Vs. 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority

Vs. 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

Vs. 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all

One of the resources I often use in my studies is a man who is normally known for being Calvinistic in his teaching. In other words, I have heard him preach that he believes that God has chosen only some to be saved. I use him as a resource, not because I agree with him on this particular teaching, but because I know that he always does his homework in preparing his sermons.

As I was preparing for this message, I considered what he had preached about this passage. Actually he preached three messages on these eight verses and I listened to all three messages. Here is what surprised me. Over and over again he stated that Paul is teaching us that God desires for ‘all men’ to be saved. Apparently some in his church were surprised and troubled over what he was saying for he repeatedly supported his teaching by what Paul had written. He even quoted John 3:16 for proof that God desires for all men to be saved. “For God so loved the world…”

Why did Paul emphasize so strongly God’s desire for all men to be saved? Apparently there was some within the church at Ephesus who believed that men like Nero didn’t deserve to be saved. They thought that men like him were too evil for God to save them. To help them understand the depth of God’s grace, Paul used himself as an example.

1 Timothy 1:12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; 13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. 17 Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Notice that Paul called himself the ‘chief of sinners.’ In other words – “I was the worst of the worst.” What had Paul done before he became a Christian that made him so bad? Paul hated Christians. He slandered and blasphemed the name of Christ. And perhaps worst of all he did everything he could to force Christians to curse and deny their Savior. [2] He was the enemy of all enemies when it came to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

Yet God gloriously saved him. Paul says in verse 13 – “… but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” God was merciful to Paul because God realized that Paul didn’t really understand. Sometimes we can be dead wrong and think that we are right. Rather than condemning Paul in his sins, God saved him by His grace.

Here’s the key to understanding what Paul and other New Testament writers were trying to teach us. Rather than condemning men for their sins, God desires to redeem them and restore them back to a relationship with Him. In Paul’s mind, if God could do this for someone like himself, He could do it for anyone.

B. God Desires That All Men Will Have a Correct Knowledge of Christ

1 Timothy 2:3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

There are several words translated in the New Testament for knowledge. The word used here refers to a precise and correct knowledge. One of the great tragedies of our day is that the word ‘Christian’ has become so diluted and distorted that almost no one knows what it means. There are many who claim to be a Christian, yet fail to demonstrate their spiritual conversion by the way they live. Perhaps the problem is that they know about Christ, but they do not know Christ.

Notice again what Paul says –

1 Timothy 2:3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

One of the things that the church must do in a day like this is to continue to clearly articulate the truth about who God is and His way of salvation. Regardless of what happens, we must continue to speak the truth in love. What is the truth God wants all men to know?

1. God Desires That All Men Know That He Alone is God

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God…

Why is it important that all men know that there is only one true God?

a. Men Must Know That There is Only One God Who is Sovereign Over All

One of the popular teachings of today is that all the religions of the world should learn how coexist. On the surface that sounds like people should learn how to get along. Yet behind that thought is the philosophy that it really doesn’t matter what you believe because it’s all been made up. Faith in God is nothing more than believing in your form of a fairy tale.

But when you say that there is ‘one God’, you are not only saying that there is a God, but that He is the sovereign ruler of the universe.

Isaiah 45:5 I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God…

b. Men Must Know That There is Only God Who Can Save Us From Our Sins

Isaiah 45:22 “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.”

Not only is there only one supreme God who is sovereign over all; He alone can save us.

2. God Desires That All Men Will Know That He Alone Can Save Us From Our Sins 

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

The word ‘mediator’ refers to someone who can bring two opposing parties together. To mediate is like taking these two opposing parties by the hand and bringing them together. The mediator is the person who stands in the middle and bridges the gap.

The Bible says that there is only one person who is able to bridge the gap between us and God bring us back together. That person is – the man Christ Jesus.

a. Why Do We Need a Mediator?

Why do we need a mediator? The Bible tells us that though God loves us, our sin separates us from Him. We read from the book of Isaiah – “your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”[3] Scripture teaches us that God is pure and holy and perfectly righteous and that He cannot have a relationship with that which is sinful. We read from 1 John – “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth…”[4]  We read also from the book of Habakkuk that God’s eyes are ‘too pure to behold evil.’ [5] That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t see the sin of the world. God sees men’s sins and He is keeping a careful record whereby He one day judge them.[6] God sees the evil of this world, but He will not receive the evil of this world.  God will not associate with what is sinful. He will not overlook it. Our sin separates us from God. Therefore we need someone who can bring us back into fellowship with God.

b. Why is Jesus Alone Able to be Our Mediator?

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

Why does Jesus qualify to be our mediator? Notice that Paul refers to Jesus as ‘the man Christ Jesus.’ Why does Paul stress Christ’s humanity?

Two thousand years ago something amazing happened. God the Son became a man. Through the womb of the virgin Mary, God clothed Himself in human flesh. [7]

Why did God do this? Scripture says that the Son of God did this so that He could offer up Himself as a perfect human sacrifice for our sins. We read from the book of 2 Corinthians – “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” [8]

On the inside Jesus was God. Because He was God, He was perfect. Yet on the outside He was a man. At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem. Sometimes we call this the ‘incarnation.’ What does that word mean? It simply means – “in flesh.” Carnal is the Latin word for flesh and therefore the word incarnation means – ‘in flesh.’

The Son of God had to become the Son of Man so that He might give His life for the sins of mankind. Only God is perfect and therefore only God is capable of offering a perfect sacrifice. Yet God had to also become a man so that He could offer a human sacrifice.

Two thousand years ago God clothed Himself in human flesh so that on the cross He could offer Himself as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.

C. God Desires That All Men Know These Truths

1 Timothy 2:3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

Though there are many problems in this world that concerns God, none concerns Him more than men’s salvation. Everything on this earth is temporary, but where men will spend eternity is permanent.

II. God’s Desire is That Our Desire Will Be That All Men Will Be Saved

We know what is on God’s heart. God desires all men to hear the truth and be saved before it is eternally too late. The question now is – ‘What is on our heart?’ Are we as concerned about the salvation of the world as God is? Let’s read through our passage once again.

1 Timothy 2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. 7 Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. 8 I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

A. Seeing Men Come to Christ Should be the Church’s Number One Prayer Request

Someone has said that – “Everything in heaven will be a million times better than it is here on earth.” That includes worship, Bible study, and even fellowship. There’s only one thing that must happen here on earth. Men must receive Christ before they die.

I appreciate something that Billy Graham said just a couple of years ago.

“There is one message for any generation – that God loves you, Christ died for you, He rose from the dead because of you, and there must be a decision here and now in this life.” [10]

Why is America no longer a Christian nation?  It’s because most Americans are no longer Christians. People no longer know Jesus Christ as their Savior and therefore it is no wonder that they do not want to live by Christian principles.

Can people still come to Christ? Only God knows whether there can still be a revival in the church and an awakening in our society. Scripture is very clear that in the last days, there will be a great falling away in the church[11] and men will become more and more evil.[12] Yet we must also know that as long as Christ keeps His church here on earth, He believes that there are still men and women who can come to Him and be saved.

Here is an important truth that we as the church must realize. Men’s salvation is dependent not only upon our preaching, but also our prayers. Throughout the Bible God used men to pray for their nations. Moses interceded for the nation of Israel and pleaded with God to not destroy them. Daniel interceded for the nation of Israel and ask Him to restore them. Nehemiah interceded for his nation as he rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem. Paul prayed so earnestly for his fellow Jews that he said that he could wished himself accursed if that would mean their salvation. (see Romans 9:1-3)

Is there anyone praying for America? During one point in Israel’s history God said-

Ezekiel 22:30 “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.” NIV

How sad. God said that He searched for someone who was earnestly praying for the salvation of Israel and found no one.

I must confess to you that I have not been praying for this country the way I should. I have not been praying for my leaders. I find it much easier to complain about them than to be concerned about their salvation. I find it much easier to condemn certain people within our society than to pray that they will come to know Christ as their Savior. Therefore part of the blame for the way things are falls upon me. I have failed to do what Christ has commanded me to do.

B. How Should We Be Praying for Our Nation?

1 Timothy 2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. 7 Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. 8 I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

1. We Should Be Praying Without a Judgmental Attitude

1 Timothy 2:8 I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

Paul tells us that we should be praying with wrath or anger. One commentary states that this refers to ‘praying angry prayers.’ [13] If we are not careful we might find ourselves praying against people rather than for people. The intent of our prayers might be that God would destroy them, rather than save them.

Can I make a suggestion? Every time you and I hear or see something that upsets us, we should pause and pray. We should pray that God will open their eyes to see the truth and to come to Him for salvation.

Is it silly to pray that way? Consider what Jesus prayed while hanging on the cross. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” [14]  Jesus interceded for the very ones who were crucifying Him. Should not we do the same? Consider what Stephen prayed while men were killing him. “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” [15]  Can we pray away someone’s sins? No. Each and every individual has to make a personal decision about their salvation. Yet we are to pray that God will help them make that decision.

2. We Should Be Praying Without Doubting

1 Timothy 2:8 I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

‘Without doubt’ refers to an unbelieving spirit. If we hate someone and want them to perish, we won’t pray for them. If we doubt that God can some them, we won’t pray for them, neither will we do anything that might help them come to Christ.

3. We Should Be Praying With Humble Submission 

Paul tells us that we should be praying with holy hands lifted up towards heaven. Many take that literal and lift their hands during times of worship. Yet many believe it means more than just a physical act we might do. To lift up holy hands to heaven means that in humble submission we offer up our lives to God for Him to use for His glory. Like Isaiah prayed when He saw the Lord seated upon His throne, we should pray, “Here am I Lord, sent me.” (Isaiah 6)

Notice how Paul tells us to pray.

1 Timothy 2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority…

Paul could have simply said, “Pray for all men to be saved, especially your leaders” and that would have been enough for the early Christians to try to swallow. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been to pray for someone like Nero, believing that God loved them and that He could and would save them. Instead of lifting up holy hands, the temptation would have been to have raised up a clinched fist.

Paul speaks of four types of prayers:

a. Supplications – which refers to pleading over a need. We are to be pleading with God for men’s salvation.

b. Prayers – which refers to pleading to God for He alone can save someone. Jesus said that no one can come to Him unless the Father draws them. [16] Therefore we need to praying to God that He will draw all men to Himself.

c. Intercessions – which refers to praying for someone from a personal connection. Interceding for someone is more than just mentioning their name in prayer. Interceding for someone is to pray in such a way that we feel a connection to them.

How can we feel a connection with people who are doing what is sinful? Our connection is not with their sin, but with the fact that

They are human – just like we are

They are blinded by sin – just like we were

They need to find new life in Christ – just like we did

To genuinely intercede for the lost is demonstrate that we love them – just like God does.

d. Giving of Thanks – which refers to our gratitude that God can save men and that He will save men.

Conclusion

Is it easy to think and pray this way? Is it easy to look at the world we live in with eyes of compassion for their souls? No. It’s much easier to judge and condemn them.

On one occasion James and John asked Jesus if He wanted them to call down fire from heaven and destroy their enemies. [17] They thought that they were being very righteous by asking this. Surely God would want them to destroy those who wouldn’t follow Jesus. Yet Jesus turned to them and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” [18]

There is a day of judgment coming for the world when every man will give a personal account for the way they have lived. Yet we should not be longing for that day. [19] There’s something wrong with our spirit if we are wanting God to send men to hell. We are not in tune with the heart of God.

Therefore perhaps the first thing we need to do is to repent of our sin and ask God to help us love the lost the way He loves the lost. We are not more holy than God. Sin does not offend us more than it offends Him. Yet though sin offends the Lord, His love causes Him to desire to save them.

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[1] 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 NLT

[2] See Acts 26:9-11

[3] Isaiah 59:2

[4] 1 John 1:5-6

[5] Habakkuk 1:13

[6] Revelation 20:11-15

[7] Philippians 2:5-8

[8] 2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT

[9] John 8:46

[10] Billy Graham, Billy Graham’s Prayer for America. YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVjeOJwQNtM  July 1, 2016

[11] 1 Timothy 4:1-2

[12] 2 Timothy 3:1-7

[13] Pulpit Commentary 1 Timothy 2:8

[14] Luke 23:34

[15] Acts 7:60

[16] John 6:44

[17] Luke 9:54 NASB

[18] Luke 9:55 NASB

[19] Amos 5:18

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